AT&T, Dish Spend Billions on Spectrum for 5G Services

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The Federal Communications Commission’s most recent auction of wireless spectrum licenses will require military cooperation.

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The Trump administration began the process of commercializing frequencies that the Defense Department had long reserved for naval radar systems, missile control, and air traffic. As part of a White House brokerage plan, the Pentagon agreed to open airwaves to the private sector in 2020 through an FCC auction. The plan included rules to protect military operations from interference using new technology.

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The auction began last October under the Biden administration and the FCC has said it collected $22.5 billion from bidders. Congress requires that a portion of auction proceeds pay for new equipment to allow military equipment to coexist without harmful interference with cellphone carriers’ signals. The rest will go to the US Treasury.

Anti-collusion rules prevent winning bidders from discussing the auction, including their plans to use the license, for several more days. Cellphone carriers can then provide more details about their timelines for the deployment of new spectrum.

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Rising demand among smartphone users for Internet data has prompted mobile network operators to close pockets of spectrum, once considered the domain of technologies such as television broadcasting, satellite broadcasting and radar signals. US carriers have spent more than $100 billion in recent years seeking licenses to enhance their wireless services.

Carriers’ demands for more airspace sometimes go against the interests of other parts of the US government. Such disputes – particularly between federal agencies – have become more common in recent years as the airwaves become more congested.

Federal Aviation Administration officials have raised concerns that using previously auctioned C-band spectrum for cellphone service could confuse key cockpit security systems on aircraft. Wireless companies have said that the proposed service is already secure, pointing to similar networks already in use abroad.

Late last year the FAA demanded that wireless companies postpone the launch of those C-band services until officials were sure the two uses could interact safely. AT&T and Verizon this month agreed to postpone the launch of 5G services through their C-band licenses until January 19.

The 3.45 GHz auction that ended this month covers frequencies in the midrange neighborhood, similar to the C-band auction, but is less likely to affect aircraft equipment designed to operate above 4.2 GHz.

The pace of recent auctions shows how US government officials regard wireless network enhancement as a national priority at the same time as strategic technologies such as artificial intelligence and chip manufacturing. FCC calls its agenda to promote next generation wireless technologies 5g fast plan, Lawmakers originally called the law that eventually authorized the most recent auction “the 5G Act to Beat China.”

Write Drew Fitzgerald [email protected] Feather

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