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FCC to Auction Broadest Set of Airwaves Yet to Spur 5G Service

5G will allow the proliferation of driverless cars and smart machines in homes and factories.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission plans to auction the broadest set of airwaves yet to speed the nation’s adoption of super-fast 5G wireless communications, as well as devoting more than $20 billion to improving mobile connections in rural areas.

The actions represent the latest steps by the FCC to hasten the arrival of 5G, which will allow such things as driverless cars and remote surgery, while smart machines in homes and factories communicate via the so-called internet of things.

U.S. telecommunications providers are racing to be first to market with 5G connections. Full-fledged nationwide 5G service is still more than a year away, but last week New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. started the first 5G mobile phone service in parts of Minneapolis and Chicago.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that the auction will begin Dec. 10 and offer the broadest set of airwaves yet for 5G use.

The spectrum to be sold are in frequency bands known as the upper 37 GHz, or gigahertz, the 39 GHz and 47 GHz. Two other swaths are being sold in a set of auctions nearing their conclusion, and the FCC is contemplating a request from satellite-service providers Intelsat SA and SES SA to sell part of their airwaves holdings for 5G use.

Pai is to participate in an event at the White House highlighting steps toward 5G on Friday.

The $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will connect as many as 4 million homes over the next decade, Pai said. The money will come from existing subsidy programs run by the FCC. Lawmakers from poorly-connected farm states have become increasingly insistent on catching up to more-populated areas.

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