Updated: Oct 13, 2020
At a White House event on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the FCC is auctioning off more 5G spectrum than ever. Specifically, high-band airwaves that would technically open the doors to much faster speeds than those achievable under 4G currently. This is one part of the FCC’s multi-pronged approach to 5G. Under Chairman Pai, the FCC is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to Facilitate America's Superiority in 5G Technology (the 5G FAST Plan). The Chairman's strategy includes three key components: (1) pushing more spectrum into the marketplace; (2) updating infrastructure policy; and (3) modernizing outdated regulations. Significantly, as part of this strategy, the FCC has announced a spectrum auction and a $20.4 billion rural broadband fund to bolster connectivity across the US. The auction is scheduled to start December 10th, with 3,400 megahertz in three different spectrum bands to be auctioned. While the spectrum auctions are great news for the deployment of 5G, there are a few issues still to be resolved, mainly the use of mid-bands for 5G and the impact of 5G deployment on rural areas.
Advocates have been urging the FCC to open mid-band airwaves that can project signals over greater distances, which should bolster connectivity in rural areas. According to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, nationally, 39% of rural Americans lack access to broadband, compared with just 4% of urban Americans. Rural incomes often fall below the national average, so, even when broadband is made available in rural communities, there may not be enough subscribers who can afford to pay the monthly rates necessary for deployment. The problem is, while millimeter-wave bands are gen