FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly on 5G

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly joined us for a High Tech Forum podcast this week to bring us up-to-date on FCC issues such as 5G, broadband deployment, mid-band spectrum, and the role of standards in networking.

  • On 5G, Commissioner O’Rielly pointed out that leading the race to 5G isn’t just about bragging rights, it’s a question of economic benefits. By leading in 4G, the US was able to influence standards in a positive direction, which led to better equipment, devices, and applications. Other nations are now using standards to erect trade barriers and we don’t want the US to be on the wrong side of these developments.
  • In 5G, mid-band (3 – 4 GHz) spectrum is likely to pay a key role both in the US and internationally. O’Rielly laid out the FCC’s work to re-purpose satellite spectrum for 5G, in particular in the C Band. While existing low band and the exciting new millimeter wave (very high) bands are important, it’s beginning to look like mid band is where the action is going to be, especially for fixed location 5G for residential broadband.
  • Blair Levin and others have been very critical of the BDAC recently, mainly blasting it for not including enough politicians. The commissioner explained why these criticisms are not on point: BDAC is an advisory committee, not a legislative body. It’s concerns are chiefly with very technical matters of network deployment and the economics of rights of way, issues about which state and local governments have no particular expertise.
  •  911 Fee Diversion is essentially a scandalous issue. Some states are collecting money from citizens for 911 networks and then diverting them to the general fund for other priorities. He’s been in the lead in bringing this bad government practice to and end.
  •  The World Radio Conference (WRC-19, coming up next year) is one of the venues for international coordination, important because it reduces equipment costs. While the commissioner has been skeptical of the WRC in the past (for good reason), it’s beginning to look like the next confab will be productive. There’s an increasing global consensus forming on the use of mid-band spectrum for 5G.
  • You wouldn’t put Citizens’ Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the band it’s in if you created it today. Bi-directional sharing of radio spectrum continues to be problematic and aspirational, often an excuse for not upgrading a legacy government system.
  • O’Rielly is more optimistic about FirstNet than he’s ever been.
  • We’ve never figured out the best way to subsidize rural broadband, but this is an important issue even though it’s hard. Commissioner O’Rielly shares some views on how to spend money for rural networks to get the most bang for the buck.
  •  Net neutrality, Title II, Internet Freedom…what’s the next move? Congressional action to clarify the FCC’s enforcement role the next step, the logical step and the right step. The Commissioner is ready to help, but it’s up to Congress to make the next move.