Earlier this month, we got some big news in mobile from the Swiss Alps: a 5G download speed milestone — 3.67 gigabits per second — was achieved on a live 5G network using airwaves known as the “C-Band” in Zurich. The C-Band is prime spectrum that balances coverage and capacity; the band today is used primarily for satellite services, including the delivery of video programming to cable operators’ networks, but the U.S. is considering plans to open the band for 5G.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made clear his four priorities for these C-Band airwaves: making a significant amount of spectrum available for 5G; making that spectrum available quickly; generating revenue for the U.S. Treasury; and ensuring that existing consumer video services will not be harmed. There is a clear plan in front of him that would achieve those goals, promote competition, and then some — the 5G Plus Plan.
As the proponents of the 5G Plus Plan, we represent a diverse coalition of companies that will make 5G operations in the C-Band a reality. We are the companies that are offering advanced fixed and mobile broadband services; deploying fiber; delivering video; and building the 5G networks to serve American consumers in cities, in suburbs and, importantly, in rural areas.
Our pro-competition 5G Plus Plan would promote Chairman Pai’s first priority by repurposing at least 370 megahertz of spectrum — significantly more than any other plan on the table — providing enough spectrum in every market throughout the country to ensure deployment of 5G to urban and rural areas alike. Auctioning as much of the C-Band spectrum as possible in one auction would allow for multiple licenses in each market, enhancing competition, and ensuring consumers never lose connectivity while gaining access to next-generation services.
Importantly, the 5G Plus Plan would put public spectrum to work for the people, with proceeds going directly to the U.S. Treasury. Analysts estimate this valuable resource could generate up to $50 Billion dollars. A competing private sale plan from the satellite industry has suggested a yet unknown “voluntary” contribution to the Treasury from this sale of public assets. These voluntary contributions are by no means assured. In fact, not all the satellite stakeholders are in agreement on a voluntary contribution!
Finally, the 5G Plus Plan reimburses and incentivizes incumbent users of C-Band spectrum, including the satellite companies, content providers, and video distributors — and it is the only plan for reallocation that does so. Proceeds from a public auction would be used to transition programming delivery from C-Band satellite connections onto cutting edge fiber-optic networks, future-proofing video delivery and injecting much-needed fiber bandwidth into America’s infrastructure. This investment in fiber could create 2.2 million jobs and $420 Billion in annual GDP for the U.S. More fiber is particularly important in rural areas, where smaller providers will need it for backhaul in a 5G world.
The 5G Plus Plan has the potential to be revolutionary for American consumers. Because of fiber’s reliability and service characteristics, America’s critical communications increasingly rely on fiber connectivity – getting more of it in rural America will be a game-changer. A one-time, FCC-led auction of all available spectrum will put the right incentives in place to fairly reimburse satellite operators and users for the costs of transitioning their operations. Utilizing lawful, time-tested procedures led by the FCC – the fastest and most legally sound way to bring this spectrum to market – the 5G Plus Plan would make spectrum available in many markets as expeditiously as possible. There is no evidence that a contrived private sale is faster than an FCC auction. Risking the future of connectivity on a novel, untested effort subject to years of litigious uncertainty and is clearly to the detriment of consumers and the U.S. economy.
With thoughtful oversight and careful planning, policymakers have an opportunity to reap everything they want, and more, from a valuable band of spectrum. We urge the Chairman and Members of Congress to adopt the pro-competition 5G Plus Plan and put the airwaves to work for the American people, in urban and rural areas alike, as soon as possible. Let’s make sure the U.S. is a force to be reckoned with on a global stage.