WASHINGTON: US officials unveiled plans to accelerate deployment of 5G wireless networks, including new funding to bring the ultrafast systems to remote rural areas.
At a White House event, the Federal Communications Commission announced new spectrum auctions for 5G systems and said a $20.4 billion fund would be established to help build high-speed broadband networks in rural areas over the next decade.
The new 5G networks “will improve Americans’ lives in so many ways,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
“From precision agriculture to smart transportation networks to telemedicine and more, we want Americans to be the first to benefit from this new digital revolution, while protecting our innovators and citizens. And we don’t want rural Americans to be left behind.”
The announcement comes amid an intense race by countries around the world to deploy the technology offering wireless speeds 10 to 100 times faster than currently available.
Earlier this month, South Korea launched what it said was the first nationwide 5G network while US carriers rolled out 5G in some locations. China is also moving quickly on 5G.
Friday’s announcement confirms that the US will rely on private networks despite some speculation it would seek to nationalize 5G on national security grounds.
Officials offered no new information on what if any actions it would take to block the Chinese tech giant Huawei — the largest supplier of networking equipment from 5G systems in the US.
Amid concerns of Huawei’s links to the Chinese government, the FCC is mulling rules to block Huawei from networks in the United States.
The new funding announced could be used to help cash-strapped rural carriers which have been considering the Chinese giant.
President Donald Trump said at the event that 5G is a priority for his administration.
“American companies must lead the world in cellular technology,” he said.
“5G networks must be secured. They must be strong. They have to be guarded from the enemy. We do have enemies out there.”
Harold Feld at the consumer group Public Knowledge said it was not clear if the funding for rural broadband would be new or simply taken from an existing program.
“Is the administration promising to provide new money for rural broadband through existing authority, or is the administration going to need to ask Congress to provide new money?” Feld asked in a statement.