Pai Lays Out Plans for New Spectrum Auction, 5G Rollout

WASHINGTON—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai testified to Congress on Tuesday, May 7, about the commission’s proposed FY 2020 budget and the plan for how it will be deployed. The main focus will be on the development and rollout of 5G and, as a result, another spectrum auction that will cover the 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands.

Pai began his testimony, however, by speaking on how Congress’ surplus of funds in the FY 2019 budget helped, in one instance with auction funding. Congress provided $17 million in additional auction funding, which Pai says “enabled us to meet our statutory deadline to complete our rulemaking to implement changes to the TV Broadcast Relocation Fund and provide money to reimburse low-power television, TV translator and FM stations impacted by the post-Incentive Auction spectrum repack.”

Looking ahead to FY 2020, a key goal for the FCC with its planned budget is to continue the development of 5G networks throughout the country. “Our work on 5G will open the door to new services and applications that will grow our economy and improve our standard of living,” Pai said, citing not only improved connection abilities for people, but the potential to create three million new jobs, $275 billion in private investment and $500 billion in new economic growth.

To realize that potential, Pai outlined the FCC’s 5G FAST (Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology) plan. The plan is comprised of three key components: pushing more spectrum into the marketplace; promoting the deployment of wireless infrastructure; and modernizing outdated regulations.

That first point had led to the announcement of a new spectrum auction for the 37, 39 and 47 GHz bands. The FCC has already conducted two spectrum auctions in 2019, the first for the 28 GHz band that concluded in January and raised $702,572,410 according to Pai; and the 24 GHz auction that is currently in its assignment phase. The 24 GHz auction is reported to have raised just under $2 billion.

The next auction, which Pai described as the largest in FCC history, is currently slated to begin on Dec. 10. An expected 3.4 GHz of spectrum is expected to be released into the commercial marketplace. The possibility of the auction were first announced during the FCC’s open meeting in April.

“During the next fiscal year, we also intend to auction mid-band spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band,” Pai added. “We will continue our work to make additional mid-band spectrum bands available for flexible use, including in the 2.5 GHz and 3.7-4.2 GHz bands.”

In addition, Pai spoke as to why the FCC denied China Mobile USA’s application to provide international telecommunication services in the U.S., citing that they believed it to be a threat to national security. This impacts companies like Huawei, which Pai was asked about directly following this testimony by senators, and which he confirmed his belief that they pose a national security threat.