Trump signs order to set U.S. spectrum strategy as 5G race looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a presidential memorandum directing the Commerce Department to develop a long-term comprehensive national spectrum strategy to prepare for the introduction of next-generation 5G wireless networks.

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Trump is also creating a White House Spectrum Strategy Task Force and wants federal agencies to report on government spectrum needs and review how spectrum can be shared with private sector users.

The memorandum requires a series of reports over the next nine months and looking at ways and existing efforts on increasing spectrum and sharing existing spectrum. A long-term strategy is due by July.

The goal is to ensure there is enough spectrum to handle the growing amount of internet and wireless traffic and that future faster 5G networks have adequate spectrum.

The White House also said Trump is withdrawing presidential memorandums on spectrum signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010 and 2013.

AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc are working to acquire spectrum and beginning to develop and test 5G networks, which are expected to be at least 100 times faster than current 4G networks and cut latency, or delays, to less than one-thousandth of a second from one-hundredth of a second in 4G, the Federal Communications Commission has said.

Wireless industry trade group CTIA praised the administration for “recognizing the importance of establishing a national spectrum strategy. With the right approach based on licensed wireless spectrum, America’s wireless carriers will invest hundreds of billions of dollars and create millions of jobs.”

White House officials said they do not support any effort to nationalize the 5G network. A leaked document in January suggested the administration was considering the idea.

“We will prioritize efforts to accelerate the private sector’s development of 5G, so that the American people can reap the rewards of this incredible technology,” White House adviser Michael Kratsios told reporters on Thursday.

Democratic Federal Communications Commissioner (FCC) Jessica Rosenworcel questioned the length of the time for the reports. “Other nations are moving ahead while we’re headed to study hall - and in the interim we’re slapping big tariffs on 5G networks. This doesn’t speed our 5G leadership - it slows us down,” she said.

One big issue is a band of spectrum reserved for automakers to enable vehicles to “talk” to one another that has gone largely unused. Cable companies and others want the FCC to award part or all of that to expand Wi-Fi.

On Tuesday, the FCC voted to open additional spectrum for use by unlicensed devices in the 6 GHz band, or five times the current spectrum available. Unlicensed devices include things such as Wi-Fi routers, connected home appliances, baby monitors, fitness trackers, garage door openers and cordless landline phones.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Susan Thomas