Trump administration looks to speed 5G networks, ease hurdles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration said on Friday it is seeking to remove hurdles to faster deployment of the next generation of wireless communications, known as 5G, which it touted as revolutionary for a host of industries.

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said at a White House summit that “U.S. leadership in 5G technology is a national imperative for economic growth and competitiveness.”

Pai said 5G networks could effectively remove speed and capacity as meaningful constraints on wireless innovation and could be 100 times faster than current networks.

“The lag time between a device’s request for data and the network’s response will be less than one-tenth of what it is today,” he said. “Wireless networks that today support 1,000 connected devices per square kilometer could instead support 1 million” and could eventually lead to capabilities such as remote surgical procedures, he said.

Administration officials said they have high hopes for the technology that has the potential to help create 3 million new jobs, $275 billion in private investment, and $500 billion in new economic growth.

Networks, now in the final testing stage, will rely on denser arrays of small antennas and the cloud to offer data speeds up to 50 or 100 times faster than current 4G networks and serve as critical infrastructure for a range of industries.

Congress and regulators are also working to free up more wireless spectrum for use by 5G networks and improve other regulations to make it easier to deploy fiber lines, which are critical for 5G traffic from small cells.

In addition to providing vastly greater speed, 5G will allow transportation networks to link connected and self-driving cars, while new wireless sensors will provide real-time health monitoring and other advanced applications.

White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on Friday the 5G race will be won “principally through the free enterprise, free market economy.”

CTIA, a wireless industry trade group representing Sprint Corp, AT&T Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Intel Corp, said in a statement after the summit, “We completely agree with the administration, the FCC ... and congressional leaders that free market American leadership in 5G is vital for our economy, private investment and future innovation.”

The FCC on Wednesday voted to eliminate regulatory barriers to 5G deployment. Pai said the measure would cap fees that cities could charge to install small cells and requires local governments to promptly review applications.

Pai said 5G networks will need 800,000 cell sites, mostly small cells no bigger than a backpack, or about four times the existing number of sites.

Kudlow said federal law allows the FCC to override localities on this issue. “We’re not here to be completely heavy-handed but sometimes you have to do what you got to do,” he said at the summit.

But FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, sounded a note of caution on Friday. “As a result of our escalating trade war with China, by the end of this year we will have a 25 percent duty on antennas, switches, and routers - the essential network facilities needed for 5G deployment,” she said.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis