FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel told the virtual tenth annual Americas Spectrum Management Conference on Tuesday it’s time to reinvigorate the momentum toward 5G and pave the way for 6G and beyond. 5G networks are celebrating their second anniversary in the United States. However, most of the country has yet to experience everything 5G has to offer, she noted.
And so much of what’s to come is not about delivering connectivity via cell phones: “5G is an essential part of unlocking technologies that we’ve been talking about and slowly developing for years: the internet of things, telemedicine, virtual and augmented reality, smart transportation networks, smart energy grids, I could go on,” she said. “And this, in turn, will drive the future of industry and expand the potential for machine learning and the possibilities of artificial intelligence.”
Rosenworcel said the agency is laser-focused on freeing up more mid-band spectrum for wireless use, noting the auction that kicked off last week of 100 MHz of spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band. This auction is crucial, she noted, because “it will demonstrate the future viability of coordination zones that require private carriers to depend on other federal actors for information or access. Plus, it will be a bellwether for where we take our spectrum efforts from here after the C-band auction finished as the most expensive auction in our history.”
After granting more than 5,600 licenses in the C-band, she said the agency is on track to transition these airwaves to flexible use starting this year. It also granted 270 licenses in the 2.5 GHz band to address tribal connectivity needs and is tackling the complexities involved in auctioning the remaining spectrum in the band. “We look forward to holding that auction after the 3.45 GHz band auction is completed,” she said.
The FCC is also keeping the upcoming spectrum auction pipeline filled. Rosenworcel says the FCC is working with other federal agencies to look at the next batch of mid-band spectrum in the 3.1-3.45 GHz band.
She notes “the scrum” for 6G is intensifying, with South Korea, China, Japan and Finland already announcing their plans. Yet the U.S. doesn’t want to “blindly” throw itself into an undefined race to this technology standard. “If we’ve learned anything from our experience in rolling out 5G, it’s that wireless policy is really important for our economic and national security. It’s time to start thinking seriously about how we can better position ourselves for success with 6G.”
That’s why this summer, she had the agency re-establish its Technological Advisory Council. She charged the council with looking beyond 5G and conceptualizing 6G. That way, “the Commission can stay on top of new developments and ensure the nation can turn the latest scientific research into viable communications technologies that will help power our future,” she emphasized.