The ongoing development of next-generation “5G” wireless technologies represents a unique opportunity to radically expand the capacity and flexibility of wireless networks, according to ITIF’s latest report. Policymakers at the national and local level should set the stage for the development of 5G wireless networks, primarily by ensuring new spectrum is available and by streamlining deployment of physical infrastructure.
At an event to discuss the report and 5G technology, there was broad agreement among the panelists that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) leadership on opening up spectrum in the United States has been exemplary, with the FCC moving much faster than expected. Charla Rath, vice president for wireless policy development at Verizon, applauded the FCC’s emphasis on the flexible use of the new spectrum, which will allow industry to move forward more quickly in the United States.
Peter Pitsch, executive director of communications policy and associate general counsel for Intel, and Dean R. Brenner, senior vice president for government affairs at Qualcomm, both noted the need not only for high-band spectrum, but also low- and medium-band spectrum, in order to provide as much varied coverage as possible. The FCC’s commitment to making licenses available in a flexible and investment-friendly way, while requiring only modest technical specifications, will be key to the success of 5G, Pitsch stated.
The panelists also discussed the infrastructure required for high-band deployment. When asked to discuss the intelligence that will be built into future networks, Robert Kubik, director for public policy, engineering, and technology at Samsung Electronics America, emphasized that the main takeaway is that networks will be able to manage their resources more efficiently as they roll out the new technology. However, many technological aspects of these forthcoming, intelligent networks are already extant in 4G, with Pitsch noting that most companies view 5G as an end-to-end solution. Tom Mao, principal wireless architect with the CTO group of ZTE-USA, highlighted the ways in which ZTE network equipment is already moving toward the 5G vision, already offering massive multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) arrays working with LTE devices and quickly moving toward virtualization of equipment.
Brenner explained that 3GPP is the main focus of standardizing 5G, along with the IEEE, developing specifications for unlicensed high-band spectrum. The European Commission, he stated, has a vested interest in strong standardization, and although a complex process, it is well motivated to ensure economies of scale through 3GPP.
The issue of dividing spectrum between the wireless and satellite industries was raised, but Rath, Pitsch, and Kubik were all cautiously optimistic. Rath admitted to not being thrilled with the way that the FCC handled dividing spectrum between the two industries, but emphasized that compromise was ultimately necessary. Kubik stated that no one expects widespread interference, while Pitsch was the most positive, asserting that the productive repercussions of the overall discussion will be highly significant in the long run.
The bottom line of the panel was overwhelmingly positive, with Brenner concluding that the industry and policymakers alike need to keep up momentum to develop networks that are both technologically and economically compelling.