Congress To Vote On mmWave 5G Spectrum Auction Next Week

The United States Congress will vote on the Federal Communications Commission's plans to hold a 28GHz spectrum auction in November before auctioning off additional spectrum in the 24GHz band, Capitol Hill officials said Friday. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai took to the recently concluded Mobile World Congress earlier this week to announce plans for accelerating the process of issuing additional millimeter-wave spectrum licenses to wireless carriers in order to support their 5G buildouts and not fall behind South Korea's efforts to commercialize the next generation of mobile connectivity. The FCC requires congressional approval to move forward with the initiative, with the House of Representatives now being set to vote on the matter next Tuesday as part of a wider legislation proposal.

The federal regulator is presently unable to legally hold a new spectrum auction as the current rules dictate all interested bidders must have their down payments deposited on interest-bearing accounts with private banks, yet other, subsequently enacted legislation prevents that. The FCC is now seeking approval to deposit such upfront payments directly with the U.S. Treasury, with a provision approving that move being included in a new bill the Congress introduced earlier today. If approved, the law should resolve the issue that already caused some infighting among FCC Commissioners and accelerate 5G deployment efforts by providing all national carriers in the country with new holdings, allowing them to plan their buildouts in greater detail.

The newly proposed bill also seeks to alleviate other bureaucratic obstacles to 5G deployment which is the most complex wireless upgrade in the history of the telecommunications industry; unlike previous generations of the technology, 5G is expected to largely rely on the mmWave spectrum which allows for significantly higher speeds and capacities, as well as lower latencies, yet its very nature isn't conducive to long-term transmissions. Due to that state of affairs, the industry is shifting its focus away from traditional cell towers to small cells, shoebox-sized devices meant to help bounce mmWave signals and allow them to not be absorbed by foliage, rain, and buildings. 5G will require millions of new small cells in the U.S. alone, according to all relevant estimates, yet wireless carriers are still struggling to plan their deployment as many state and county governments continue regulating such relatively unobtrusive technology as cell towers, imposing heavy fees and lengthy review procedures on most installation requests.

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