MWCA: '5G is a race that everybody should win'

5G Americas is encouraging the US government to make more spectrum available sooner, as well as clearing the path for cellular infrastructure deployment to bring the average approval time down from 18 months.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

5G Americas president Chris Pearson says "everyone" should win on 5G, but that this can only be achieved if the United States government ensures the two key ingredients of spectrum and infrastructure deployments are worked through.

"5G is a race that everyone should win," Pearson said while speaking with ZDNet during Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) in Los Angeles.

"And when everyone wins, it means that the customer wins, whether you're a business customer or a consumer customer. But we're all only going to win if we get spectrum out there and cell site density."

Pearson said the lack of spectrum availability -- particularly in the mid-band, because 3.5GHz is going to be a global 5G band -- and the 18-month average wait time for small cell deployment approval are both a "big concern" that could see the US fall behind other regions.

"You need low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum, and you need a streamlined cell-siting process to help you get to network densification. 18 months is just way too long. If you look at other regions, or other countries like China, South Korea, Japan, their small cell-siting processes seem to be very streamlined; they're able to put out sites very quickly, and they're going to be able to move forward on 5G very quick," he argued.

"In the United States, if it takes 18 months to do a cell site, that's just way too long. Small cell sites that are simple, hopefully someday that will be in weeks instead of citing double-digit months."

Speaking on the progress the US government has made on 5G spectrum bands since last speaking with ZDNet at MWC Barcelona in February, Pearson said the FCC is now planning to auction off the 28GHz millimetre-wave (mmWave) band in November, which will be followed immediately by the 24GHz band.

It is also asking for comments from industry on making further mmWave spectrum available; is continuing to look at CBRS spectrum; has sought comments from industry over the 3550-3700MHz band and possible spectrum-sharing arrangements between defence, navy radar, government users, incumbent satellite users, and carriers; and is also seeking comments on the 3.7-4.2GHz mid-band spectrum. The 3450-3550MHz band is only in the "very beginning stages", however.

Across cell siting, Pearson said 20 states have now adopted laws that are high-level guidelines for their cities and municipalities to follow on 5G infrastructure deployment.

"There was an order last week out of the FCC announced, and that order was about streamlining the processes, so again progress, but there's still things that we need to do on both the two key ingredients," he added.

"It is very difficult; it takes a lot of resources of the carriers and even their vendor partners or large associations to basically go state by state and municipality by municipality to be able to come to agreements. The fact that 20 states have moved forward with high-level guidelines is a step in the right direction, but it's not easy and we need to make sure that we continue to make this progress or it'll be difficult."

In reference to Verizon's decision to target the home broadband market with its launch of 5G Home, Pearson said the four US carriers all have different strategies due to their different spectrum holdings, but all are "moving forward in the right direction with 5G".

"Obviously, Verizon feels that going after the home broadband market with 5G is a great market for them," he commented.

"I think most carriers are looking for what are the opportunities out there for 5G to disrupt or to improve or do different things, and so when you look at what's called the cable market in the United States, or cable and video to your home, obviously some carriers will find that that's something they want to look at closely."

In Latin America, meanwhile, Pearson said 4G LTE subscriptions are growing, with LTE Advanced starting to come in. 5G Americas is expecting Brazil to have a lot of interest in 5G because of capacity and how large the nation is, while all are looking to 5G to help solve the bigger issues of education, transport, and healthcare.

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