US Congress readies bill to advance 5G networks

The House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday on a bill that works on identifying more spectrum for private sector use, as well as reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of Congress are ready to pass a bill that should facilitate the development of 5G networks in the US.

The US House will vote on the bill on Tuesday, a group of lawmakers said in a joint statement.

The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- Republican Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon and Democrat Frank Pallone of New Jersey -- as well as leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee -- Republican Chairman John Thune of South Dakota and Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida -- said they're all ready to support the bill, called RAY BAUM'S Act (H.R. 4986).

"This bipartisan, bicameral product puts consumers first and solidifies the nation's critical telecommunications infrastructure, giving the U.S. a global edge in the race to 5G and improving internet services across the country," the congressmen said in a statement.

The bill reauthorizes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and it fixes a technicality that had kept the FCC from depositing upfront payments from spectrum bidders directly with the US Treasury. It also includes provisions on identifying more licensed and unlicensed spectrum for private sector use, as well as for reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.

Several wireless carriers at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this week discussed their investments in 5G: AT&T is providing 12 cities with 5G by the end of the year, and Sprint has said it will provide six cities with 5G next year. T-Mobile announced it will build out 5G across 30 cities this year.

Speaking with ZDNet during MWC 2018 in Barcelona, T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said there is a "huge ongoing dialogue" between 5G Americas and the federal government, with the latter having "an enormous role" to play in freeing up spectrum.

"I think as an industry, we all realize a lot more spectrum is needed for 5G to ultimately succeed in the US market, and that's across all bands," Ray told ZDNet.

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