More support is being thrown behind a plan to have the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction off mid-band spectrum for 5G use rather than allow satellite operators to conduct a private sale of an asset they received for free.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., sent a letter to President Donald Trump on July 19 showing his support for an auction. He noted that Senate Appropriations Subcommittee members who heard from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on the situation expressed concern that the proposal by the C-Band Alliance (a group of satellite operators) would allow the satellite companies to reap billions of dollars in profits by selling the spectrum.
“It seems preposterous to me that given our growing national debt we would send a significant portion of the proceeds from a sale of public spectrum to foreign-owned businesses,” he said. “Second, allowing the foreign satellite companies to oversee the sale of this important spectrum – rather than letting the FCC run a transparent public auction – would put our 5G future in the hands of foreign-owned companies who have every incentive to put their own financial self-interests above our own national security and economic priorities.”
Kennedy also pointed out that the C-Band Alliance wants to clear just 200 MHz of 500 MHz available spectrum between 3.7 GHz and 4.2 GHz. This would constrain supply and drive up prices. He believes the C-Band proposal would also allow the satellite companies to raise prices of the remaining 300 MHz in the spectrum if they choose to sell it later. In contrast, a public auction by the FCC could make 370 MHz available through a public auction.
“The C-Band Alliance proposal will … put us on track to losing the race to 5G with China, and decrease the likelihood that rural areas of our country will benefit from this mid-band spectrum,” he wrote.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Montana, wrote Pai on July 25 to say that a public auction would ensure that rural residents of their state “will receive the benefits of new 5G services and applications as efficiently and quickly as possible.”
They argue the C-Band Alliance plan would “limit public involvement and deprive Montana taxpayers from receiving any benefit for the use of these frequencies.”
“The Commission must adopt a framework that clears the maximum amount of spectrum in an open and transparent process that benefits all Americans, provides equal consideration for urban and rural communities,” they wrote. “Such an approach provides the best and most effective path towards the expeditions and nationwide deployment of 5G.”
Many advocates are promoting the auction of most of the available spectrum in the 3.7GHz-4.2 GHz range. A letter recently sent to the FCC by the Competitive Carriers Association, America’s Communication Association and Charter Communications advocates a plan to free up at least 370 megahertz of spectrum.
The FCC is expected to vote on the issue before the end of the year as it looks to help boost the growth of 5G.