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Trump Administration’s '5G Fast' Push Includes Airwave Auction, Focus On Rural Connectivity

President Trump and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai reveal plans Friday to hold the largest airwave spectrum auction in U.S. history to help carriers compete in 5G, as well as a $20.4 billion fund dedicated to developing 5G across rural America.

The Trump administration wants the U.S. to lead in the global race to 5G.

Ahead of a White House event on Friday, President Trump and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai shared plans to hold the largest spectrum auction in history that would open up radio frequencies to the top U.S. wireless companies to help them compete with their rivals in 5G.

The government's "5G Fast Plan" also highlighted its mission to support the widespread development of 5G with a special focus on rural America to help close the digital divide with a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The fund, which will be launched later this year, will go toward building out high-speed broadband networks in underserved parts of the country over the next 10 years, the administration said.

The FCC, led by Pai, said the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will help connect up to 4 million homes and small businesses.

[Related: 5G Wireless in 2019: The 7 Biggest Things To Know ] 

5G promises ultra-reliable speeds up to 1,000 times faster than 4G, as well as better capacity and lower latency, which will help improve business outcomes for customers, solution providers told CRN in October.

The 5G spectrum auction will give service providers access to the frequencies they need to expand their networks to reach more locations, according to Pai.

"Later this year, we're going to be holding the biggest auction of spectrum in American history," Pai told Bloomberg. "We will be allocating more spectrum for commercial 5G than all the mobile providers in America have today combined."

The airwave auction indicates that unlike China's approach to 5G development, which includes the buildout of a national network, the Trump administration favors a private-sector approach to 5G that allows carriers to compete with one another on their own networks.

"I draw the lesson from the development of the wireless industry over the past three decades, including U.S. leadership in 4G. The market, not the government, is the best way to drive innovation and investment. That's the general approach we've taken, and it's proven to be successful," Pai said in a statement in January.  

The airwave auction will be held on Dec. 10.

The country's largest carriers are currently growing out their own 5G strategies in competition with one another. AT&T's standards-based mobile 5G network is live today in certain areas of 12 cities for consumers and select businesses, including Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; Oklahoma City, Okla; New Orleans; Raleigh, N.C.; San Antonio; and Waco, Texas. The carrier also switched on six more cities, including San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; San Diego; Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Orlando, Fla. Verizon, for its part, has its residential offering, 5G Home, live in select parts of four cities, including Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif. Verizon earlier this month said that it turned on its 5G internet service in Chicago and Minneapolis.

Despite the efforts of the carriers, however, there are still very few mobile devices that can support the emerging wireless technology. One device that Verizon is using is the Motorola Moto Z3 smartphone that is able to connect to 5G by using a modular add-on. A 5G-enabled version of the Samsung Galaxy S10 is also reportedly planned to launch this quarter.

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