What’s New In 5G – August 2021 – Media, Telecoms, IT, Leisure

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What’s New In 5G – August 2021

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The next-generation of wireless technologies – known as 5G
– is here.  Not only is it expected to offer network
speeds that are up to 100 times faster than 4G LTE and reduce
latency to nearly zero, it will allow networks to handle 100 times
the number of connected devices, revolutionizing business and
consumer connectivity and enabling the “Internet of
Things.”  Leading policymakers – federal regulators
and legislators – are making it a top priority to ensure that
the wireless industry has the tools it needs to maintain U.S.
leadership in commercial 5G deployments.  This blog provides
monthly updates on FCC actions and Congressional efforts to win the
race to 5G.

Regulatory Actions and Initiatives

Mid-Band Spectrum

  • The FCC accepts additional applications by, and grants
    additional waivers to, Tribal entities for spectrum in the 2.5 GHz
    band.

    • On July 20, 2021, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications
      Bureau (“WTB”) released a Public Notice announcing that an
      additional six applications filed in the Rural Tribal Priority
      Window for licenses in the 2.5 GHz band have been accepted for
      filing.  The list of applications sorted by file number is
      available here, and the list of the same applications
      sorted by applicant name is available here.  Interested parties may petition to
      deny the applications by August 19, 2021. 
    • On July 26, 2021, the WTB released an Order granting a waiver request submitted
      by Blue Lake Rancheria regarding the definition of eligible Tribal
      lands for purposes of the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window.
       Grant of the waiver will allow the Tribe to provide service
      on certain lands contiguous to its reservation that are held in
      trust for the Tribe and one area of non-Tribally owned land. 
      In addition, the WTB released an Order granting a waiver to the Torres
      Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians for non-Tribal land adjacent to
      its reservation on the northwest edge of the Salton Sea in Thermal,
      California.
  • The FCC provides additional guidance as it prepares for its
    next auction of mid-band spectrum in the 3.45 GHz band.

    • On July 20, 2021, the FCC released a Public Notice with additional guidance on
      its rule prohibiting certain communications for its upcoming
      auction of spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz (“3.45 GHz”)
      band.  It suggests that the National Telecommunications and
      Information Administration (“NTIA”) and the Department of
      Defense (“DoD”) (which is the existing user of the
      spectrum) may continue to communicate with all parties regarding
      uniformly applicable coordination requirements.  However, the
      Public Notice observes that applicants must exercise caution in
      communicating non-public information to, or receiving non-public
      information from, NTIA and DoD to ensure against violation of the
      prohibited communication rules.
  • The FCC grants additional applications to use mid-band spectrum
    in the 3.5 GHz band for commercial wireless services and waives
    certain requirements for the National Football League.

    • On July 9, 2021, the WTB released an Order granting a request by the National
      Football League (“NFL”) for a waiver of the FCC’s
      rule that otherwise requires that commercial wireless services in
      the 3.5 GHz band – known as the Citizens Broadband Radio
      Service (“CBRS”) – be coordinated and authorized
      through a Spectrum Access System (“SAS”).  The Order
      grants a waiver for coach-to-coach communications in the event of a
      localized Internet outage throughout the 2021-22 NFL season,
      subject to certain conditions.  And operations are only
      permitted in the General Authorized Access section of the 3.5 GHz
      band, which means there will be no impact on Federal or licensed
      operations in the band. 
    • On July 12, 2021, the WTB released a Public Notice announcing the grant of an
      additional two applications for licenses in the 3.5
      GHz band – one filed by Simple Wireless LLC and the other
      filed by White Cloud Communications.
  • The FCC grants licenses for C-band spectrum and continues to
    address relocation issues as it transitions the spectrum from
    satellite services to commercial 5G services.

    • On July 23, 2021, the FCC’s WTB released a Public Notice granting applications for
      licenses in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, or C-band.  The list of
      applications granted by applicant name is available here, and the list of applications granted by
      market is available here. 

      • According to the FCC’s News Release, grant of the licenses “keeps
        the transition of this band to flexible use on track, paving the
        way for carriers to use this spectrum to provide 5G and other
        advanced wireless service,” and Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel
        noted that “[w]ith these licenses in hand, more carriers can
        deploy mid-band 5G, which means faster speeds over much wider
        coverage areas and more robust competition.”
      • FCC Commissioner Carr separately released a statement on the grant of licenses, noting
        that “[t]he Commission’s 2020 decision to free up 280
        megahertz of prime, mid-band spectrum notched an important win for
        U.S. leadership in 5G,” but also suggested that “we must
        do more than implement the tough spectrum decisions the FCC made
        over the last few years if we are going to extend U.S. leadership
        in 5G” and should “move forward with a number of new
        spectrum proceedings too.”
    • The FCC also released an Order denying petitions filed by DISH
      urging the FCC to deny the applications of T-Mobile and Verizon for
      C-band licenses because, according to DISH, granting the licenses
      would cause T-Mobile and Verizon to exceed the FCC’s spectrum
      aggregation screen in certain markets.  The FCC found that
      grant of the licenses to T-Mobile and Verizon “will facilitate
      access to spectrum in a manner that promotes
      competition.” 
    • Finally, the FCC released a Public Notice providing notice to certain
      C-band earth station operators identified by the relocation
      coordinator RSM US LLP (“RSM”) as no longer receiving
      service from a C-band satellite (but still listed as active in the
      FCC’s database) that they have until October 21, 2021, to
      notify the FCC whether they are active and intend to participate in
      the C-band transition.  Those that do not will have their
      authorizations automatically terminated and removed from the
      incumbent earth station list.  The list of affected earth
      stations is available here.

5G Networks and Infrastructure

  • The FCC holds an Open RAN Solutions Showcase.
    • On July 14 and July 15, 2021, the FCC conducted an Open RAN
      Solutions Showcase.  The agenda is available here and included “presentations from
      over 30 vendors whose interoperable, open interface,
      standards-based 5G network equipment and services will be ready and
      available for purchase and installation by January 1, 2022, if not
      sooner.”
    • At the Showcase, Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced that the FCC will help spur the
      development and deployment of Open RAN technology by establishing
      innovation zones and research testbeds for 5G and Open RAN.  A
      draft of the Public Notice that would establish these
      innovation zones in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Boston,
      Massachusetts, was released on July 14, 2021.  According to
      the FCC’s News Release, “[i]f approved by a vote of
      the full Commission at its August 5 Open Meeting, this proposal
      will allow Raleigh and Boston to join New York City and Salt Lake
      City at the forefront of wireless technology innovation.”
    • Commissioner Simington’s statement at the Showcase indicated that
      he believes that “ORAN holds forth the promise of more secure
      networks” and “as we are poised to transition many
      critical services to 5G networks, we must reduce every threat to
      wireless networks that we can.”
  • The FCC revises its rules for securing 5G communications
    networks.

    • On July 13, 2021, the FCC adopted an Order revising its rules for the program
      it established pursuant to the Secure and Trusted Communications
      Networks Act to reimburse providers of advanced communications
      services for the costs incurred to remove, replace, and dispose of
      equipment and services that pose a national security risk. 
      The Order implements changes included in the Consolidation
      Appropriations Act of 2021 by, among other things, increasing the
      eligibility cap for entities participating in the reimbursement
      program from those serving two million or fewer customers to those
      with ten million or fewer customers, establishing a prioritization
      scheme for funding, and clarifying other aspects of the
      program.  According to the FCC’s News Release, the Order “is another step
      in ongoing FCC action to protect the communications networks from
      those who would harm the United States.”
    • During the FCC’s open meeting and her remarks at the Open
      RAN Showcase (see above), Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel announced
      that the FCC is targeting October 29, 2021, as the date for opening
      the filing window for the reimbursement program and suggested that
      Open RAN could be a helpful solution for communications networks
      going forward.

Legislative Efforts

  • The House passes a bill that would direct NTIA to take certain
    actions to promote U.S. representation and leadership in
    communications standards-setting bodies.

    • On July 20, 2021, the House passed the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act of
      2021.  The bill, introduced by Representatives Walberg,
      Dingell, Johnson, Kuster, and Cline, would direct NTIA to encourage
      American companies and relevant stakeholders to participate in
      standards-setting bodies, like the International Organization for
      Standardization and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project
      (3GPP).  It would also provide technical assistance to
      companies and stakeholders that elect to participate in developing
      standards for 5G networks.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee reports a bill that
    would close the loophole that currently allows carriers to use
    private funds to purchase and use equipment that pose a national
    security risk.

    • On July 21, 2021, the House Energy and Commerce Committee
      favorably reported the Secure Equipment Act of 2021, which would
      require the FCC to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to update its
      equipment authorization procedures.  Specifically, the bill
      would require the FCC to clarify that it will no longer approve
      equipment authorization applications for equipment produced by
      Huawei, ZTE, or other entities that pose an unacceptable risk to
      national security, even if the equipment was purchased
      by private funds.  FCC Commissioner
      Carr applauded the action, stating that the
      bill “would help ensure that insecure gear from companies like
      Huawei, ZTE, and others can no longer be inserted into
      America’s communications infrastructure.”  The
      companion bill was introduced  in the Senate in May
      2021.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee reports a bill that
    would require NTIA to discuss the benefits of Open RAN with small
    providers.

    • On July 21, 2021, the House Energy and Commerce Committee
      favorably reported the Open RAN Outreach Act, which would require
      NTIA to conduct outreach and provide technical assistance to small
      communications network providers to raise awareness about the
      benefits of Open RAN networks and other open network
      architectures. 
  • The House Energy and Commerce Committee reports a bill that
    would require the FCC to begin planning for the next generation of
    wireless networks – 6G.

    • On July 21, 2021, the House Energy and Commerce Committee
      favorably reported the Future Uses of Technology Upholding Reliable and
      Enhanced (FUTURE) Networks Act.  If enacted, the bill
      would direct the FCC to establish a 6G Task Force.  The Task
      Force would be required to publish a report on the status of 6G
      standards setting, the supply chain and cybersecurity limitations
      of 6G, and how to best work with Federal, State, local, and Tribal
      governments to leverage 6G, including with respect to siting and
      deployment.

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