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Talk continues of a 5G wholesale network in the US

Kevin Werbach, who was an adviser on telecom policy in the Clinton and Obama administrations, has written in the New York Times about the Trump administration’s short-lived idea for an open wholesale 5G network. “It was a poorly vetted scheme possibly intended to score political points. It was squelched almost immediately after it became public, as shocked White House staff members complained that it contradicted the administration’s support for competing wireless networks. The twist? Open access wireless is actually a terrific idea.” The concept, promoted by Republicans operatives such as Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, is for a network supporting 5G wireless technology to operate on a wholesale basis. Carriers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon could buy capacity. So could anyone else: Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Uber or small operators serving rural areas. “No company could use exclusive control over spectrum to block competition… Last year, a leaked National Security Council presentation called for nationalisation of 5G networks to improve cybersecurity and better compete against China. The proposal was killed... The Trump re-election campaign’s proposal wisely dropped the government takeover. It shifted the focus to wholesale access, which could be overseen by an independent nonprofit organisation, like the independent system operators that manage electricity markets.” Werbach notes that the idea of a wholesale network is not new, but “was shot down each time amid furious industry opposition… But the communications industry has already shown that a competitive open market sometimes can’t develop without government action… The primary way the government makes wireless spectrum available today is through exclusive licensing to the highest bidder. That can make it difficult for companies that provide niche services such as telemedicine and smart electric grids, or that serve less populous areas, which the big national carriers often ignore,” he writes, noting a recent paper by spectrum guru Peter Cramton that considers that wholesale open access offers the best hope to break the wireless oligopoly while also using spectrum more efficiently. Read more

  • Monday, 18 March 2019

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