2020 has been a challenging year for the federal coffers – the government has run a $3.1 trillion budget deficit
The Federal Communications Commission will soon put a small dent in that figure. Yesterday the FCC launched the much-anticipated auction of C-band spectrum.
Radio Wave Wars
You’ve seen the commercials – the rollout of 5G networks is here with promises to change the face of telecom with speeds 600x faster than legacy 4G networks.
On top of faster loading times for TikTok videos, that means breathing life into applications such as driverless cars, virtual reality, and telemedicine.
The Keys To The Castle: Many analysts consider C-band spectrum (for those who fell asleep in physics, the “mid-range” frequencies ranging from 4.0 to 8.0 gigahertz) optimal for powering 5G networks because they can 1) move data quickly and 2) cover long-enough distances.
No Free Lunch: Before the 1990s, the FCC allocated spectrum to companies for free to the winner of a “beauty contest.” Now, having deep pockets is all that matters. Verizon, for instance, raised $12.5 billion in debt leading up to the auction, listing “the acquisition of spectrum licenses” as a top use of proceeds.
Some analysts predict the auction sale will be the largest in FCC history:
- The current record-holder is the 2015 AWS-3 spectrum auction, which raised nearly $45 billion.
- With major players— Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile— all expected to bid aggressively, some analysts believe the spectrum could rake in more than $50 billion.
There were some concerns related to the safety of the 5G spectrum (no, not related to the coronavirus).
Fearing new 5G networks could interfere with safety-critical radio performance in all types of aircraft, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio called on the FCC to delay the upcoming auction. DeFazio pointed to a recent six-month study on 5G emissions conducted by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, which found serious cause for concern.
FCC spokesman Will Wiquist downplayed the warnings, saying the commission has “no plans to delay the auction” in response.
For the brave souls that turn on their cell phones before landing – it might be time to reconsider that practice.