5G Push Slowed by Squabbles Over ‘Sweet Spot’ of US Airwaves

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US wireless companies’ limited access to some of the nation’s most valuable airwaves threatens to slow down their plans to build faster 5G networks. At issue are broad swaths of the radio spectrum in frequencies that can travel long distances and penetrate buildings. This “mid-band” is considered ideal for faster, fifth-generation wireless service. Sprint and Dish Network already hold large amounts of mid-band spectrum not yet put to work serving customers. Other nearby frequencies remain reserved for satellite communications and military use in the US. 

The Federal Communications Commission unveiled a plan to commercialize licenses in the Educational Broadband Service. The service was created in the 1960s for use by educational groups for instructional television, and some licenses are now used for wireless broadband systems for school districts. Some of the airwaves, which are above 2.5 gigahertz and often lumped in with mid-band spectrum, are used by federally recognized Native American tribes in rural areas of the US. The FCC’s plan aims to make available to wireless companies and other businesses some unused or underused swaths of that spectrum. Schools that currently use some airwaves can continue to use their licenses, expand that use or sell them, a senior FCC official said. Tribal groups also would receive priority access and, after that, unused airwaves would be auctioned off.

5G Push Slowed by Squabbles Over ‘Sweet Spot’ of U.S. Airwaves