Saturday, 30 May 2020

FCC seeks to boost rural connectivity with $9bn 5G fund

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Thursday 02 April 20

The proposed budget would help bring 5G to areas that “would otherwise go unserved”

Today marks the closure of the long-anticipated Sprint–T-Mobile merger, set to create a new powerful player in the US telecoms space.    The deal, worth $26.5 billion, travelled a bumpy road through legislative hell to reach completion, with many stipulations applied to ensure fairness for the business ecosystem and the American people…

Today marks the closure of the long-anticipated Sprint–T-Mobile merger, set to create a new powerful player in the US telecoms space. 
 
The deal, worth $26.5 billion, travelled a bumpy road through legislative hell to reach completion, with many stipulations applied to ensure fairness for the business ecosystem and the American people. One such ruling was that the newly formed T-Mobile must deploy 5G connectivity to 99% of American’s within 6 years, including 90% of those living in rural areas.
 
However, as we see all over the world, deploying connectivity to the last few percentiles of the rural population is a difficult and expensive task - one that is rarely profitable and so often overlooked. 
 
As a result, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing the creation of a $9 billion ‘5G Fund for Rural America’, which would be made available in a reverse auction to help provide next-generation connectivity to the hardest-to-reach populations. The Commission is currently seeking comment on whether this auction should be held in 2021 by defining eligible areas based on existing data, prioritising those that have previously lacked LTE and 3G coverage, or wait until at least 2023, when the nation’s 5G topology has become clearer.
 
“5G promises to be the next leap in broadband technology, offering significantly increased speeds and reduced latency,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The 5G Fund for Rural America focuses on building out 5G networks in areas that likely would otherwise go unserved. It’s critical that Americans living in rural communities have the same opportunities as everybody else.”
 
The FCC will vote on this proposal during its Open Meeting on April 23rd. 
 
The scheme is reminiscent of the UK’s Shared Rural Network, wherein the government has subsidised operators to help connect the UK’s most rural populations. 
 
 
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