White House to auction 5G spectrum in 2021

5G graphic

The Trump administration has announced plans to auction off 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for commercial use starting in mid-2022. Though it was previously used for military purposes, the administration is seeking to boost 5G coverage in the United States.

According to White House adviser and US CTO Michael Kratsios, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be able to auction the mid-band spectrum to companies such as Verizon Communications and AT&T from December 2021. The wireless industry may also begin using it by the summer of the following year.

Kratsios told reporters the move "allows us to maximize 5G availability of spectrum without compromising national security."

By collaborating with the Department of Defense, the Trump administration has ensured that the commercial use of the mid-band spectrum does not compromise military preparedness or national security. Currently, the spectrum is used for critical radar operations, including air missile defense.

Midband spectrum offers geographic coverage and the capacity to transmit vast amounts of data, making it critical for 5G networks. To ensure there is enough spectrum to handle growing internet and wireless traffic, the FCC has taken to clearing specific spectrums, this spectrum reassignment included. To date, the FCC has freed up more than 5,000 megahertz of spectrum for 5G.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai lauded the announcement, telling reporters: "This is a key milestone in securing United States leadership in 5G."

US wireless industry group CTIA praised the announcement as well. "Opening up this critical block of mid-band spectrum for full power commercial operations will enhance US competitiveness in the 5G ecosystem," said CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.

In October 2018, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum directing the Commerce Department to prepare for 5G wireless networks by developing a comprehensive national spectrum strategy.

The president formed the White House Spectrum Strategy Task Force as well and requested that federal agencies report on government spectrum needs while also reviewing how the spectrum could be shared with private users.