Federal Communications Commission launches $9bn 5G fund for rural US

5 Dec 2019

Image: © saron_poroong/Stock.adobe.com

The US Federal Communications Commission has launched a $9bn fund to accelerate 5G wireless access in rural parts of the US.

The chair of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, announced on Wednesday (4 December) that the FCC plans to launch a $9bn 5G fund to aid the roll-out of next-generation telecoms technology in rural parts of the US.

The investment will be allocated through a reverse auction and will target primarily “hard-to-serve” areas – in other words, ones with sparse populations and/or rugged terrain. A portion of the fund, around $1bn, will be set aside for deployments facilitating precision-agriculture needs.

“5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G LTE networks,” Pai said.

“America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen across the country … We must ensure that 5G narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that come from wireless innovation.”

Mobile carriers must submit accurate data’

The new 5G Fund will replace the planned second phase of the Mobility Fund, which would have provided federal support for 4G LTA service in unserved areas.

When the second phase of this Mobility Fund was being planned, wireless providers were required to submit 4G coverage data in order to aid the FCC in allocating federal subsidiaries to unserved parts of the US. However, the commission found that the data submitted was “not sufficiently reliable” to move forward with the 4G plans.

Specifically, according to the FCC, speed tests conducted by the commission found that certain carriers such as Verizon, US Cellular and T-Mobile “likely overstated each provider’s actual coverage and did not reflect on-the-ground experience in many instances”.

According to Pai, FCC staff drove almost 10,000 miles across the US while conducting speed tests of carrier networks in order to find that the reported information did not align with the actual coverage.

“Mobile carriers must submit accurate broadband coverage data to the commission. Simply put, we need to make sure that federal funding goes to areas that need it the most,” Pai concluded.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic