Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday outlined plans to make more spectrum available to wireless carriers in an effort to spur continued development of 5G networks.
Pai, speaking as part of a panel discussion at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, vowed to initiate steps to make spectrum in the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz band in coming months even as the FCC continues to craft rules regarding to 3.5 GHz CBRS band.
In addition, Pai announced plans to hold a spectrum auction in the 28 GHz band in November, followed by another auction in the 24 GHz band.
“We aspire to lead the world in 5G,” Pai told the audience.
The agency would begin taking public comment on the 28 GHz auction this spring, but Pai warned that the auction could only be held on his preferred timetable if Congress addresses upfront payments by auction bidders by mid-May. He said he was encouraged by initial bipartisan discussions on the issue.
Pai announced the moves as one of three major components of the FCC’s strategy to win race to 5G. In addition to freeing up more spectrum, he highlighted initiatives to streamline infrastructure permitting and siting and touted the agency’s “light-touch approach” to regulation.
The latter, he said, included the controversial repeal of “net neutrality” regulations in December. He reiterated his position that the decision simply restored pre-2015 regulations and said it would promote investment by wireless operators.
“We will have a free and open internet going forward,” Pai said.
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure and Sunil Bharti Mittal, the chairman of MWC organizer GSMA and founder of Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, downplayed many of the fears surrounding net neutrality and said regulators should consider the importance and health of the mobile industry in its rule-making and tax policy decisions.
Mittal said although technologies such as self-driving cars will need to receive priority over, for example, streaming music, concerns about throttling or blocking internet access are largely misplaced.
“These particular issues need to be separated and not mixed up,” Mittal said.
Claure, meanwhile, told the audience that although consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for faster services, the competitive environment in the U.S. would prevent top carriers from restricting internet access.
“If we were to do something differently, we would lose customers,” Claure said.
European Commission VP Andrus Ansip, however, praised EU regulations ensuring net neutrality and said the principle helped the online community flourish in the first place.
“Access to the internet is a basic right,” Ansip said. “It has to stay open to everybody.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations