The Mobile Now Act, a bill aimed at opening more spectrum for 5G services, has moved one step closer to becoming law after the Senate approved the measure Thursday.
Introduced by Senators John Thune and Bill Nelson back in 2015, the Mobile Now Act resurfaced in the Senate Commerce Committee of the 115th Congress in January. With Senate approval in hand, the legislation will now move to the House of Representatives for a vote.
The bill aims to cement in law President Obama’s goal of making 500 MHz of spectrum – including 255 MHz of federal and non-federal airwaves below 6 GHz and 100 MHz of unlicensed spectrum – available for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use by the end of 2020. The measure would also require the FCC to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to consider service rules to authorize mobile or fixed terrestrial wireless operations in the airwaves from 24.25-24.450 GHz, 25.05-25.25 GHz, 31.8-33.4 GHz, 42-42.5 GHz, 71-76 GHz, and 81-86 GHz.
Additionally, the Mobile Now Act would give the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) 18 months to assess spectrum in the 3 GHz band and millimeter wave frequencies to determine the feasibility of deploying licensed or unlicensed wireless broadband services in those bands.
Those assessments would come on top of a separate Notice of Inquiry the FCC approved this week to look into flexible use of mid-range spectrum bands from 3.7-4.2 GHz, 5.925-6.425 GHz, and 6.425-7.125 GHz for next generation services.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates passage of the Mobile Now Act will increase direct spending by $141 million between 2018 and 2027, mostly due to provisions that would accelerate spending from the Spectrum Relocation Fund to make federal spectrum available for commercial use. Those costs, though, would be offset by lower spending after 2027, CBO noted.
CBO also reported the bill would cost the NTIA $8 million between 2018 and 2022 for spectrum management activities. The FCC would also face costs of around $6 million over the same period, but would be able to recoup those funds through increased annual fee collections.
The Senate passage of the bill garnered praise from industry associations, including CTIA and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA).
“CTIA and the wireless industry commend Senators Thune and Nelson on the passage of the Mobile Now Act which takes much needed steps to maintain a strong spectrum pipeline for wireless consumers and business,” CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker commented. “With the reliance on mobile services skyrocketing, the availability and timely deployment of spectrum needs to keep pace to maintain economic growth and U.S. leadership in a rapidly approaching 5G world.”
The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) also issued a statement hailing the measure’s passage.
“Mobile Now is an essential ingredient for advancing modern connectivity and keeping the U.S. on-track to achieve 5G in the very near future,” TIA said. “By providing needed spectrum and new investment incentives, the legislation will help ensure that we have the infrastructure needed for the Internet of Things, e-health, smart cities, and much more. And not only will it drive forward new wireless services, it will create good paying jobs and stimulate economic growth.”
The Senate on Thursday also passed the Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act, which aims to ensure spectrum planning and interagency coordination to support the Internet of Things. TIA said that bill will help accelerate IoT deployments, “unleashing investment and innovation across the transportation, healthcare, and energy markets – to name a few – which will improve everyday living for Americans.”
Filed Under: Telecommunications (Spectrum)