Biden inks blueprint to fix 5G chaos

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Biden inherited messy interagency fights jeopardizing U.S. leadership in 5G wireless technology, which imperiled the government’s ability to auction off valuable spectrum ranges used for commercial wireless technology. Agencies feuded over how to use different chunks of these airwaves during the Trump administration, often pitting the Federal Communications Commission against the Pentagon, Transportation Department and other departments who have their own increasing demands for spectrum to operate military radars, aviation equipment and other systems. These fights continued into Biden’s term, fueling anxiety over U.S. economic competitiveness and its ability to vie against global rivals like China, which is seeking to dominate the wireless ecosystem and subsidizing telecom giants like Huawei.

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Article Contents

The move

The White House issued a national spectrum strategy and presidential memorandum, which created a system empowering both his Commerce Department and, when necessary, White House officials, to settle interagency spats. The administration says the strategy puts the U.S. on firmer global standing, particularly with new generations of technology like 6G wireless on the horizon, and sets goals for how the government allocates spectrum.

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The impact

When fully implemented, the strategy aims to allocate more spectrum for the commercial sector, drive more R&D into spectrum technologies, lead to a better-equipped workforce and better allocate bandwidth for government agencies to use.

The upshot

Spectrum is a limited resource that’s never been more important to business and government, and Biden’s plan creates a system to better manage how government agencies and private industries compete for frequencies. But much will depend on how exactly the administration implements it, and those details won’t come out until later this year. Some Republicans are concerned the strategy doesn’t mandate the free-up of spectrum for the commercial sector but simply initiates studies into whether that would be possible — an issue that could drive a future Republican White House to take a more aggressive approach.



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