Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has unveiled plans to establish a new ‘5G Fund’, which will make up to USD9 billion in Universal Service Fund (USF) support available to mobile operators to assist with the deployment of fifth-generation wireless services across rural America. The Fund will set aside at least USD1 billion specifically for deployments facilitating precision agriculture needs. The investment will be allocated through a reverse auction and will target hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations and/or rugged terrain.
The FCC clarifies that the 5G Fund will replace the planned ‘Mobility Fund Phase II’, which was intended to provide federal support for 4G LTE service in unserved areas. Pursuant to the Mobility Fund Phase II rules, wireless providers were required to submit LTE coverage data in order to help the FCC target federal subsidies to unserved parts of the country. However, the watchdog has now established that the 4G data submitted by providers is not sufficiently reliable for the purpose of moving forward with Mobility Fund Phase II.
Pai commented: ‘We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will. In order to do that, the Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow. Moreover, America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen across the country.’