While the wheels are already in motion for the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to stage a 2.5GHz spectrum sale later this year (via Auction 108), commissioner Brendan Carr has shed light on a number of spectrum bands that he expects to come into play from 2022 and beyond. In a keynote speech delivered to the American Enterprise Institute, he said the watchdog should work towards the auction of 50MHz of spectrum in the 1300MHz-1350MHz range in 2022, followed by the auction of another millimetre wave (mmWave) band in 2022, with the 42GHz band a prime candidate. Looking further ahead, he says that the Lower 3GHz, 4.8GHz and 7GHz bands could all be on the agenda after 2022.
In addition, Commissioner Carr talked up the surge in cell tower rollouts since 2016, explaining: ‘On the infrastructure side, it took too long and cost too much for US providers to build the hundreds of thousands of new cell sites needed for 5G. Between 2012 and 2016, for instance, the construction of new cell sites in this country had essentially flatlined. We were averaging fewer than three new sites a day over that time period. In comparison, China started putting up about 460 sites per day. What it was taking us four years to do, China was doing every nine days. On top of that, the excessively high permitting costs in the US meant that our carriers were spending nearly three times as much as their counterparts in other parts of the world to generate equivalent network capacity.’
He continued: ‘When Chairman Pai tapped me to lead the FCC’s infrastructure reforms, we moved quickly to modernise the agency’s approach and cut billions of dollars’ worth of red tape. We updated the environmental and historic preservation rules that needlessly drove up the cost and slowed down the timeline for adding small cells. We put in place guardrails to address outlier fees and delays imposed at the state and local level. We streamlined the process for swapping out utility poles to add wireless equipment … Infrastructure builds accelerated at a record pace over the last four years. In 2016, US providers built just 708 new cell sites. In 2019, with our streamlined framework in place, they built over 46,000. That’s a 65-fold increase!’