FCC Commissioner O’Rielly condemns government-led wholesale 5G proposal

In an FCC blogpost, O’Rielly presents a laundry list of reasons why a wholesale 5G network is not feasible. (FCC)

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly revived what was thought to be a dead issue this week, articulating his opposition to a proposed government-led wholesale 5G network model in a blog posted to the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

“Over the last few months, various ideas have been floated about the offering of 5G wireless services via a government-sponsored network,” O’Rielly wrote in the blog post. “This entire effort seems convoluted and borders on the preposterous.”

Earlier this year, members of President Trump’s re-election committee made comments to Politico appearing to back a controversial 5G proposal that would see the government taking over spectrum designated for 5G and developing a system to share the spectrum with wireless providers on a wholesale basis.

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The idea received swift criticism from nearly all corners of the industry, and was even rejected by the White House and the FCC. President Trump himself clarified at a later event that the U.S.’s 5G roll-out will be private sector-driven and private sector-led.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reiterated that stance last week, speaking at the National Spectrum Consortium 5G Collaboration event in Arlington, Virginia. “Like a recurring bad dream, there have been repeated calls for government control of America’s 5G networks,” he said at the event. “Let me be clear: I oppose any proposal for the government to build, own, or operate a commercial next-generation wireless network.”

RELATED: FCC Chairman Pai: Private sector should build 5G; security is key issue

O’Rielly noted that the details of such calls for government control of 5G have been “nearly impossible to nail down with any granularity." Neither Pai nor O’Rielly named who is supposedly pushing for such a proposal to be accepted.

O’Rielly presented a laundry list of reasons why a wholesale 5G network is not feasible, including the fact that there is no available spectrum bands to be used for the network; the government would not be able to compel carriers to actually use the network; and that the government has no existing tower agreements or relationships, meaning that the network would have to built from scratch.

He also noted that a government-led wholesale network could not realistically be able to offer a “more secure” 5G network than the private sector could.  

“Arguing that this network couldn't be broken into ignores the reality of past breaches of high priority U.S. government networks,” O’Rielly said.

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