Over the weekend, President Trump’s campaign released a litany of goals Trump says he will fight to accomplish if he’s elected for a second term. The agenda includes such things as “Establish Permanent Manned Presence on The Moon” and “Teach American Exceptionalism.”
Of interest to the wireless industry is this item: “Win the Race to 5G and Establish a National High-Speed Wireless Internet Network.”
While the Trump administration talks all the time about “winning the race to 5G,” it hasn’t mentioned a national high-speed wireless network for more than a year.
The topic came up in early 2019 when a draft proposal surfaced from a senior National Security Council official suggesting that the federal government build and operate a nationwide 5G network. The NSC’s 30-page draft proposal said the national 5G network would be like “the Eisenhower National Highway System for the Information Age.” It said the network should be built by the government and leased to wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon.
The Trump administration quickly distanced itself from the proposal, saying that it was just a suggestion by a staff member and not reflective of an imminent announcement.
But a few months later in March 2019, there were rumors that the Trump administration was floating the idea of national wholesale network in which the government would take over spectrum designated for 5G and develop a system to share the spectrum with wireless providers on a wholesale basis.
The idea of a national wholesale network has been pushed by Rivada Networks. Rivada has software that does dynamic spectrum arbitrage to allocate spectrum in real time. Speaking with FierceWireless in March 2019, Rivada Networks CEO Declan Ganley was adamant that the Trump administration was not advocating for a national 5G network run by the government. But Ganley was hopeful that the administration would consider a national 5G wholesale network. He said this network would be in addition to the existing networks of wireless operators.
Ganley argued that wholesale access to spectrum was imperative to introduce more competition into the U.S. wireless market via mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Currently, MVNOs in the U.S. have to strike wholesale arrangements with the big wireless operators, including Verizon and AT&T. And Ganley said that the MVNOs don’t have a lot of leverage in the wholesale negotiations.
“Entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to start serving some underserved part of the marketplace,” said Ganley. “The on-ramp to getting capacity needs to be much easier. And so does the off-ramp.”
That’s where Rivada’s arbitrage system would come into play.
In any event, it’s interesting that Trump’s agenda for his second terms says, “Establish a National High-Speed Wireless Internet Network.” The agenda doesn’t say anything about “wholesale.”
However, New Street Research analyst Blair Levin seems to think the agenda is harking back to the idea of a wholesale network. Levin writes today, “So it appears to us that Rivada still has some influence at the White House, not surprisingly, given its heavyweight group of advocates, including Brad Pascale, Karl Rove, Peter Thiel and Newt Gingrich. Does that mean that its plan will actually come to fruition if Trump is re-elected? We think not.”
Levin says every time the prospect of a national network has risen in the past, it’s been quickly shot down. Also, since the three major wireless carriers are now deploying 5G, the case for a national network is getting weaker, not stronger. Of Trump’s second-term agenda, Levin writes, “Third, the bullet points appear to have been hastily put together, and it appears to us that there is not an actual plan behind each bullet, other than to serve as a short-term public relations ploy.”
Indeed, building a “National High-Speed Wireless Internet Network” might have as much chance as some of Trump’s other agenda items including: “Partner with Other Nations to Clean Up our Planet’s Oceans.”