Nokia CEO meets with FCC Chairman Pai, keeps pressure on for midband action

Nokia sign (Nokia)
Nokia executives met with FCC officials last week and stressed the urgency of making spectrum available in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band. (Nokia)

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week while other Nokia executives met with commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel to talk about the 3.7-4.2 GHz band and Nokia’s own aspirations for Spectrum Access System (SAS) administration in the 3.5 GHz band.

Rick Corker, executive vice president and president of the North America region for Nokia, as well as Jeffrey Marks, senior counsel, Policy and Regulatory at Nokia, met with O’Rielly and Rosenworcel and their legal advisers, according to an ex parte filing, where they stressed the urgency to make spectrum available in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for terrestrial use.

Indeed, during Pai's appearance at the Wireless Infrastructure Association Connectivity Expo today, he announced that at the FCC's July meeting, he intends to put up for a vote a proposal to make more intensive use of the 500 MHz in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, including seeking more input on making it available for commercial terrestrial use.

Not surprisingly, Nokia says the proposal of Intelsat and SES to unlock 100 MHz of spectrum for 5G over three years is not sufficient to meet the needs of wireless operators or to keep the U.S. competitive with the emerging 5G plans in China, Japan and Korea. Nokia does support a market-based solution but says the goal for the 3.7 GHz band should be to free 80 to 100 MHz of spectrum per operator, nationwide.

RELATED: Nokia CEO: U.S., China lead 5G race, but U.S. needs to make midband spectrum available

Suri’s meeting with Pai is consistent with his message from Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona this past February. At Nokia’s media/analyst event, Suri said it's a neck-and-neck 5G race between the U.S. and China, and while it was hard to say who would be first, the U.S. clearly needs to be more aggressive on spectrum and make 100 megahertz available per operator in the midbands—particularly in the 3 to 4 GHz range—in order to complement the low and high bands that are already available, something he said should be an urgent priority for policymakers in the U.S.

The 3.5 GHz band in the U.S. is known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band, and besides providing equipment for the band, Nokia has submitted a proposal to the FCC to operate as a SAS administrator and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) operator. During their meetings on Friday, Nokia executives urged the commission to expedite the processing and certification for SAS administrators, including its own SAS submission. They also urged the commission to simultaneously lay the groundwork for auction of 3.5 Priority Access Licenses and millimeter wave bands so that the 3.5 GHz auctions don’t slip into 2020.

Nokia has told the commission on previous occasions that it’s the only company developing an end-to-end solution for the CBRS band that includes a fully virtualized, cloud-based, scalable SAS, a Domain Proxy, an ESC capability and CBRS Devices.

Earlier this month, six conditionally approved SAS Administrators (Amdocs, CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google, Key Bridge, and Sony) met with the FCC to discuss possible SAS field-testing scenarios, but Nokia was not on that list.  

Interestingly, the topic of Universal Service Funding and national security came up during Nokia’s meetings with the FCC last week. Nokia said it supports the commission’s efforts to ensure that Universal Service Funds not be used to purchase equipment that’s a threat to national security; however, it’s telling the commission not to use the proceeding to cast uncertainty on the entire industry, including long-standing, vetted partners like Nokia.

Some smaller wireless operators that use equipment from Huawei have said they think the government should cast a wider net than just the Chinese vendors because other infrastructure vendors that are not headquartered in China also get parts from Chinese vendors. Focusing solely on the Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE could lead to a false sense of security, they said.