The C-band delay in 5G is impressively stupid
The head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said he’s talking directly to AT&T and Verizon about their plan to deploy 5G services in their midband C-band spectrum licenses starting in January.
“We are having very productive discussions and we will figure this out,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said at an event in Washington, according to Reuters. However, Dickson said the FAA is still concerned that 5G operations in C-band spectrum could interfere with some aircraft radio altimeters.
Dickson said it remains to be seen what mitigations, including possible adjustments to deployment or actions that might need to be taken from within the aviation sector, will look like.
Better late than never, I guess?
The truth is that Dickson and his peers at the NTIA and FCC have taken 5G regulatory mismanagement and procrastination to new levels that can only be described as impressively stupid.
Waiting until the last minute
As some industry experts have pointed out, the topic of wireless operations in C-band spectrum has been around since 2012. Moreover, the FCC outlined its specific plans to auction the C-band for 5G in the early part of 2020. So why is the FAA only now having “very productive discussions” on a topic that obviously should have been addressed before AT&T, Verizon and others collectively spent around $100 billion on C-band spectrum licenses for 5G?
As with anything in Washington, I suspect there’s plenty of blame to go around. But there have been a number of clear missteps. For example, according to The Wall Street Journal, the FAA’s first warnings on the topic last year weren’t filed into the FCC’s public comment system so that others could see them.
Regardless, what did the FCC do about those warnings? I’m not sure, but it appears the agency is scrambling to address them now. For example, executives from altimeter maker Garmin met with FCC officials just last week to discuss the results of the interference tests they conducted. Shouldn’t that meeting have happened earlier? Like, maybe, before the FCC auctioned off the C-band for 5G?
And what about the NTIA? That’s the government agency specifically charged with coordinating spectrum usage among federal agencies. “Career NTIA engineers concluded that FAA’s data failed to demonstrate a serious threat, and the determination was made to move forward with the auctions after consultation with Commerce [Department] officials at the highest level and White House staff,” Adam Candeub, the NTIA’s former acting chief, told the WSJ.
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