FCC Chair's update on 5G wireless, robocalls, business data services & more

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's statement to U.S. Senate on Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission

FCC Chair's update on 5G wireless, robocalls, business data services & more

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

The following statement was made by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation of the United States Senate during a hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission" on Sept. 15.

Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson, and Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss our work at the Federal Communications Commission.

 Since we last met six months ago, the Commission has continued to make strong progress on our policy agenda.  While I am pleased with this progress, our work is far from done.  With each passing day, communications technology grows more important to our economy and quality of life.  That means there’s no letting up at the Commission.  We must continue to promote core values like universal access, public safety, consumer protection, and competition at the same bold pace we have consistently maintained. 

This testimony recaps major developments since our March hearing, and highlights some key priorities as we move forward.        

KEY DEVELOPMENTS

Incentive Auction

After years of planning, and at the direction of Congress, we are in the midst of the historic incentive auction to make available greenfield low-band spectrum by repurposing a portion of the broadcast-TV band for wireless use. 

When I last visited this Committee I noted that the auction’s design allows for multiple stages of bidding in order to match the supply of spectrum from broadcasters with the demand expressed by wireless bidders.  That process is playing out as designed.  In the first stage of the auction we made available an initial clearing target of 126 MHz, but the cost to clear that amount of broadcast spectrum exceeded the bid prices of the wireless bidders.  We therefore began the second stage on September 13 with a reverse auction to determine the cost to clear a reduced amount - 114 MHz - of spectrum.  A second stage forward auction will follow the conclusion of the reverse.

We also continue to plan for the post-auction transition and repacking of TV stations.  The Incentive Auction Task Force will soon release for discussion and comment transition models to calculate the order and schedule of station relocation efforts.  These models reflect the input we’ve received from broadcasters, wireless companies, tower crews, equipment manufacturers, and other stakeholders.

Getting the transition right is as important as getting the auction itself right.  We continue to prioritize planning for an efficient and effective transition with minimal disruption to the viewing public.  With the continued engagement of industry stakeholders, that’s exactly what we’ll get.

5G – Spectrum Frontiers

This July, the Commission unanimously adopted the Spectrum Frontiers Report and Order, our most significant step yet to accelerate the development and deployment of 5G wireless technology.  This next generation of wireless connectivity promises quantum leaps forward in three key areas:  speeds resembling fiber that are at least 10 times and maybe 100 times faster than today’s 4G LTE networks; responsiveness less than one-thousandth of a second, which enables real-time communication; and network capacity multiples of what is available today.

Coupling this ultra-fast, low-latency, high-capacity connectivity with the almost unlimited processing power of the cloud will enable life-saving healthcare advances, smart-city energy grid and water systems, immersive education and entertainment, and, most importantly, new applications yet to be imagined.

MORE: 5G wireless standard getting more real

By approving the Spectrum Frontiers item, the United States became the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications.

We are repeating the proven formula that made the United States the world leader in 4G:  one, make spectrum available quickly and in sufficient amounts; two, give great flexibility to companies that can use the spectrum in expansive ways; and three, stay out of the way of technological development.  We will also balance the needs of various different types of uses in these bands through effective sharing mechanisms; take steps to promote competitive access to this spectrum; encourage the development of secure networks and technologies from the beginning; and remove unnecessary hurdles to siting and infrastructure deployment.

Business Data Services

The Commission’s Business Data Services proposal seeks to promote competition that will encourage innovation and investment.  Long known as Special Access, Business Data Services offer the kind of dedicated access that wireless providers need to connect cell towers and antennas to their networks.  Such dedicated network

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