CTIA President/CEO Meredith Atwell Baker welcomed GSMA MWC19 Los Angeles attendees to the annual convention Tuesday. “Two years ago we saw a 5G prototype here in Los Angeles. Now, I’m walking the streets of Washington with a 5G mobile phone in my pocket,” said Baker.
“Thanks to you, the U.S. has the first 5G and the fastest 5G. It will revolutionize our lives. 5G labs are open across the country. These innovations will move from the lab to our lives in no time,” Baker predicted.
In her welcoming keynote, she interviewed U.S. Cellular President/CEO Ken Meyers, who’s also the Chairman of CTIA, as well as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Meyers spoke of U.S. Cellular’s push to bring 5G to mid-size cities and rural markets. His company recently said it’s bringing 5G to Wisconsin and Iowa in Q1 2020. Places like Cedar Rapids, IA and Osh Kosh and Racine, WI have college campuses, he explained. “As industry has grown, it’s created an ecosystem around it. Today’s it’s filled with innovators,” Meyers said. That’s why the carrier is deploying 5G there.
Baker asked Meyers about U.S. Cellular’s fairness in wireless campaign announced in September. “We want to make sure there’s universal service, so customers in Portland, Maine can have the same service” as those in urban areas, Meyers emphasized. “Fairness is something we think resonates well with customers.”
Turning to spectrum needs for 5G, he said U.S. Cellular bought high-band mmWave spectrum licenses at auction “because that’s what was available” at the time. “You need a lot of spectrum to get the benefits of 5G. There are challenges when using high-band in rural areas. We’ll be able to use it judiciously.”
Mid-band spectrum is key because, “We need a lot of mid-band as soon as possible. Because we’ll never get the coverage out of [mmWave band spectrum] we need. It’s going to work great in densely populated areas or in specific cases, like college football stadiums or college dorms.”
Baker said at the FCC, the agency’s “pushed through” three high-band auctions this year, “the most” in its history. Pai, “is poised to do the same for mid-band spectrum next year,” according to the CTIA executive. Pai credited the career staff at the agency, plus an auction team and engineers. “I can’t take” all the credit, he said, “I’m simply the top of the pyramid.”
Baker asked what lessons can be learned from the high-band auctions. “To try to move as quickly as we can,” he replied. The Commission is finished with auctions in January and May and will begin its third this year in December. “We’re looking to extend that [momentum] when it comes to mid-band spectrum,” explained Pai, noting the agency plans to hold an auction of 3.5 GHz licenses in June 2020. Of C-band spectrum, Pai simply said the Commission is, “looking to make progress in the time to come.”
Of the much-anticipated and contentious C-band spectrum, Baker said: “we’re looking for a C-band target date. But it sounds like we’re not making news on that today.”
Noting that consumers will always want to consume more data, Baker asked Pai what’s next on the spectrum horizon. He sees streaming video and artificial intelligence driving the next big thing in spectrum. “We’re excited about what 6 GHz can mean.” He noted the standard is being developed. The agency is hoping to keep incumbent users and add more. “Look at WiFi just a generation ago,” he said, saying he’s “confident WiFi 6 will be similar.”
Pai emphasized the necessity of keeping the 5G supply chain secure. “This is not an area where we can afford to take a risk and hope for the best.” That message has been well-received abroad. “People recognize 5G networks will be more software-based,” [than 4G] he said, noting, “other countries share our view and are willing to work with us.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti kicked off the event by welcoming MWL attendees to his City of Angels. He said it’s a great place to hold such a show. “We use technology to deliver better products and services. Los Angeles was the first city to have a 911 mobile app. This year, we launched the MyShake mobile app,” which alerts consumers of an imminent major earthquake. “You might want to download it now just in case” he said tongue-in-cheek to some laughter.
October 23, 2019