A “Big Glitch” on 5G Rollout Impedes Small Business Recovery and Economic Opportunity

By at 13 December, 2021, 3:32 pm



By Karen Kerrigan –

Every day that goes by without rolling out 5G is another day that our global competitors make significant headway in this importance “race.”

In order for businesses to fully heal from the pandemic, the entrepreneurs who run America’s firms certainly do not need to be blindsided by new surprises or government actions that will harm their recovery and growth. Already, small businesses are facing record-level inflation, supply chain challenges, labor shortages and general uncertainty as to the direction of the economy. With regard to policy and actions, government agencies and elected officials need to be striving to get everything right in order to minimize uncertainties and provide relief from higher costs and burdens. That is why the lack of government inter-agency coordination regarding rollout of 5G and use of the C-band spectrum, and more specifically Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) action that triggered a delay in 5G rollout, is a big disappointment for small business owners.

In a previous Small Business Insider, I provide some details on this issue, which notes last-minute safety concerns expressed by the FAA regarding the use of the C-band spectrum, which has already been purchased for 5G purposes by various private-sector players after exhaustive – and inclusive – study by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

AT&T and Verizon were preparing an early December launch regarding their respective rollouts of a new 5G frequency band – that is, up until the FAA’s surprise safety bulletin hit. The FAA’s concern about the C-band possibly causing aviation equipment interference is supported by one defective report (submitted for the record during the FCC’s investigatory and clearance work on the issue), which the CTIA counters “is completely contradicted by safe, real-world deployment of 5G in the C-band in dozens of countries around the world.”

This issue – the safety of C-band’s co-existence – has been exhaustively studied for over a decade in the U.S., and internationally for 17 years! Nearly 40 countries use 5G in the C-band and there has been no impact on aviation safety.

So now, following a voluntary delay in 5G rollout by AT&T and Verizon, the wireless industry has volunteered to implement several precautionary measures “to ensure safe flights and rapid 5G deployment, directly addressing the concerns of the FAA.”  Those measures are outlined here, which also include a robust defense of the safety of deploying 5G in the C-Band under rules adopted by the FCC in February 2020.

These U.S.-based voluntary measures are “the greatest protection measures in the world to safeguard aircraft from potential harmful interference from new 5G services operating in the Phase 1 C-Band segment (3700- 3800 MHz),” writes CTIA.  Again, these measures are being put into place even though 5G deployments are “successfully occurring without harmful interference to aviation operations in dozens of countries that have no precautionary measures in place.”

SBE Council fully agrees with CTIA that given these extra steps: “We can now move forward to expeditiously deploy 5G across the U.S. under this new framework.”

Yes, let’s move forward!

The acceleration to all things digital in the U.S. is pushing new business creation and innovations, both of which will be muted and undermined without the transformative connectivity and tools provided by 5G. If there was ever a time that entrepreneurs, small businesses and consumers needed 5G, it is now.

As many more consumers have moved online during the pandemic to purchase goods and services in greater volume, to access healthcare, to get educated or continue their education, to work from home, or communicate with family and friends, the power and innovations made possible through 5G will be necessary for small business owners and entrepreneurs to meet current and future needs, and to drive the creation of innovative products and services.

America cannot afford to allow federal government turf issues to harm our competitive advantage, or to prevent U.S. entrepreneurs and innovators from being the godmothers or godfathers of new industries and models that will no doubt be spawned by 5G. Every day that goes by without rolling out 5G is another day that our global competitors make significant headway in this importance “race.”

Given the extraordinary (voluntary) precautionary steps taken by the wireless industry, there is no reason why 5G rollout using the C-band spectrum cannot move forward. The health and vibrancy of small businesses everywhere depend on it.

UPDATE! Former FCC Officials Weigh In: On December 13, six former FCC officials sent a letter to the Chair of the FCC and Acting Administrator of the NTIA urging “all stakeholders to work together toward a speedy resolution of the issues…to ensure these surprises do not become a reoccurring feature of American spectrum management in the future.” They noted that “the FAA position threatens to derail the reasoned conclusions reached by the FCC after years of technical analysis and study.”

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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