US Senators Propose to Auction Government-Owned Spectrum to Boost 5G Networks

By Jace Dela Cruz

Mar 12, 2024 01:58 AM EDT

Two Republican senators are unveiling a new legislative proposal that would auction some US government-owned spectrum to bolster commercial wireless 5G networks. 

(Photo : torstensimon from Pixabay)

US Senators to Unveil 'Spectrum Pipeline' Bill

Senators Ted Cruz and John Thune are introducing the "Spectrum Pipeline" bill on Monday. The bill aims to address the escalating demand for spectrum utilization driven by technological advancements across various sectors.

The legislation mandates the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to identify over 2,500 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for potential reallocation from federal government use to non-governmental or shared utilization over the next five years.

Under the proposed bill, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be tasked with auctioning off a minimum of 1,250 megahertz of spectrum for full-power commercial wireless services, including 5G, within six years, with at least 600 megahertz to be auctioned within three years.

While the NTIA has taken initial steps to free up additional wireless spectrum, Republicans have criticized the pace of its progress, prompting the introduction of this legislation to expedite the process.

The White House's National Spectrum Strategy and presidential memorandum have outlined plans to study over 2,700 megahertz of spectrum, including over 1,600 megahertz of mid-band spectrum, for potential repurposing.

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CTIA Welcomes the Proposed Bill

Industry group CTIA, representing major telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, welcomed the Cruz-Thune bill, lauding its potential to establish a robust pipeline of licensed spectrum.

However, not all lawmakers are in unanimous support. Last month, three senators cautioned the Biden administration against reallocating spectrum used for military radar systems in favor of commercial wireless, citing potential risks to national security. 

READ MORE: Stopgap Spending Bill to Avert Government Shutdown Passes Congress, Waits for Joe Biden's Signature 

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