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FCC Chief Makes Big Promises Ahead of 5G Wireless Vote in July

Federal Communication Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler waits for a hearing at the FCC December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photograph by Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will vote July 14 on new rules to identify and open spectrum for next-generation high-speed 5G wireless applications, the panel’s chairman said on Monday.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said if the FCC “approves my proposal next month, the United States will be the first country in the world to open up high-band spectrum for 5G networks and applications.”

He said the FCC also will seek comments on opening other high-frequency spectrum bands.

Policymakers and mobile phone companies say the next generation of wireless signals needs to be 10 to 100 times faster and be far more responsive to allow advanced technologies like virtual surgery or controlling machines remotely.

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Wheeler, in a speech at the National Press Club, said “unlike some countries, we do not believe we should spend the next couple of years studying what 5G should be, how it should operate and how to allocate spectrum, based on those assumptions.”

The FCC will make spectrum available and rely on a process led by the private sector for producing technical standards.

Verizon Communications (VZ) and AT&T (T) have said they will begin deploying 5G trials in 2017, and Wheeler said the first commercial deployments at scale are expected in 2020.

Wheeler said 5G will help more Americans get access to high-speed internet. “Millions of Americans can’t access high-speed connectivity because it’s too costly to run fiber to the home,” he said.

The technology will boost many technologies, he said. “Autonomous vehicles will be controlled in the cloud. Smart-city energy grids, transportation networks and water systems will be controlled in the cloud. Immersive education and entertainment will come from the cloud.”