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How the Trump Administration Wants to Speed Up the Arrival of 5G Wireless

Emphasizing its desire for the U.S. to win the global race to deploy 5G wireless technology, the Trump Administration issued two reports on Thursday that serve as an action plan for the effort.

“Our goal is to ensure that not only does the United States lead the world in 5G, but also the American people reap the greatest possible benefit from future wireless network technology,” Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, who has overseen the 5G push, said in a statement.

One report listed dozens of research and development goals related to 5G to be pursued over the next five to 10 years or more. For example, it recommended that government and private companies develop better antennas that more efficiently use the wireless airwaves.

The second report provided more of a survey of wireless communications technology and its history.

The U.S. wireless industry is just beginning to roll out 5G service, which will offer download speeds 10-to-50 times faster than current 4G LTE networks. Verizon (VZ) started offering 5G phone service in parts of two cities last month and Sprint (S) debuted its 5G service in four cities on Thursday.

AT&T (T) and T-Mobile (TMUS) also plan to introduce 5G phone service this year.

Still, the industry has a long way to go before most of the country will be able to connect to 5G networks. New equipment costing tens of billions of dollars must be deployed not just on large, existing cell towers but also on thousands of new so-called small cells so that the 5G signals can reach most customers.

But neither of the new White House reports offered preferred solutions to some of the toughest challenges that could hinder the 5G rollout, such as how to balance the need for more airwaves with the needs of satellite communications companies already occupying some the desired bands. The Federal Communications commission is still struggling to figure out how to let 5G wireless users access some of the airwaves in the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz band currently assigned to the satellite industry.

Another battle is taking place over the 1.3 GHz band, currently used for air traffic control radar and communications. The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has studied whether that band can be shared or shifted to 5G.

The new White House reports explained in detail the airwave battles, but didn’t take a position on how to resolve any of the controversies. “The FCC and the NTIA have challenging work ahead as they seek to balance the needs of incumbents—both Federal and commercial—with the demands of 5G and Wi-Fi,” one of the reports concluded.

The reports also skirted the debate over how much control the government should retain over 5G spectrum. Some national security experts have argued that the government, or a single private entity, should oversee or control new 5G networks and lease access to commercial wireless carriers.

But the industry has pushed back strongly, saying the sale of competing, private licenses for airwaves has proven the best way to encourage network expansion. President Trump last month appeared to endorse the industry’s view, saying the 5G effort would be “private-sector driven and private-sector led.”

In the introduction to one of the reports, Deputy CTO Kratsios played it down the middle, saying “The private sector plays a central role in the rollout of 5G technology, but the goal of reaching 5G first cannot be attained without partnership with the Federal government.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has participated in some of the 5G policy debates in Washington, D.C., praised the administration for “gradually making some progress,” but said he’d like to see more coordination under a single entity, along the lines of the National Space Counsel, which has helped set priorities for government and the private sector.

“We are faced with a society on society competition from China that is very impressive,” Gingrich said. “We have no coordinating system to develop a coherent American strategy.”