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ConnectX: O’Rielly on opening up more spectrum

O’Rielly focused on finding more mid-band spectrum to open up

CHARLOTTE, N.C.–In a discussion that was likely music to the industry’s ears, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly spoke of FCC priorities that include opening up more spectrum for wireless services and continuing to look at ways to lower deployment hurdles.

O’Rielly was interviewed during a session at the Connectivity Expo by Kathleen Quinn Abernathy, special counsel for Wilkinson, Barker Knauer. He discussed a number of spectrum actions that the FCC has underway, as well as how his goal of making sure that U.S. citizens have fixed and mobile services ties in to easing deployment regulations on the industry; and the U.S.’ relative position in the global race to 5G.

O’Rielly said that he recently heard from a provider who wanted to deploy new infrastructure in a community that wanted to charge $4,000 per small cell for a deployment. The provider, he said, walked away from the deal due to the high cost, and the community didn’t mind. “That can’t be an acceptable answer: ‘we’ll go somewhere else,’ and ‘that’s fine by us,’” he said. “That’s a terrible outcome.”

He went on to acknowledge the conflict between federalism principles — which focus on more state and local control of issues including infrastructure — and the goal at the federal level of making sure that U.S. citizens receive network services. O’Rielly said that some states are better than others in infrastructure regulation and that while the FCC will strive to work within those structures, it will take action as necessary to deal with “bad actors.”

“We’ve tried the nice route. I think we’re now into, we have to take the aggressive route,” O’Rielly said.

O’Rielly also spoke about the goal of opening up more mid-band spectrum for wireless providers to be able to offer 5G or 4G services. He noted that the Citizens Broadband Radio Service rules are still under consideration, while the industry eagerly pushes toward commercialization.

“We’re pretty much down to one issue,” he said. “It’s really the geographic licensing size. It’s something that we’re working really hard to finalize.”

In terms of opening up spectrum, O’Rielly mentioned a number of bands beyond CBRS and said that much of his current efforts are around looking at potential mid-band spectrum. He mentioned the spectrum between 3.7-4.2 GHz and 3.45-3.55 GHz, the latter of which he said is the focus of a feasibility study by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“By adding all of that up, that’s a pretty good wireless play in the mid-band, in my opinion,” O’Rielly said.

He also mentioned the importance of ensuring that there is unlicensed spectrum available as well as licensed, and that the FCC needs to be scouting for new bands to explore in addition to the ones it is already considering.

“There are a lot of bands to be talked about and a lot of work to do on this front, in my opinion,” O’Rielly said.

Watch some excerpts from the interview with O’Rielly below:

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