News Feature | June 16, 2020

The Week in 5G: 6/16/2020 — FCC Earmarks 5G Funds, Clarifies Installation Rules; French 5G Spectrum Auction Rescheduled

By Ed Biller


French telecommunications provider Arcep has rescheduled the 5G auction it canceled in April, covering 11 blocks of 10 MHz each in the 3.4 GHz to 3.8 GHz bands. The auction now is slated to take place between Sept. 20 and Sept. 30, with Bouygues Telecom SA, Iliad's Free Mobile, Orange SA, and Altice France SA's SFR all participating.

“A positioning auction in October will determine the distribution of frequencies, followed by the award of licenses, expected in October or November,” reports S&P Global, noting that each operator can secure a 50 MHz block of spectrum for €350 million.

In Singapore, telecoms operator M1 and Airbus will trial 5G “to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in real-world environments,” reports RCR Wireless News. The collaboration will take place at the Singapore Maritime Drone Estate, supported by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), with TeamOne Technologies contributing an aeronautical-certified 5G communication modem for urban air mobility operations.

In the U.S., hand-wringing over security concerns surrounding Huawei equipment continues. A U.S. Senate committee has asked the Department of Defense to produce a report “detailing the risks of allied nations having Huawei technology as part of their network infrastructure,” reports C4ISRNET, citing a summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s annual defense policy bill for fiscal year 2021.

The bill also names China’s ZTE as a security concern and instructs the DoD to enhance its own 5G capabilities to a level at or above that of U.S. adversaries.

The senators’ concern is shared by consultant Melissa Hathaway, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (Waterloo, Ont.) and an advisor to two U.S. presidents. Hathaway told IT World Canada the risks presented by Huawei and ZTE equipment “cannot be mitigated” for a pair of reasons.

“I agree with what our British colleagues have said: Their [software] code is buggy; it has a lot of vulnerabilities in it … Their personnel really don’t know how to do secure coding,” she said, adding that China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 requires individuals and organizations to support any state demands, so “with 5G you can direct the company to just siphon off the data.”

Regardless, ZTE aims to launch its Axon 11 5G phone in the U.S. next year following recent launches in China, as well as parts of Europe and the Middle East, reports CNET. While legislators may balk at the thought, American consumers are sure to be enticed by versions of the phone with 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage ($380), or 8GB of RAM and 256GB storage ($425), packaged behind a 6.47-inch AMOLED display with 1080p resolution, plus an in-display fingerprint reader for user authentication.

Also in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission has earmarked $237.9 million (over three years) from its Universal Service Fund to “expand, improve, and harden mobile broadband networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to an FCC news release. Communications infrastructure in those areas was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

“This [initiative] includes approximately $59.5 million in funding specifically devoted to deploying 5G networks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the first universal service funding the Commission has awarded anywhere in the country that is targeted for 5G deployment,” notes the release.

The FCC also recently clarified some of the rules for approving new 5G equipment installations, originally written in 2014, reports IEEE Spectrum. The updated rules require local governments to finish their approval process within 60 days of a provider’s application and they clarify what is meant by “equipment boxes,” as well as impose a limit of four new equipment boxes per request.