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White House Talking About Creating a Federal 5G Network

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According to leaked documents, a proposal to build a federally owned 5G network, the next generation of mobile broadband, or even to nationalize the 5G networks now being built by private telecom companies is going around the White House.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile broadband network which, on paper, would enable speeds ten times higher than 4G. That is fast enough to stream 8K videos or download a movie in seconds. However, 5G is about more than just smartphones; it would enable many more devices to be connected to the network at the same time, like self-driving cars, robots, thermostats, and other new technologies. 4G currently does not have the bandwidth to handle all the data that does devices will transmit.

5G will also reduce the lag time between devices and servers to virtually zero. For self-driving cars, that means virtually instant communications with other cars, sensors, and data centers, which could save lives.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are all currently developing and testing 5G networks. The development alone is costly, but according to Barclays building 5G networks across the United States would cost $300 billion. AT&T says it will start to roll out its 5G network this year; however, virtually no one will be able to use it until 5G compatible devices become available, which is unlikely to happen before 2020.

The White House proposal, which for now is only an idea, seems to be driven by concerns about security threats related to China’s development of 5G networks. Done right, a national 5G network could save a lot of money for a lot of Americans and bring competition to a market now controlled by a few telecom giants.

However, the combination of the world’s largest and, arguably, most powerful government with the world’s largest telecom companies could seriously endanger the freedom of speech. Also, seizing private assets in peacetime would be setting a very dangerous precedent. Besides, while the government may be good at building infrastructure, it is not as good at maintaining infrastructure.

Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), said he is opposed to the idea. He argued that the government taking control of developing 5G networks could hurt the private sector. “The market, not the government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment,” Pai said. “Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.”

USTelecom, the lobby that represents telecommunications and cable broadband providers, said any government-run plan would slow down the industry. “There is nothing that would slam the brakes more quickly on our hard-won momentum to be the leader in the global race for 5G network deployment,” the chief executive of USTelecom said.

While building a federal or nationalizing a 5G network may be an unusual idea, if it is done right, it is also an interesting idea that merits serious consideration.

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White House Talking About Creating a Federal 5G Network