FCC’s Carr calls for new road map to make U.S. ‘5G ready’

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, describing a global race to 5G, unveiled a new plan to advance 5G deployment in the U.S. Carr, speaking at the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) 5G Day, called for an update to wireless infrastructure regulations in order to maintain U.S. leadership in wireless as carriers transition to 5G.  

Carr claims advancing 5G deployments in the U.S. could add 3 million new jobs, $275 billion in private sector network investment and result in $500 billion added to the GDP. but that outdated regulatory rules are holding back 5G investments and deployments.

“Capital is finite, and capital is smart. It will flow to those countries that have updated and modernized their regulatory structures,” he told an audience (PDF) at the CTA event.

“A key obstacle [to 5G] is our country’s outdated infrastructure regulations, which were written for previous generations of wireless technology,” read an issued statement outlining Carr's position. He has proposed a plan to streamline the federal historic and environmental review procedures that apply to wireless infrastructure deployments in hopes of reducing regulatory financial burdens on wireless providers deploying 5G.

“The fees associated with these procedures have risen dramatically in recent years, spiking by as much as 2,500% in parts of the country and needlessly costing millions of dollars that could have been put toward infrastructure deployment,” the statement added. “This threatens our 5G leadership.”

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The thrust of the plan is to exclude 5G deployments, in which Carr says antennas can be smaller than backpacks, from the historic and environmental review procedures that were designed for large macrocell deployments. Doing so would reduce the regulatory costs of small cell deployment by 80%, reduce deployment timelines by a matter of months and incentivize new wireless deployments, he said.

He also wants the FCC to adopt a “shot clock” for processing of environmental assessments of wireless deployments and streamline the historic review procedures for larger wireless deployments by updating the Tribal consultation process. The FCC will vote on the plan at its March 22 Open Meeting.

Carr’s plan has been mostly warmly received by industry bodies. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) released a statement applauding the plan.

“Small cells are different, and the FCC’s recognition of that fact will help avoid massive and unnecessary regulatory obstacles and permitting costs that threaten U.S. leadership in the race to 5G,” the statement said.

The Internet Innovation Alliance also welcomed the plan, saying that its adoption would help the FCC “take a major step towards a uniform policy that will accelerate advanced broadband deployments of all types.”