In October, the United States announced a pair of ambitious projects to expand and test 5G in rural regions and on U.S. military bases.
At the end of the month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order intended to help expand 5G in rural America. The “5G Fund for Rural America” (“5G Fund”) will provide $9 billion USD of federal subsidies over the next decade to deliver voice and 5G broadband services to rural regions in the U.S. The 5G Fund will also mandate that mobile services that receive legacy support use a greater percentage of their $368 million USD in funding for 5G services. Not only will these funds help deliver next-generation 5G technology to rural communities, which will provide vital access to educational, telehealth, telework, and precision agriculture opportunities that use data to make agriculture more efficient, 5G is also expected to be a boon to rural economies and job creation.
The 5G Fund will roll out over ten years in two phases. The first phase will offer as much as $8 billion USD to any eligible rural area that does not have unsubsidized 4G LTE and 5G broadband service. Of that budget, $680 million USD is slated specifically for Native American tribal lands. The second phase will provide a minimum $1 billion USD for using 5G networks to support precision agriculture, which leverages new technologies to increase crop yields.
U.S. Department of Defense to Launch 5G Testbeds at Military Bases
In October, the U.S. Department of Defense said it would award $600 million USD worth of contracts to 15 contractors that will test and evaluate 5G technologies in five U.S. military installations, including Naval Base San Diego; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia; Hill Air Force Base, Utah; and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The project will be the world’s largest dual-use 5G testing program. It plans to speed up the adoption of 5G technology, enhance U.S. combat, and advance the development and use of routine 5G standards in order to guarantee interoperability with military partners and allies. It will also give industry partners that work on U.S. military installations a valuable opportunity to accelerate their own testing and experimentation with 5G.
“Outside of the department, in order for private sector companies to test the capabilities and functionality of 5G communications, they face an onerous process—negotiating agreements with state and local officials, attaining pole permits, funding the construction of antennas, and the list goes on,” Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, said during a teleconference from the Pentagon. “At the DOD, we already have the personnel, operational capacity, facilities, scale and regulatory green light to get the job done.”
Industry partners will create a “smart warehousing” feature that will use 5G to enhance shipment and warehouse capabilities at Naval Base San Diego and Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany. At Nellis, industry partners will set up a 5G test bed to boost operational and tactical command and control applications and services. At Hill, industry partners will work together to determine how to let Air Force radar systems share spectrum with 5G cellular services.
While these test beds will help drive military and industry testing, work is expected to take up to three years. Nevertheless, these projects will undoubtedly help speed up the testing of 5G in the U.S.
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Kung, Angela Y. (29 October 2020). FCC Establishes $9 Billion Fund to Support 5G Services in Rural America. The National Law review, Volume X, Number 303.
Lopez, Todd C. (9 October 2020). DOD Kicks Off World’s Largest Dual-Use 5G Testing Effort. Department of Defense News.