Skip to main content

What's New in 5G - February 2020

The next-generation of wireless technologies – known as 5G – is here. Not only is it expected to offer network speeds that are up to 100 times faster than 4G LTE and reduce latency to nearly zero, it will allow networks to handle 100 times the number of connected devices, revolutionizing business and consumer connectivity and enabling the “Internet of Things.” Leading policymakers – federal regulators and legislators – are making it a top priority to ensure that the wireless industry has the tools it needs to maintain U.S. leadership in commercial 5G deployments. This blog provides monthly updates on FCC actions and Congressional efforts to win the race to 5G.

Regulatory Actions and Initiatives

  • The FCC announced that bidding in its third millimeter wave spectrum auction (Auction 103) for 5G services has concluded, yielding the highest in gross winning bids of the millimeter wave band auctions to date.
    • On January 30, 2020, the FCC reported that bidding in the clock phase of Auction 103 concluded after 104 rounds of bidding. The auction grossed over $7.5 billion in winning bids, with bidders winning 14,142 (or more than 99 percent) of the available licenses. A public notice announcing details about the assignment phase of Auction 103, in which bidders can bid for frequency-specific licenses (rather than generic blocks in particular markets), will be released soon.
  • Recognizing that spectrum sharing may hold promise for meeting the needs of commercial wireless service providers and federal users, NTIA released a Technical Report on potential spectrum sharing options in the 3450-3550 MHz band. 
    • On January 27, 2020, NTIA released a report with its assessment of spectrum sharing in the 3450-3550 MHz band, which is part of the larger band at 3.1-3.55 GHz that NTIA is also studying and on which it will report later this year, as required by the MOBILE NOW Act. The report finds that frequency-based and geographic-based sharing is not likely to be meaningful for commercial systems, but recommends further study of time-based sharing. It adds that the next steps would be to study actual use of the federal systems in the band and then develop a mechanism for reliably alerting commercial operations when federal systems are operating nearby.
  • The FCC announced that it certified four Spectrum Access System (“SAS”) administrators, allowing for full commercial operations in the 3.5 GHz band.  
    • On January 27, 2020, the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (“Wireless Bureau”) and Office of Engineering and Technology (“OET”) released a Public Notice certifying CommScope, Federated Wireless, Inc., Google and Sony, Inc. as SAS administrators to coordinate commercial operations in the 3.5 GHz band. The Public Notice also reminded Grandfathered Wireless Broadband Licensees that their transition period ends on April 17, 2020 or at the end of their license term, whichever is later. On January 13, 2020, the Wireless Bureau and OET released a Public Notice approving the additional or updated Environmental Sensing Capability sensor deployment and coverage plans filed by CommScope and Google. 
  • Deadlines for submitting comments and reply comments on the FCC’s proceeding regarding the 3.1-3.55 GHz band – potential mid-band spectrum for 5G use – have been set. 
    • Notice of the FCC’s recently adopted Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) on the 3.1-3.55 GHz band was published in the Federal Register on January 22, 2020, making comments and replies due February 21, 2020, and March 23, 2020, respectively. As previously explained, the NPRM proposes to clear non-federal users from the 3.3-3.55 GHz portion of the band and seeks comment on various relocation mechanisms in order to potentially make the spectrum available for commercial wireless services. 
  • The FCC released a Public Notice announcing procedures for Tribal entities to submit applications for unassigned spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band on eligible rural tribal lands.
    • On January 6, 2020, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau announced the process for federally recognized Tribal entities to apply for unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum that was formerly designated as the Educational Broadband Service (“EBS”). Among other things, each applicant will be required to demonstrate that it is an eligible entity, is applying to provide service on eligible rural Tribal land, and has a local presence throughout the Tribal land.  On February 3, 2020, the FCC announced the opening of the Tribal priority window for eligible entities to apply. That window will close on August 3, 2020.  The Bureau also released a mapping tool that provides a high-level overview of spectrum availability in the 2.5 GHz band. Once the Tribal priority window closes, the FCC will auction any remaining vacant and available white space EBS spectrum for commercial use.
  • The FCC issued a Public Notice announcing a freeze on applications for portions of the 5.9 GHz band in order to stabilize the band as the agency evaluates its use for unlicensed operations like Wi-Fi. 
    • On December 19, 2019, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau and Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau announced a temporary freeze on the acceptance and processing of Part 90 applications for new and expanded use of the 5850-5895 MHz and 5905-5925 MHz bands. While the freeze is in effect, the Bureaus will not accept: (i) applications adding or changing Dedicated Short Range Communications Roadside Unit location registrations in the Intelligent Transportation Service (“ITS”) that operate in the 5850-5895 MHz and/or 5905-5925 MHz bands; (ii) applications to modify existing licenses by changing technical parameters that expand a station’s spectral or geographic footprint in the 5850-5895 MHz and/or 5905-5925 MHz bands; or (iii) any other application that would substantially alter the licensing landscape in the 5850-5895 MHz and/or 5905-5925 MHz bands. The Bureaus will continue to accept and process applications for new ITS geographic licenses and applications pertaining to new, expanded, or renewed use of the 5895-5905 MHz portion of the 5.9 GHz band. 

Legislative Efforts

  • Several Senators introduced a bill to allocate the proceeds of an auction of C-band spectrum – mid-band spectrum in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band that will be auctioned later this year for 5G services – to, among other things, bridge the digital divide and fund public safety services.
    • On January 28, 2020, Senators Kennedy, Schatz, and Cantwell introduced the Spectrum Management and Reallocation for Taxpayers (SMART) Act, which would give the FCC the authority to conduct a public auction of C-band spectrum within a year of issuing rules for reallocating the band. The bill would designate $6 billion for a newly established C-Band Reimbursement and Implementation Fund, in which up to $5 billion of auction proceeds would go towards C-band incumbent relocation expenses and $1 billion of auction proceeds would be allocated as incentive payments to the satellite operators. After three years, any amounts unspent from the C-Band Reimbursement and Implementation Fund would be transferred to a newly established Digital Divide Trust Fund. The bill would also ensure that up to $12.5 billion of auction proceeds are deposited in a newly established NG-911 Trust Fund and that $5 billion of auction proceeds are deposited in the U.S. Treasury. 
  • In an effort to reduce the influence of Chinese equipment suppliers, a Senate bill has been introduced that would direct FCC spectrum auction funds to encourage the development of 5G technologies by U.S. companies.
    • On January 14, 2020, Senators Warner, Burr, Rubio, Menendez, Cornyn, and Bennet introduced the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act, which would require the FCC to direct at least $750 million, or up to five percent of annual proceeds from newly auctioned spectrum, toward the research and development of open-architecture, software-based wireless technologies. The purpose of the bill is to encourage the development and use of 5G equipment and technologies by U.S. companies, thereby discouraging the use of products developed by Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE. The fund would be managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”) with input from the FCC, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, and National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • The House passed several bills related to securing 5G wireless networks from national security threats.
    • On January 8, 2020, the House voted to pass four bills that would safeguard the security and integrity of the Nation’s communications infrastructure as it transitions to 5G. First, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020 would require the President to develop a strategy to secure 5G networks and infrastructure and direct NTIA to develop a plan to implement that strategy.  Second, the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act of 2019 would direct NTIA to encourage trusted U.S. companies and others to participate in 5G standards-setting bodies (e.g., 3GPP). Third, the Promoting United States International Leadership of 5G Act would require the Secretary of State to provide assistance and technical expertise to enhance U.S. leadership in 5G standards-setting bodies.  Finally, House Resolution 575 would express the House’s sense that all stakeholders in the deployment of 5G communications infrastructure should carefully consider and adhere to the recommendations adopted at the Prague 5G Security Conference – known as “The Prague Proposals” – to secure 5G networks.


Subscribe To Viewpoints


Russell H. Fox is a wireless communications attorney at Mintz. He guides clients through federal legislative, regulatory, and transactional matters. Russell also participates in FCC proceedings, negotiates spectrum agreements, and represents clients in spectrum auctions.

Angela Y. Kung

Member / Chair, Technology, Communications & Media Practice

Angela Y. Kung draws on significant knowledge of the wireless regulatory landscape and experience at the FCC to advise clients on FCC rules and procedures. With particular expertise on spectrum use policies and auction procedures, she has shepherded Mintz's clients through several FCC auctions related to next-generation 5G wireless technologies and routinely advocates on behalf of clients to help ensure that the agency’s rules align with their interests.
Christen B'anca Glenn is a Mintz attorney who advises communications and technology clients on regulatory and compliance matters before the FCC.