In a keynote address delivered Wednesday at the CTIA “Super Mobility” conference in Las Vegas, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler outlined FCC efforts to promote the future world of fifth-generation (5G) wireless services as he pledged to “keep the pedal down on making more high-band spectrum available for 5G.” Competition also emerged as a major theme, with Wheeler spotlighting the importance of the FCC’s ongoing Business Data Service proceeding in ensuring that “lack of competition in some places cannot be used to hold 5G hostage.”

During his speech, Wheeler offered up “three keys” which the FCC intends to use “to help unlock the 5G opportunity”: (1) spectrum availability, (2) the competitive provision of infrastructure needed for 5G backhaul, and (3) the removal of “unnecessary hurdles to [antenna] siting.” With respect to 5G spectrum availability, Wheeler touted the FCC’s recent work  in the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, which allocated 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum for commercial wireless licensed use in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands as well as 7 GHz of spectrum in the 64-71 GHz band for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed uses. Wheeler remarked that, “in all . . . of these allocations, the Commission sticks to a proven formula: lead the world in spectrum availability, encourage and protect innovation-driving competition, and stay out the way of technological development.”

To facilitate 5G innovation and deployment while spurring competition, Wheeler said, “we should forbear from rules like rate regulation that don’t make sense for the kinds of services offered, while preserving the right to throw the flag if needed to protect consumers.” As Wheeler emphasized “there must be fair backhaul prices and availability if we are to connect” the huge number of microcells and small cells that are slated to form the backbone of 5G networks, Wheeler challenged the four national wireless carriers and other incumbents to develop “creative approaches” and “smart solutions to the deployment of the antennas necessary for 5G to benefit the public.” Anticipating resistance from local government and public organizations concerned with aesthetic and other potential impacts of 5G antenna siting, Wheeler told his audience, “we have to help leaders at the local level—and all levels for that matter—understand that 5G will make the Internet of Things real.”