Last Friday, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) joined ranking committee member Bill Nelson (D-FL) in introducing the MOBILE NOW Act (S. 2555), which would lay the groundwork for future fifth-generation (5G) wireless broadband services by codifying the Obama Administration’s goal of making 500 MHz of federal government spectrum available for commercial wireless use by 2020. 

In addition to vesting the Obama Administration’s 500 MHz spectrum target with the force of law, the MOBILE NOW Act would also (1) expedite deployment of wireless broadband infrastructure on federal property, (2) require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to evaluate the feasibility of authorizing wireless broadband operations in six “millimeter wave” frequency bands between 24 GHz and 86 GHz, (3) mandate FCC rulemaking proceedings on the aforementioned frequency bands, (4) require the NTIA to report to Congress on proposals to incentivize federal agencies to relinquish or share their spectrum, and (5) mandate unlicensed usage of guard bands in auctioned spectrum as long as such usage does not cause harmful interference to incumbent operations.  Certain provisions of the draft measure circulated last November that provided federal agencies with a 25% cut of auction proceeds and the right to lease spectrum to the wireless industry were removed or amended.  Among other things, the bill also requires action on easements and rights-of-way on federal property “within a reasonable period of time” instead of within 90 days as proposed in the original draft. 

While Thune characterized MOBILE NOW as “our passport to a 5G future of gigabit wireless connectivity,” Nelson predicted that the bill “will help ensure the U.S. maintains its global leadership in advanced wireless services.”  Meanwhile, as Meredith Atwell Baker, the CEO of wireless association CTIA, lauded MOBILE NOW’s “comprehensive approach to addressing our nation’s mobile needs,” Jonathan Spatler, the chairman of Mobile Future, said his organization looks forward to working with Thune and Nelson “on this and other efforts to make the spectrum available that will be needed to meet consumer demand.”