White House Eyes Nationalizing 5G Network Via Single Public-Private Partnership

Ex-CEO of Google is right in the middle of this process. Although nothing is set in stone just yet, the logic from the military’s point of view is unmistakable. The downside is that the government (military) would dictate the terms of use throughout civilian populations. ⁃ TN Editor

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is leaning on the Pentagon to move ahead with a plan to stand up a 5G wireless network, sources tell Axios, and the idea, despite opposition from key government and private-sector players, could well outlive the Trump administration.

Why it matters: The Department of Defense could lease out capacity to wireless carriers and other companies in need of the ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity that 5G technology promises. That prospect makes this the Trump administration’s most serious push toward a federally backed national 5G network since it first floated the idea in 2018.

What we’re hearing: Meadows has taken a strong recent interest in the idea and is behind the White House nudging the Pentagon to move it along, people familiar with the state of play said.

  • DoD is gathering input until next week on whether and how to move forward with the plan, which, if it happens, would likely take the form of a private company landing a federal contract to operate a 5G network on the government’s behalf, using airwaves held by DoD.
  • The upshot would be a public-private partnership analogous to FirstNet, the dedicated communications network for first responders that AT&T operates under a federal contract.
  • Wireless providers are firmly opposed to the idea, viewing it as the government hand-picking a single winner in the deployment of nationwide 5G, though some in Washington believe they could change tacks and vie for the contract if DoD moves ahead with the plan.

The White House is urging DoD, sources said, to move quickly to follow the outstanding request for information with an actual solicitation for proposals from companies that would bid to run the network.

  • DoD is already at work drafting that request, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, and one telecom industry official Axios spoke with expects the request to be issued within the next two weeks..

Yes, but: There’s also a chance the process will derail. The push has rankled some top DoD officials, sources say, with Defense Secretary Mark Esper said to be among those wary of the idea.

  • Some officials at the Federal Communications Commission are also troubled by the national 5G plan. There’s bipartisan consensus at the FCC against establishing a federally backed 5G network. (The FCC is also working to auction off a decent-sized chunk of 5G-friendly airwaves now controlled by the Pentagon.)

Between the lines: Proponents of past proposals for federally backed 5G in the Trump camp have pushed the national-network idea as a way to edge out China in the race to build the best next-generation wireless technology.

  • They also see it as a bid to bring high-speed wireless internet to rural America.
  • Both arguments could motivate the pre-election timing of this latest push for the plan.

The intrigue: There’s agreement in Washington telecom circles that the national-network idea won’t die even if Trump loses.

  • Telecom firm Rivada Networks has been a central player throughout the national 5G saga, enlisting GOP figures including Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich to advocate for its proposal to run a network that matches the contours of the one now under consideration.
  • But telecom insiders believed the politically connected Rivada could also pivot quickly to lobby a Biden administration — and that other, larger firms could be interested in bidding and pitch Democrats on the benefits the national 5G might confer for security, connectivity and global competitiveness.

Our thought bubble: Democrats could well bite — the idea tracks with their arguments that the internet is critical infrastructure akin to a utility and merits more federal resources.

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The State Of 5G Networks Worldwide

The 5G rollout to the world is a long, enduring process and not merely an event. There are myriad obstacles that have slowed this process, but the goal of energizing the Internet of Everything is ever present. Technocrats see 5G as the holy grail of scientific dictatorship. ⁃ TN Editor

By 2025, the world will reach 1.8 billion 5G connections – led by Developed Asia and North America, two regions that could each see nearly half of mobile connections operating on 5G networks.

This sweeping rollout relies on infrastructure capacities, and, as Visual Capitalist’s Iman Ghosh notes, many operators are buying in big to usher in 5G adoption. This infographic from Raconteur covers where we are on the roadmap towards 5G becoming mainstream, and which regions are leading the way in connectivity.

From its earliest iterations to the Internet of Things, we’ve surpassed three generations of wireless networks. Now, 5G is at a tipping point.

5G is unique in that in order to actually start using the network, you need a device that works on it—unlike previous generations where they could simply switch over. Moreover, carriers need to invest in the infrastructure to optimize network access and the density of devices using it.

As more operators buy into the technology, the latter is finally beginning to happen in some areas. Here’s how the total numbers break down across the world, as of mid-September 2020:

  • 397 operators are investing in 5G mobile or 5G fixed wireless access/home broadband networks
  • 118 operators have announced the deployment of 5G within their live network
  • 96 operators have announced 3GPP (protocols for mobile telecomms) 5G service launches

Major phone operators and even tech companies are behind accelerating this change, from Vodafone to Verizon—and most recently, Microsoft has entered the playing field.

Cross-Generational Mobile Connections, By Region

As Cisco highlights, there’s more room to grow yet. By 2023, North America will have the highest share of 5G networks, at 17% within the region.

Meanwhile, the Middle East and Africa could have the most catching up to do, with 73% of the region still operating on 3G networks or less in 2023. The good news? Commercial 5G trials in Nigeria may signal the potential of networks leapfrogging ahead.

Need for Speed

As the number of 5G networks tick up, there will be an undeniable boost to mobile and broadband speeds (Mbps) across regions by 2023. In particular, Asia Pacific will have the fastest broadband speeds at 157 Mbps while Western Europe will lead with 62 Mbps on mobile.

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5G Juggernaut: FCC and Big Telecom Squash City Sovereignty

Do cities have any autonomy in regulating or negotiating with telecom carriers over 5G towers? Nope. The Federal Appeals Court’s decision will save telecom carriers over $2 billion in local fees. This is a major Technocrat victory over local sovereignty.

The Trump Administration is racing to implement 5G and the Internet of Things, both of which are major requirements for the implementation of Technocracy. The loss of local sovereignty is a major breakdown of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the states a republic form of government.  ⁃ TN Editor

A battle between dozens of city governments and some of the world’s largest wireless carriers over the future of 5G infrastructure appears to have ended with a decisive victory for the telecom companies.

This week, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld a 2018 decision made by the Federal Communications Commission that prohibited local governments from imposing excessive regulations on wireless carriers seeking to deploy 5G. The decision capped local fees for the installation of “small cell” towers, hoping to spur the rollout of the next-generation wireless networks.

Dozens of cities and municipalities sued the FCC over the ruling in 2018 — most prominently Portland, Ore., though cities as far flung as San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Kirkland, Texas, added their names to the complaint against the federal agency.

Though 5G promises accelerated Internet speeds and other innovations, many communities have bristled at the rollout of 5G because of the quantity of “small cell” signal transmitters that would need to be attached to public telephone poles throughout each community.

Unlike traditional networks, 5G relies on short-range wireless transmission systems, requiring the installation of myriad “small cell” towers. Indeed, the FCC has projected that for 5G to truly blossom it will require the installation of some 800,000 small cells throughout the U.S. in the coming years.

Many communities have objected to the rollout of these towers and, in some cases imposed large fees against the wireless carriers.

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Pentagon Releases Huge Slice Of Spectrum For 5G

The unprecedented collaboration between Technocrats in the military establishment and their counterparts in the corporate world is on full display to empower the Internet of Things across America. This process is driven by the White House. ⁃ TN Editor

 

After a remarkably fast interagency review, the White House today announced a massive transfer of electromagnetic spectrum from military use to commercial 5G. It will be the “fastest transfer of federal spectrum to commercial use in history,” US Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios told reporters proudly this afternoon. But, Kratsios and Pentagon CIO Dana Deasy assured reporters ahead of the announcement, the rush won’t compromise military readiness or operations.

The 100 megahertz of spectrum runs from 3450 MHz to 3550, so-called mid-band frequencies prized by 5G developers because they allow longer-ranged transmissions than the millimeter-wave spectrum that makes up most of what’s been available in the US so far. Kratsios and other officials  told reporters shortly before this afternoon’s announcement that the move would dramatically expand 5G access for all Americans – fulling a congressional mandate in the 2018 MOBILE NOW Act – and strengthen potential competitors to Chinese giant Huawei in the global market.

Currently, Deasy said, “the 3450-3550 mHZ band supports critical DoD radar operations, including high-powered defense radar systems on fixed, mobile, shipboard, and airborne platforms, [including] air defense, missile and gun fire control, counter mortar, bomb scoring [during training exercises], battlefield weapon locations, air traffic control, and range safety.”

That’s a wide range of military functions, many with life-or-death significance for either training safety or outright combat. Deasy and other officials didn’t detail how the Defense Department would work this massive transfer. Their remarks, however, suggested a mix of migrating military radars to other frequencies – a complex and costly process typically funded from a share of the FCC auction – and sharing frequencies with commercial users in specific times and places.

The White House formally made the request in April. Roughly 200 technical experts from all four armed services, the Office of Secretary of Defense, and the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy studied the problem for 15 weeks. The FCC, which has already endorsed the plan, will start auctioning the spectrum off in December 2021, Kratsios said, with commercial use beginning “as soon as mid-2022.”

That’s as fast as the transfer can possibly go through the FCC’s public rule-making process, officials said. Historically transferring spectrum takes six years or more. ““The timeline that we’re working with is absolutely unprecedented,” one senior administration official told reporters, “and I cannot underscore that enough.”

Many members of Congress want the Pentagon to transfer or share spectrum for commercial use, with the 2018 Act sponsoring a National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) study on how to transfer 255 MHz of spectrum to 5G and other broadband services by 2022. But others are pushing back, especially after the FCC’s controversial recent decision to transfer spectrum to Ligado that might adversely affect GPS navigation.

When today’s press call opened to questions, I asked how the Department of Defense can be confident it can transfer so much spectrum, so quickly, without disrupting training and operations?

While this specific review went quickly, “the DoD has been focused on mid-band spectrum sharing opportunities with FCC and NTIA for years,” a senior administration official replied. The NTIA study sponsored by the MOBILE NOW Act laid a lot of the groundwork for the military’s review, they said. So did the previous interagency work on the transfer of Citizens’ Band radio in the adjoining 3550 to 3650 MHz spectrum: The science and engineering concerns for that slice of spectrum, the official said, “were very similar what we’re going to have to do here.”

That previous work made it possible to jumpstart this transfer, the officials said. But a great deal of detail remains to be thrashed out.

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FCC Unanimously Approves Amazon’s Plan For 3,236 5G Satellites

First Elon Musk, now Jeff Bezos. Both ultra-rich Technocrats are competing to see who can be first to fill space with 5G satellites. For the “good of humanity”, of course. Once their networks are completed, 100 percent of earth will have broadband access while being continuously bathed in 5G radiation. ⁃ TN Editor

Amazon is getting serious about space business. Coming shortly after Amazon Web Service’s announcement last month to set up a new business unit dedicated to accelerating innovation in the global aerospace and satellite industry, it has now announced its intention to invest $10 billion for launching a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation called Project Kupier to eliminate Internet dark spots, specifically in the US.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week unanimously voted in favor of Amazon’s application to deploy and operate its constellation of 3,236 satellites.

Bezos vs Musk

With this announcement, Jeff Bezos is seen directly taking on Elon Musk in an effort to beam high-speed internet from networks of thousands of satellites in the LEO. Starlink is Musk’s pet project to deliver high speed broadband Internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable. It has so far sent 500+ satellites in orbit with the latest batch of 60 launched in April this year, and 12,000 planned in the long run. Starlink, which is estimated to cost SpaceX $10 billion, is targeting service in the Northern US and Canada in 2020, rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021. In February this year, SpaceX President Gwen Shotwell had talked about spinning off Starlink into a separet company and go the IPO route in the coming years.

London-based OneWeb, which was recently acquired by UK government and India’s Bharti Airtel, after it filed for bankruptcy protection in March, also had plans to launch satellite-based Internet services, and had already sent 64 satellites into orbit which it continues to maintain.

Project Kupier

But more about Kuiper. The satellites will be positioned in LEO between 590 and 630 km above the Earth’s surface. Amazon has six years to launch the first half and nine years for the rest though precise launch dates are yet to be determined. The satellites will be designed and tested at Amazon’s new research and development facility opening in Redmond, Washington.

Kupier stated that its system, which will also include gateway earth stations, customer terminals, software defined network and satellite control functionality, satellite operations center, telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) earth stations, and other technologies, will be capable of providing continuous coverage to customers within approximately 56 degree N and 56 degree S latitude.

The service will deployed in five phases and service will begin once the first 578 satellites are launched, according to the FCC report.

“We conclude that the grant of the Kuiper application will serve the public interest, subject to the requirements and conditions specified herein. The broadband services Kuiper proposes to provide will benefit American consumers,” the FCC wrote in its July 30 order. However, upon finalization of its design and prior to initiation of service, Amazon must seek FCC’s approval for a modification containing an updated description of the orbital debris mitigation plans for its system.

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5G Small Cell Tower

Trump Requests $2 Trillion Infrastructure Package

If Congress goes along with this, it will far exceed the House of Representatives’ $760 billion infrastructure proposal from January 2020, from which Trump walked away. Green New Deal advocates are already lining up to insure creation of the digital economy. ⁃ TN Editor

President Trump is calling for a $2 trillion infrastructure package as part of the government’s emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have called for increased infrastructure spending to mitigate the outbreak’s effects, after talks between the White House and Democrats failed in recent years.

It remains to be seen if Congress will be comfortable passing another mammoth spending measure after approving the emergency $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill last week.

President Donald Trump is ready to spend again.

Four days after signing an unprecedented $2 trillion relief bill to blunt the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, the president on Tuesday called for the U.S. to spend another couple trillion bucks on a massive infrastructure package. In a tweet, he wrote that “this is the time” to craft an infrastructure overhaul with U.S. interest rates at zero during the crisis.

“It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4,” the president said, referencing the three pieces of emergency legislation lawmakers have already passed to combat the outbreak rampaging across the U.S.

Trump has long pushed for a proposal to revamp American roads, bridges and airports, and Democratic congressional leaders saw the issue as a key area where they could cooperate with the Republican president when he first took office. But efforts to put together a sprawling infrastructure plan have fallen apart.

Last April, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump and Democrats agreed on the outline of a $2 trillion package. A month later, Trump then walked out of an infrastructure meeting, saying he would not work with Democrats on the issue while they investigated his administration.

Circumstances have changed: The House impeached Trump in December and the Senate acquitted him in February. COVID-19 has shredded the U.S. economy, jammed hospitals and stretched stores of health-care equipment, making federal intervention more appealing across the ideological spectrum.

In interviews this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pushed for infrastructure investment as part of the next phase of the federal response. She wants components related to health care and the digital economy.

Schumer, meanwhile, has pushed for a “Marshall Plan” to strengthen the U.S. public health infrastructure. He has touted emergency funding for hospitals and equipment included in the $2 trillion package signed into law last week.

Republicans — who control the Senate — may not have an appetite for more historic federal action after passing the largest emergency spending measure in U.S. history last week. Spokespeople for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did not immediately respond to requests to comment on Trump’s tweet.

At least one Senate Republican cheered Trump’s call for infrastructure improvements — though he did not endorse spending $2 trillion. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., called on Tuesday to pass an existing bipartisan Senate highway bill that is “ready to go.”

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5G

Coronavirus Pandemic Seen To Accelerate 5G Rollout In US

5G carriers claim that the coronavirus pandemic has actually increased demand for wireless bandwidth and thus make it ever more important to quickly rollout 5G towers around the nation to increase wireless capacity.  ⁃ TN Editor

In March 2020 everything that could be moved online already has, from elementary schools to college classes, from entire company workforces to shareholder meetings. Whole cities have emptied under the coronavirus threat as businesses tell employees to work from home,  students are sent indoors to learn online and every type of entertainment— from restaurants and sporting venues to movie theaters — shutters, forcing people to stay home and rely on their home broadband networks to interact with the outside world.

This switch-over is unprecedented, which begs the question: Can our current networks handle the strain?

Moreover, is the coronavirus outbreak and the “social distancing″ required to mitigate the spread going to become the business case for more advanced and robust 5G technologies for a future in which business, health care and human interaction must be at more than an arm’s length?

The jury is still out on whether home broadband, which tends to have lower capacity than more robust business networks, will be able to handle the traffic as whole neighborhoods become Wi-Fi hotbeds as adults video conference with their co-workers and their teens stream videos in between checking Blackboard for assignments. Providers, including AT&TVerizonand Comcast, are facing a test of whether they’ll be able to handle the increased demand.

Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC member, said the influx of people working from home is a test for the current networks. “We’re going to have a big stress test on our networks,” she said. “There are a lot of potential points of stress.” The FCC has given the carriers access to additional bandwidth for the next 60 days to handle the additional users. (T-Mobile is so far the only carrier to take the FCC up on its offer to use spectrum in the 600 MHz Band to help meet increased consumer demand for broadband during the coronavirus pandemic.)

Rosenworcel said it’s too soon right now to assess how the networks are handling the stress. “These are still early days,” she said.

The carriers remain optimistic. “As a global company, we have extensive experience in planning for and responding to a wide variety of situations around the world,” said Jim Greer, AT&T assistant vice president for communications. Greer said that the company is constantly monitoring developments in the coronavirus outbreak and is taking the appropriate steps “to help maintain the ongoing health and safety of our employees and customers.”

Greer added that in cities in which the coronavirus has had the biggest impact, AT&T is seeing fewer spikes in wireless usage around particular cell towers or particular times of day because more people are working from home. The company continually monitors bandwidth usage to help it run its network.

In a March 12 interview with CNBC, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said he didn’t see any major changes in Verizon’s data usage during this coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. “So far, I’m really pleased with how the network is performing,” he said, adding that the company is monitoring the network “24/7.”

Verizon also issued a press release on Wednesday stating the demands on bandwidth increased 75% over the previous week. Social media use was flat.

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SpaceX

Musk’s SpaceX Launches 60 More Starlink Satellites

Undeterred from the global health crisis and resulting economic and financial meltdown, Technocrat Elon Musk went ahead with the launch of another 60 Starlink satellites to blanket earth with 5G service. ⁃ TN Editor

Three days after a dramatic launch abort, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket suffered a premature engine shutdown during the climb to space Wednesday but was still able to place another batch of 60 Starlink internet satellites into the planned orbit. The first stage, however, was unable to pull off what would have been its fifth landing, instead chalking up SpaceX’s second unsuccessful recovery in the past three flights.

The launching from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center came just hours after NASA put its field centers on coronavirus “level 3” status, requiring civil servants to work from home and closing the bases to all but “mission-essential” personnel to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

But the restrictions did not affect SpaceX workers or Air Force personnel who provide tracking and telemetry support, and the Falcon 9 thundered to life at 8:16 a.m. EDT, streaking away from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center along a northeasterly trajectory over the Atlantic Ocean.

A launch try Sunday was aborted as the booster’s nine Merlin 1D engines were firing up when “out of family” data was detected during a last-second computer check. No details were provided, but the company was able to recycle for a second launch try Wednesday and this time around, the countdown ticked smoothly to blastoff.

The first stage, after boosting the second stage and its cargo of 60 Starlink satellites out of the thick lower atmosphere, attempted to fly itself back to fifth landing an off-shore droneship, firing three engines to slow down as it plunged back toward Earth.

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T-Mobile: IoT And ‘The Transformative Promise Of 5G’

T-Mobile paid to have this article appear on the CNBC website, and you can read for yourself that 5G is all about the IoT and tracking things that move. T-Mobile’s 5G network will operate at the ultra-high frequency of 600MHz. ⁃ TN Editor

The 5G future of networking promises high speeds, low latency and plenty of bandwidth to support concurrent connections, all of which will be transformative. But the excitement over this next-gen tech is about more than a speed or capacity bump. The 5G era has the potential to radically transform the way we think about and use mobile networks and networks in general.

The networks of the future need to carry enhanced mobile broadband, a far greater volume of machine-to-machine communications to support the Internet of Things for both consumer and industrial applications, and the mission-critical business traffic that will enable Industry 4.0. And to support global business supply chains, these networks need to enable seamless communications worldwide.

The concept of a 5G campus network could meet the needs of smart manufacturing facilities with heavy utilization of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and specific tailoring for the demands of the digital economy, including enhanced data security, careful attention to customer experiences and digital logistics.

The architecture of a campus network involves a “dual slice” solution: two slices being broadcasted — a public network (the “public slice”) and an exclusive private network (the “private slice”) — running on the same hardware. Superficially, this resembles the commonplace setup of a business using a WLAN for data exchange, such as industrial purposes, while employees and customers connect to carrier 4G/LTE networks for their personal communications. But the implications are very different and wide ranging.

For one thing, the campus network marks a radical shift towards mobility. Instead of having a network supplier provide infrastructure and a mobile network operator providing the cellular network from the outside, the mobile network operator is both the provider for smartphone data and the enterprise network at the core of the system.

Today, a company’s wireless network infrastructure — the equivalent of a “private network” — is Wi-Fi. Outside of a company facility, employees’ mobile devices run on a carrier’s 4G/LTE network. Of course, switching between Wi-Fi and mobile networks can happen automatically on employees’ smartphones. But what about a robot? Or a pallet full of goods that you need to track as it leaves a facility, during its journey in a shipping container, and as it arrives at a distribution warehouse?

That’s where the advantage of a campus network — especially in a 5G era world — is clear. As 5G becomes common virtually everywhere, having a single network protocol to think about can greatly simplify operations. And with a growing opportunity to develop and deploy 5G radios that can operate within the unlicensed spectrum currently used by Wi-Fi, as well as on licensed bands allocated to carriers regionally, companies may not need to worry about national boundaries. Think of it as a sea of carrier coverage, within which are islands of private coverage, with seamless roaming between them.

This opens up tremendous possibilities for scaling machine-to-machine communication and manufacturing mobility. And today’s private campus networks — those “islands” — are both a step towards and a laboratory for experimentation with future public 5G services.

One concept Deutsche Telekom is currently piloting is the delivery of a campus network as a service (NaaS). In this use case, a wireless carrier supplies and maintains the infrastructure, delivering a private slice serving the client’s mission-critical needs while also giving the client use of the carrier’s public slice for other purposes. In a large campus installation — an airport, seaport or industrial park — multiple private slices could exist and scale as needed, with clients using portions of carrier spectrum or purchasing rights to specific frequencies in a given geographic area as needed.

And that scalability is the key to making NaaS more than a business model. The advantage for customers is flexibility. Delivering the network as a service will eventually provide the same elasticity that cloud computing does — a customer can get a certain base amount of capacity and have access to overflow if they need it.

As part of another pilot, Deutsche Telekom demonstrated the strengths of the concept in the context of a large-scale test implemented at the Port of Hamburg, with multiple network slices flexibly adapted to suit specific needs over time. Individual virtual networks were spun up to serve public mobile access, emergency services, sensors for real-time analysis of environmental data and a high-bandwidth network to support the testing of augmented reality services for maintenance workers. Another test installation by Deutsche Telekom, at a light manufacturing plant in Schwabmünchen, Germany, focused on IoT applications, including automated, guided vehicles.

While the first large-scale national rollouts of 5G service are just appearing this year (T-Mobile launched its 5G network on existing 600 MHz spectrum nationwide on December 2, 2019), the biggest implementations are set to come online over the next few years. The implementation of pilot private networks on manufacturing campuses gives us a chance to see the future in action right now: faster, yes, but more flexible, more connected and more mobile than ever before.

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Kaboom! Switzerland Halts 5G Rollout Over Health Concerns

It’s a gloomy day for Technocrats in Switzerland, which has imposed a nationwide ban on new 5G installation while demanding a thorough study on the health effects of millimeter waves on humans. Until produced, the ban will not be lifted. ⁃ TN Editor

Switzerland, one of the world’s leaders in the rollout of 5G mobile technology, has placed an indefinite moratorium on the use of its new network because of health concerns.

The move comes as countries elsewhere around Europe race to upgrade their networks to 5G standards amid a furious rearguard diplomatic campaign by the US to stop them using Chinese technology provided by Huawei. Washington says the company, which is fundamental to most European networks’ upgrade plans, presents a grave security risk.

Switzerland is relatively advanced in Europe in adopting 5G. The wealthy alpine country has built more than 2,000 antennas to upgrade its network in the last year alone, and its telecoms providers have been promising their customers’ imminent 5G coverage for most of the past year.

However, a letter sent by the Swiss environment agency, Bafu, to the country’s cantonal governments at the end of January, has now in effect called time on the use of all new 5G towers, officials who have seen the letter told the Financial Times.

The agency is responsible for providing the cantons with safety criteria against which telecoms operators’ radiation emissions can be judged. Under Switzerland’s highly federalised structure, telecoms infrastructure is monitored for compliance and licensed by cantonal authorities, but Bern is responsible for setting the framework.

Bafu has said it cannot yet provide universal criteria without further testing of the impact of 5G radiation.

The agency said it was “not aware of any standard worldwide” that could be used to benchmark recommendations. “Therefore Bafu will examine exposure through adaptive [5G] antennas in depth, if possible in real-world operational conditions. This work will take some time,” it said.

Without the criteria, cantons are left with little option but to license 5G infrastructure according to existing guidelines on radiation exposure, which all but preclude the use of 5G except in a tiny minority of cases.

Several cantons have already imposed their own voluntary moratoria because of uncertainty over health risks.

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