Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) told members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee that the 5G spectrum strategy in the United States needs to be adjusted.
Rosenworcel said that the current strategy would deepen the digital divide. She also spoke about the security dangers of using Chinese equipment.
It had been a mistake for the FCC to make high-band spectrum a priority, said Rosenworcel. Despite higher speeds and bigger capacity, the high-band signal is easily blocked by walls.
She said the short transmission distance of 5G would mean you need more antennas, making it very expensive and hard to reach rural areas. The uses of mid-band spectrum can make 5G deployment faster, cheaper and offer wider coverage.
“If we want rural America to see 5G, I think we have to focus on that sooner rather than later,” Rosenworcel said.
Rosenworcel also said that Chinese equipment is a major national security threat to the United States.
The FCC plans to vote in November to designate China’s Huawei and ZTE as national security risks, barring their U.S. rural carrier customers from tapping an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase equipment or services.
They also plan to propose requiring those carriers to remove and replace equipment from such designated companies, FCC officials said on Oct. 28.
At a meeting set for Nov. 19, the FCC said it plans to vote to ask carriers how much it would cost to remove and replace Huawei and ZTE from existing networks and to establish a reimbursement program to offset the costs of removing the equipment.
“When it comes to 5G and America’s security, we can’t afford to take a risk and hope for the best,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.
Reporting by Kitty Wang.
Reuters contributed to this report.