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5G is Fiber

A 5G future is not possible without expanded fiber deployment. At Fiber Broadband Association, we realize the value of fiber in the technology of tomorrow. Let me provide more color through three important points to 5G rollout with fiber and outline some actionable initiatives that NTIA, the FCC and other agencies along with Congress and the Biden Administration can take to ensure a successful and competitive secure 5G critical infrastructure implementation.

Ubiquitous Fiber Deployment

A successful and competitive national strategy to secure 5G relies on ubiquitous fiber deployment. No community can be left behind. 5G relies on ubiquitous fiber deployment. Take for example 5G’s three use cases:

  • Immersive broadband,
  • Mission critical applications such as autonomous vehicles, and
  • Massive IoT

All will require gigabit bandwidth and ultra-low latency from very small cell sites that serve 200 to 1,000 feet as 5G requires more spectrum, more bits/Hz and roughly 10 times increase in cell site density. As a result, 5G cell sites will need a massive fiber infrastructure for the front-haul and backhaul of 5G traffic with ultra-low latency.

Fiber is also the only transmission medium that can carry multi-gigabit traffic today and evolve over time to meet the exponential growth in mobile data traffic.

Communities that lack fiber will perpetuate the digital divide. This holds true for both urban and suburban communities across America. Areas without fiber will not see 5G, and the digital divide will be exacerbated rather than alleviated over time.

Actionable Items for NTIA, the FCC, Congress and the Biden Administration

Government broadband subsidies should prioritize fiber and gigabit symmetrical service delivery to provide the needed critical infrastructure for 5G with ubiquitous fiber deployment. This is because we know ubiquitous fiber deployment maximizes 5G performance, provides a secure 5G critical infrastructure, reduces spectrum demand and elevates the rural digital divide.

The government has already put forth incentives for investment and future proofing rural broadband through legislation supporting Gigabit broadband in the 116th Congress, including:

  • H.R. 7302/S. 4131 (Clyburn-Klobuchar) allocated $80 billion for rural broadband with preference for symmetrical gigabit networks.
  • S. 4113 (Bennet) allocated $30 billion for rural broadband with preference for symmetrical gigabit networks.
  • H.R. 7922/S. 4201 (Clyburn-Upton, Portman-Brown) instructed the FCC to accelerate funding for symmetrical gigabit providers.
  • S. 2866 (Capito, Hassan) allocated $2.5 billion of private activity bonds for deployment of gigabit capable internet access to residential or commercial business.
  • S. 2867 (Hassan, Capito) provided a 10% tax credit for the deployment of gigabit capable internet access to residential or commercial locations.

5G and Fiber are Critical to our Nation’s Global Competitiveness

Once built, fiber infrastructure will support U.S. global competitiveness. Virtually all developed countries are charging ahead to deploy this critical infrastructure, and foreign competitors are treating fiber as a strategic asset by upgrading technology and flooding the market. Currently, China is leading the charge.

The U.S. is making great strides in deploying fiber, even though we have a greater number of sparsely populated areas than other countries. However, there is much more that industry can accomplish, and the government can facilitate to speed deployments.  

Actionable Items for NTIA, the FCC, DoD, Congress and the Biden Administration

There needs to be increased invest in research and development for next generation technology. President Joe Biden has proposed “Innovate in America” which calls for $300 billion in research and development investment over four years in future technologies and industries to support America’s technological lead. As part of that push, there should also be a focus on enhancing industry workforce training and education.

Supply Security is Fundamental to National Security

We must protect our industrial base and ensure safe and secure US networks. Having a strong domestic industry requires policies that not only invest in technology, but also address targeted national policies of competitor countries that undermine market dynamics through unfair subsidies and trade practices.

As we have seen in other industries, China’s excess capacity is undermining health of the optical fiber industry globally. Currently, they have excess capacity of over 300 million fiber kilometers. That’s nearly enough to supply to current global markets combined. This excess capacity is being dumped in numerous countries and regions—including India and Europe—driving down global pricing and undermining profitability, which in turn can ultimately impact investment in research and development.

Actionable Items for Commerce (NTIA and BIS), DOD, and USTR

First, we must ensure a level playing field across the globe. Work with our allies to address unfair subsidies—the root cause of excess capacity.

Second, there should be clear criterion established for trusted suppliers. The Center for Strategic and International Studies published a list of criteria to assess the trustworthiness of telecommunications suppliers. The criteria complement the work of the Prague Proposal.

Fiber Broadband Association represents more than 250 members, including telecommunications, computing, networking, system integration, engineering, and content-provider companies, as well as traditional service providers, utilities, and municipalities.