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THUNE: SD can lead global race toward 5G

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There are a lot of common items in our day-to-day lives that use wireless technology to send information from one location to another. If you’re in your home, you probably have a TV, and that TV likely has a remote control. You probably have a mobile phone or another mobile device, like a tablet or laptop, that requires Wi-Fi to connect to the internet. Maybe you’re wearing an Apple Watch or Fitbit, too.

If you’re in your car, you might be listening to your favorite radio station or using your vehicle’s navigation system or auto-parking feature. All of these items, and more, require spectrum, the airwaves over which these systems communicate, to function accurately and effectively.

Try for a moment to envision these airwaves as if you could physically see them travel from one location to another. With that in mind, if you were listening to Kickin’ 100.5 FM on the radio, the station would broadcast from its tower to your radio on that particular frequency or airwave. If you turned to Hot 104.7 FM, same thing, only it would use its own distinct frequency. They can’t broadcast on the same airwave, because if they did, Garth Brooks would blend with Justin Bieber, creating an interesting tune, to say the least.

Not all spectrum is the same. Some spectrum is best suited for mobile phones, and some works better for Wi-Fi. It doesn’t matter what kind of spectrum it is, though, it’s all important to how things function around us.

As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the federal agencies that regulate spectrum in the United States, I recently held a hearing to explore America’s leadership in the race toward 5G mobile broadband technology, which will help deliver speeds one hundred times faster than current mobile phone technology. It’s critical that the United States wins the race to 5G, but making sure innovators and entrepreneurs have access to more spectrum is going to be critical to our success.

I’m glad the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other key government agencies have taken important steps toward achieving that goal, but even today, only a relatively small amount of the spectrum needed to deploy 5G has been specifically identified. Not only is that putting us behind our global competitors, like China and South Korea, but I believe it’s a serious threat to American leadership of this next-generation technology.

I’ve been focusing on the race toward 5G for years and have pursued legislation that would help give America a competitive edge. My MOBILE NOW Act, which was signed into law earlier this year, lays critical groundwork for this new wireless broadband technology, and I hope South Dakota can be a leader in this space, too.

Several FCC officials, including Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Brendan Carr and Mike O’Rielly, have visited South Dakota with me to see firsthand everything our state can offer. I’m hopeful that with partners like them, all of whom will play a crucial role in implementing my MOBILE NOW Act, we can put America’s best foot forward and cross the finish line before anyone else.

Being pioneers in this technological revolution will strengthen our economy, help businesses succeed, and give consumers access to the world’s best mobile technology, enabling all the latest advancements in precision agriculture, telehealth, autonomous vehicles, and beyond, continuing to make our lives easier, safer, and simpler.

 John Thune represents South Dakota in the U.S. Senate.

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