US government shutdown is threat to 5G rollout

The ongoing government shutdown in the US could impact the rollout of 5G in the country, causing it to lose ground in the race to be a leader in next-generation networks.

The partial shutdown is the longest in US history and has caused several departments and publicly-funded organisations to suspend operations. This includes the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which ran out of funding on January 3.

Now the Telecoms Infrastructure Association (TIA), which represents manufacturers and suppliers, has warned that there is no body to approve 5G devices.

US 5G shutdown

“The unavailability of this process will have a serious and negative impact on the approval of new connected devices that are designed to enable both 5G deployment and the full ecosystem of next generation technologies that 5G will support,” said Cinnamon Rogers, head of government affairs at the TIA.

The body has argued that in future shutdowns the FCC should leave its equipment authorisation system open and review any decision made during that period within 30 days after full agency operations have resumed.

However, the TIA has also used the shutdown as an opportunity to lobby for automatic certification and streamlined processes.

“Other, more permanent solutions are also worth considering,” continued Rogers. “First, the FCC needs to complete a long-running equipment authorization proceeding that will likely remove some categories of devices that present limited risk from needing direct FCC approval.

“Second, in the interest of streamlining the process generally, the FCC needs to allow for automatic certification by accredited third-party testing labs for more categories of devices than it does presently.

“The United States has the most innovative communications technology companies in the world. And while the FCC has made progress in recent years, the equipment authorization process needs further reform now – to prevent damage during government shutdowns – and into the future to allow those companies to bring new technologies to American consumers as soon as possible.”

Late last year, Verizon became the first operator in the world to launch a live commercial 5G service, offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband in several major US cities. Rival AT&T launched before the end of 2018, offering a mobile hotspot service in a few select locations.

Full 5G services are expected later this year with the arrival of the first compatible smartphones.


Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.