Reminder: Wholesale aka Nationalized 5G is not the Path We Should Go Down

By: Noah Vehafric

The race to adopt new powerful, 5G technologies continues around the world. And the desire to reach the 5G finish line keeps reviving a hideous idea: creating a national 5G network. Just recently the Pentagon released a request for information looking into the possibility of running such a network. So let’s remind ourselves why this is not the path we should go down. 

The idea of creating a wholesale 5G network has been floated around many times during Trump’s first term. In 2018 documents from the National Security Council showed an initial plan for the government to take over construction of a 5G network, just like what was done with the interstate highways.  

This idea reappeared again this August when President Trump’s reelection campaign suggested that DoD airwaves should be used to build a single network that mobile operators would lease from. 

The idea of having the Department of Defense run a 5G network was suggested by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; and it has support from others like Karl Rove who now lobbies on behalf of telecom companies like Rivada.  

The logic behind nationalizing our 5G networks is that 1) We must adopt 5G quickly to posture ourselves for technological dominance; 2) The private sector is not motivated or capable of doing this; and 3) We should then empower the government to take on this initiative and ensure that 5G is adopted. 

This argument is a falsehood. As some have pointed out The same principles that have made the U.S. extremely successful in 3G and 4G – free market, and free enterprise – is what we need to carry us through to 5G. This theory of letting competition in the private sector drive 5G adoption is supported by the experts at the FCC and the President himself stating that government run 5G adoption just can’t compete with the speed that the private sector could offer. 

Despite opposition from the President, the Pentagon released last week a request for information (RFI) asking the telecom industry about the specifics of having a shared 5G network with civilian cellphones. They specifically asked “How could DoD own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations?” and “what types of technologies exist or are anticipated that will allow civilian users to share spectrum faster?”. 

Everyone wants to see America lead the adoption of 5G technologies. The benefits and innovations that 5G could bring to healthcare, commerce, transportation will improve the lives of all Americans. If we want to preempt the Chinese, we can not imitate the Chinese. We must do what has always kept America a leader on the world stage: let private sector competition thrive.  

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