Brendan Carr, one of five FCC commissioners charged with overseeing and regulating the sprawling telecom industry, wants to ensure that the U.S. leads the worldwide transition to 5G technology.
Speaking to Cheddar from the Mobile World Congress in Los Angeles, Carr called 5G a "transformative technology" that will "address pain points in our lives."
5G wireless will, at full strength, be orders of magnitude faster than current LTE service. Verizon has said its own test speeds are already 30 to 50 times faster than the fastest current network speeds. That has the potential to change industries like gaming, entertainment, and healthcare among others.
Carr, a Trump appointee who previously served as FCC Chair Ajit Pai's top lieutenant, said the government needs to ensure that the 5G rollout doesn't exclude rural communities, many of which have been at a disadvantage in terms of broadband connectivity for years. He said he has visited rural areas in 33 states and has been working with local governments to pave the way for the infrastructure needed for 5G, so that not just large urban areas get the benefits. "The stakes are too high for that," he said.
Those benefits are expected to include everything from faster download and streaming speeds, to much lower latency, which itself is critical in the development of autonomous vehicles.
Carr recently voted to approve the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, which he said was part and parcel of the agency's commitment to bringing high-speed internet to underserved areas. The new company will create a legitimate third player in what has been effectively a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon, he said. The new T-Mobile will be able to compete as a "second choice" for customers in rural communities who are already "loving that choice," according to Carr.
The $26.5 billion T-Mobile-Sprint merger still faces legal hurdles from a multistate lawsuit to block it on the grounds it will do the opposite of what Carr said and lead to higher prices. Several of the original plaintiffs have bowed out of that suit and now support the deal, with Colorado the latest state to offer its backing in exchange for a commitment to build out telecom infrastructure in the state's rural areas.