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White House calls meeting over 5G tensions, report says

The Trump administration holds a policy meeting to "combat infighting" about the next-generation networking technology, says a report.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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  • I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Corinne Reichert
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5G is already here.

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On the same day US President Donald Trump held a social media summit without inviting the two biggest social media companies, Twitter and Facebook, the White House also reportedly held an in-house meeting on 5G policy. The discussion was meant to "combat infighting" about the new mobile network technology, Axios reported Thursday afternoon.

5G, already launched in some parts of the US by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, is the next-generation network being used by smartphones to provide faster speeds and more capacity.

Watch this: What the heck is a 5G network?

The "high-level" White House meeting was called by Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, because "tensions over 5G have come to a head" in Trump's administration, according to Axios, which cited two administration officials. The meeting was led by Larry Kudlow, director of Trump's National Economic Council, the report said, and included Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and officials from the Defense, State, Commerce and Education departments.

According to the report, the White House and the FCC want more 24GHz spectrum used for 5G, whereas NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say using the band for mobile would cause weather forecasting interference.

The FCC has already sold off a batch of millimeter-wave (mmWave) high-bandwidth spectrum in the 24GHz band, in late May raising $2 billion in gross bids in this second 5G spectrum auction. Of the 2,909 licenses on offer, 2,904 were awarded on May 28. The licenses mean carriers can launch mobile services across multiple frequencies, improving latency, speeds and capacity.

Pai last month said he also wants to auction off 2.5GHz spectrum for 5G mobile use, winning the vote to do so on Wednesday. This is in addition to the first 5G spectrum auction that sold licenses in the 28GHz mmWave band, in January, with the FCC to kick off its auction across the 37GHz, 39GHz and 47GHz bands on Dec. 10.

Mulvaney's office and the FCC didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump has previously pushed for US dominance in 5G, and even 6G, recently saying the US would lead in 5G "very shortly."

"I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible," Trump tweeted in February. "It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind." 

First published at 4:13 p.m. PT on July 11.  
Update, 4:54 p.m.: Adds more detail on the policy dispute and spectrum bands being auctioned off for 5G.

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