Lots of Enemies on the Road to 5G
Ajit Pai — FCC chief — is angering a lot of powerful people as his chairmanship hits its fourth and potentially final year.
To his allies, Pai is heroic for taking on parochial interests keeping America from making the objectively best uses of its digital resources.
However, to his foes he’s going rogue in ways that waste taxpayer money and could endanger public safety.
And some of them are expressing their criticisms of Pai in deeply personal terms.
To quote this article by Politico:
“I wouldn’t take him with me to buy a car because he’d pay full sticker price and then try to give the salesman a bonus,” Senate appropriator John Kennedy (R-La.) said earlier this year, criticizing Pai’s plan to offer satellite operators billions of dollars to give up their airwaves for 5G. After Pai approved another 5G plan over the Pentagon’s objections, Senate Armed Services Chair Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) hinted that “when people try to push bad policy through in the middle of a crisis, without much coordination with seemingly anyone else, it makes me wonder about their motives.”
Critics blame a tunnel-vision regulatory culture that they say Pai has leaned into as agency chief.
The FCC embodies “very much a regulatory capture mindset” and “arrogance,” said Joy Ditto, who recently led the Utilities Technology Council in an unsuccessful airwaves fight with the commission on behalf of electric utilities. She accused the agency of putting its faith in tech and telecom companies’ promises of improved internet connections, at the expense of safety concerns from other spectrum-dependent industries.
“They literally believe in their heart that nothing that we said is true … that’s just very dangerous thinking,” said Ditto, now the CEO of the American Public Power Association, in an interview. “The impression was ‘We’re smarter than you, you don’t really know what you’re talking about because you don’t have our level of expertise.’”
Similar complaints have come from Trump’s Defense and Commerce departments — despite the praise Pai’s decisions have received from administration leaders like Attorney General William Barr and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
With that in mind let’s look back at a Daily Prophecy I wrote on this topic back in February of this year.
Ajit Pai of the FCC Upends the 5G Debate
The fifth-generation (5G) wireless plot thickened last week.
Visionary Chairman Ajit Pai of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) launched plans for March 26 hearings on a revolutionary 5G breakthrough: open virtual cloud-based technology.
By moving the 5G “control planes” to software in the cloud, Pai hopes to circumvent the fears of foreign domination of 5G hardware such as routers, switches, transceivers, and antennas.
As Pai declared: “The FCC has taken aggressive action to promote American leadership in 5G… One way to advance this priority is through the development and deployment of more secure, cost-effective 5G network components. Virtualized radio access networks (vRAN) could help us do that.”
Ajit Pai, meet Gilad Garon, the American-Israeli champion of vRAN and CEO of ASOCS corporation which has been working with such US firms as ATT, Cisco, and Intel to develop world-leading cloud-based 5G.
At the World Mobile Congress at Moscone Center late last year in San Francisco, ASOCS with its ingenious team from Rosh Hayim, Israel, leaped to the head of the parade to 5G networks.
5G is presented as some established standard for new wireless deployments. But in fact, it is a jumbled jamboree of new technologies on the frontiers of mobile and fixed wireless.
The New Rules of 5G
Promising such conflicting boons as low latency for the internet of things, 20 gigabit-per-second broadband for video streams, 60 gigahertz-band broadcasts for Telco “content” plays, network virtualization and adaptive central control, 5G is a catchall label for the ultimate wireless network.
It is also a political passion-pit: an establishment campaign to reconcile the wildly divergent needs of “national champion” telcos, virtual self-driving car touts, high-velocity drones and weapons, virtual reality game devotees, internet of things, telepathic phones, and data center deep yoga learning and analytics.
By providing the bottom layers of processing for the actual wireless signals, ASOCS won a position in the lead 5G standards consortia, such as TIP (Telecom Infrastructure Project), which is backed by Facebook and led by Intel and leading European Telecoms. ASOCS is also a technical leader in the more detailed XRAN (Exchange for Radio Access Networks) championed by ATT, Cisco, and Intel.
The techies from Rosh Hayim took advantage of carriers and equipment makers distracted by teeming regulations from the politicians (and by in my view self-defeating attempts to exclude all gear from China as if communism infects technology like a virus).
From Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), to “network neutrality” pettifoggery, to government antitrust rules, to national security “Trojan Horse” paranoia, to California Privacy Act nincompoopery, the generals, lawyers, lefty fixers, and politicians are all crowding in with their big hats, mouths, and scant knowledge.
As a result, carriers such as ATT and Verizon retreated into ambitious content plays. Google contrived its do-it-all-yourself broadband gambits such as Google Fiber and “Loons.” These vain ventures illustrate the proposition that big companies can launch endless projects with little or no commitment to their success.
Under nimble and sure-footed network entrepreneur Garon, ASOCS now holds the crucial keys of hardware and software integration to make it all work for enterprises and customers.
Launched in 2003 as a leading-edge Lancelot in pursuit of the industry grail of software-defined radio, ASOCS’ system enables cells and transceivers to adapt to existing spectrum conditions “cognitively.” Using smart radio technology, companies no longer need to demand exclusive walled gardens of bandwidth that shield their signals from having to mix with uppity startups and inventive new players.
ASOCS has built a 5G Camelot on its original hardware-software breakthrough. Moving baseband processing of cellular signals from the handset to the base-station, ASOCS enables the 5G proliferation of ubiquitous antennas that may be key to some low latency broadband services someday.
But 5G, now in phase 15 and above, has become so complex and ambitious that its full deployment seems to recede into the future late in the decade. Eventually we will give up on the dream of having the world interlinked on tricky millimeter waves that can offer huge bandwidth for hundreds of feet, but can’t go through a wall or do it in the car or work in the rain.
A Solution to the Complexity
In response, ASOCS is offering enterprises the opportunity to deploy it now in their own domains, such as corporate campuses, hospitals, stadia, and malls while remaining linked to the global network.
Called Cyrus, after a legendary unifying Persian ruler, the ASOCS platform enables a gathering host of 5G companies to meet the challenges of wildly growing and diversifying traffic from the internet of things, self-driving automobiles, surveillance drones, hospital routers and scanners, and the babble of proliferating social message systems and localization apps on smartphones.
The ASOCS solution separates the data plane from the control plane, allowing such collaborating companies such as ATT, Deutsche Telecom, and VMWare to solve their traffic problems by keeping the data local without relinquishing the efficiencies of a central control and view of “state.”
“The world’s telcos have been piling up their software mattresses in millefeuille layers of adaptive virtualization, but they still cannot sleep at night because of worry about the hardware pea of the gritty unforgiving technology at the bottom,” said Gilad in a literary flight in conversation with your incumbent prophet.
What Cyrus offers to both telcos and enterprises is a way to join the ever more exacting demands of hardware — such as no delay, broadband, and ubiquitous antenna coverage — with the needs of control, scheduling, capital formation, regulatory compliance, and overall network management, combining reliability with speed.
Now Ajit Pai should call Gilad Garon, the world’s leading vRAN player, and ask him to come to Washington to testify on March 26.
Let’s get this show on the road and out of the political passion pits.
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy