The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) has adopted rules establishing the 5G Fund for Rural America (5G Fund), which will allocate $9 billion to rural areas, through a two-phase reverse auction, for the deployment of 5G services. The 5G Fund will target support to eligible areas as determined by the Commission’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection proceeding. Phase I will target $8 billion to areas lacking unsubsidized 4G LTE and 5G mobile broadband, with $680 million set aside for 5G deployment on Tribal lands. Phase II will provide at least $1 billion to target deployments that facilitate precision agriculture.
Furthermore, T-Mobile will be permitted to make pre-auction binding commitments to deploy 5G service in select rural areas that would then become ineligible for auction. The auction will also employ an adjustment factor that has yet to be specifically determined. Winners of 5G Fund support will be required to deploy 5G mobile broadband at speeds of at least 35/3 Mbps. Carriers receiving legacy mobile high cost support will be required, starting next year, to spend an increasing percentage of their support to bring 5G to rural areas.