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CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker / CTIA

Mobile World Congress Americas kicks off today in San Francisco, and on the docket is plenty of talk about 5G technology and how it will power the Internet of Things, mobile entertainment and connected cars. Ahead of the show, Axios caught up with Meredith Attwell Baker, former Commerce Department official and FCC Commissioner who is now the wireless industry's chief lobbyist in Washington.

Why it matters: The wireless industry can't seem to get it's hands on enough airwaves to power networks to handle demand by smartphone-obsessed consumers. Wireless streaming and other content-rich applications are only increasing the competition for bandwidth. 5G networks take advantage of high-frequency airwaves that don't travel as far, raising the need for twice as many cell sites to power them.

Highlights from our chat:

5G networks will be 100 times faster with no lag time: "This is the network where you will see driverless cars, remote surgery and innovative education. In terms of capital spending, our members (carriers) are ready to spend $275 billion to invest in this."

Timing of 5G network rollouts: "It will start rolling out next year, but we'll see more commercial rollouts in 2020. But that depends on getting the rules right for these networks. We're talking about cell sites the size of pizza boxes rather than 200-foot-tall towers. The industry in the past decade has rolled out 150,000 towers, and we'll be looking to roll out 300,000 in the next few years. What we're looking for is changes in infrastructure so we can roll this out faster and at an affordable cost."

International threats to U.S. leadership: "It's certainly a global race to 5G. Countries have recognized that when you are first, that gives you the advantage in innovation and investment and jobs. China is conducting 100 trials this year. South Korea and Japan are rolling out quite rapidly. We did not win the race to 3G, but we did to 4G. And that's why three-quarters of app companies are based in the U.S. So it does make a difference."

How 5G can improve rural broadband coverage: "We'll see fixed 5G wireless first. That will bring a lot of broadband to rural areas that don't have it currently."

What's next in the spectrum pipeline: "There's no pipeline. We are looking for low-band, mid-band and high-band opportunities. We need to look for win-win scenarios with government spectrum. We are encouraged to see the administration has spectrum in its budget and plans."

What about unlicensed spectrum, such as white space proposals?: "When it comes to spectrum, I talk about licensed, unlicensed and shared. To meet America's growing needs we're going to need all of it."

Go deeper

Updated 42 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."