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Illustration: Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Tech companies see the transition to 5G as an opportunity to gain new footholds in the connectivity business that's dominated by major wireless providers.

Why it matters: For consumers, 5G will likely be a collection of technologies rather than one single technical solution. For industry, that means fighting over who gets what airwaves and under which conditions.

The big picture: Google and Microsoft, for example, are trying to cobble together new hybrids of different types of airwaves to make their own plays.

  • Unlicensed spectrum — like Wi-Fi, that is open to all users rather than leased to a single company — will be a large part of the 5G equation and is especially attractive to companies like Facebook, Apple and Google. (But unlicensed airwaves can be hampered by interference.)
  • Licensed spectrum is leased to a single company and makes up the bulk of cellular connections provided by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.
  • Qualcomm and Broadcom, who both have a stake in the broad adoption of 5G devices, have argued the importance of unlicensed and shared airwaves.

Several bands of airwaves could be utilized either as a shared, licensed resource or without a license:

  • That includes the so-called Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) airwaves, where priority access licenses would be issued to some users before it gets opened up to a wider group.
  • The C-band — 3.7 MHz to 4.2 MHz — that the FCC is currently considering how to use. Google has been pushing for a system that would allow sharing in this band.
  • The 6 GHz band of spectrum, which Facebook, Google and Apple say could be opened up to unlicensed use. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said it will look to take action on this band.

5G could open new technical solutions, too. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told Axios he thinks AI could enable real-time spectrum swaps between companies.

  • For example, a delivery startup may ask a wireless company for permission to use a small sliver of its airwaves for an hour to deliver a package — without having to spend millions of dollars to lease the spectrum outright.
"I think there could be some interesting ways AI and machine learning could facilitate transactions that end up benefiting consumers who need these services regardless of what kind of company they're relying on. "
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

The bottom line: 5G will depend on a patchwork of spectrum. Decisions made in Washington will shape what that looks like, and which companies come out on top.

  • "If we assume demands on our airwaves continue to grow at breakneck pace, now is the time to explore new sharing paradigms that can make it possible to have a whole range of activities in a single spectrum band, " said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel earlier this month.

What's next: This fall the FCC will auction off a lot of high-frequency airwaves to the highest bidders.

Go deeper: How to get from our 4G reality to the 5G future

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Texas governor: "All hostages are out alive and safe"

SWAT team members deploy near the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Photo: Andy Jacobsohn/AFP via Getty Images

All four hostages have been safely released after a day-long standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on Saturday night.

The latest: "Around 9 p.m., the HRT — hostage rescue team — breached the synagogue, they rescued the three [remaining] hostages, the suspect is deceased," said police chief Michael Miller of Colleyville, located roughly 15 miles northeast of Fort Worth. The other hostage had been released earlier Saturday.

The new normal: Google searches reveal America's COVID shopping habits

Data: The New Normal; Google Trends; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

As the pandemic enters its third year, some of America's COVID-era shopping habits — including strong demand for tequila and sweatpants — are here to stay.

Driving the news: Axios worked with Google Trends and the Schema Design firm to create The New Normal, which analyzes the products Americans have Googled since 2020. Items with a lasting increase in search interest help fill in the details of what our "new normal" looks like.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: You can start ordering free COVID tests Wednesday — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy — Biden deploying military medical staff to help overwhelmed hospitals.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— Nurses across the U.S. strike against COVID working conditions— CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: Biden admin threatens to take back Arizona's COVID aid over anti-mask rules — Students across U.S. walkout of classes to demand safer COVID protocols — West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker