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White House convened top officials to combat infighting over 5G

Tensions over 5G have come to a head within the Trump administration, prompting acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to convene a high-level White House meeting to hammer out policy disputes between government agencies, according to two administration officials and another source familiar with the matter.

What we're hearing: The Thursday morning meeting, led by President Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, included high-level attendees such as Commerce Department official Earl Comstock and FCC chair Ajit Pai, as well as multiple officials from Defense, State and Education, one official said.

Why it matters: Comstock has been at the center of disagreements over how to repurpose airwaves for commercial 5G services, in addition to being at odds with several officials, particularly Kudlow, on a number of other issues, the sources said.

  • However, one official stressed that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doesn't share those frustrations.
  • "The Trump Administration is supportive of a private sector, free enterprise approach," a White House official told Axios: "We believe the U.S. is winning the race to 5G with record deployments in cities across the United States."

The intrigue: Repurposing valuable wireless airwaves almost always ends up in a bureaucratic tug-of-war.

  • A key point of contention is the use of a chunk of super-fast airwaves (known as the 24 ghz band) that the White House and FCC want to free up for 5G.
  • But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (within the Commerce Department) and NASA have raised alarms that doing so will cause interference with existing weather forecasting sensors located near those airwaves.

The big picture: The Trump administration has taken steps to help speed up the U.S. roll-out of 5G networks to try to stay ahead of China. The FCC has aggressively tried to free up airwaves for commercial 5G use.