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Newsletter: Your smartphone may be about to get a lot faster

Smartphone survey
The Federal Communications Commission has approved commercial use of prime wireless spectrum until now reserved primarily for the U.S. Navy.
(Bloomberg)

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, with a look today at wireless spectrum.

No, scratch that. What we’re really looking at today is why your Apple or Android phone may soon get a whole lot faster.

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The Federal Communications Commission last week approved commercial use of wireless spectrum until now reserved primarily for the U.S. Navy — a move that’s been in the works for years.

Specifically, the FCC tapped four companies — CommScope, Federated Wireless, Google and Sony — to serve as administrators of the prime bandwidth and bring new wireless services to the market.

Federated Wireless’ customers include Verizon, Charter, American Tower, Boingo, Ericsson, JMA Wireless, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Wave Wireless.

“The FCC has made it a priority to free up mid-band spectrum for advanced wireless services like 5G,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “We’re pushing to get next-generation wireless services deployed in the 3.5 GHz band as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Just getting tech and telecom companies to cooperate with one another, as well as with government agencies, was a heavy lift.

“One of the things I’ve learned in Washington is that there are three things you do not discuss in polite society: religion, politics and sharing of spectrum,” Pai said at the recent CES trade show in Las Vegas.

“There’s got to be a way for us to share some of these spectrum assets in a way that ultimately benefits consumers,” he said. “Remember this is, at the end of the day, a public resource and our top mission at the FCC ... is to make sure those public resources are being deployed for the benefit of the American people.”

OK, so what does this mean for you?

It means an industry group called the CBRS Alliance — as in “citizens broadcast radio service” — will be marketing faster data access under the “OnGo” brand. The alliance estimates these new services will contribute as much as $15.6 billion to the economy.

The new spectrum initially will go toward 4G wireless connections and subsequently transition to next-generation 5G services.

Anticipated commercial uses for OnGo include more reliable wireless connections in large buildings and public spaces such as sports stadiums, and serving as a platform for congestion-heavy content, such as streaming the Super Bowl.

“At its start, this industry effort consisted of a handful of companies that saw the potential for new services utilizing CBRS’ innovative access framework,” said Dave Wright, president of the CBRS Alliance.

“It is now comprised of 159 companies representing the diversity of OnGo solutions, including mobile, cable, rural, enterprise and industrial uses.”

So now you’re thinking: “Cool! But will this faster OnGo access cost more?”

Short answer: Unknown. Wireless companies likely will experiment with the new capabilities before inflicting price hikes on customers.

After that, well, what do you think?

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Now then, here are a couple of recent stories from our pages worth highlighting:

Helicopters: For Southern Californians with more money than spare time, helicopters have long held appeal. It’s a way of travel few have the means to experience — and one now in the spotlight after the crash that killed former Lakers star Kobe Bryant and eight others in Calabasas.

Ghost kitchens: For much of its nearly nine decades of operation, Canter’s delicatessen has been slinging pastrami sandwiches in a converted theater on Fairfax Avenue. As to-go orders surge, the restaurant has expanded into shared commercial kitchens that extend its reach into Pasadena and West Los Angeles.

Recalls

There were several recalls of reclined infant seats that may pose a danger to babies. The recalled products include more than 111,000 Graco Little Lounger Rocking Seats, about 46,300 Summer Infant sleepers and approximately 5,900 Delta Enterprise sleepers.

General Motors is recalling about 464,000 previously recalled vehicles because a software update installed during the first recall may cause brake troubles. The new recall involves 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s, Cadillac CT6s and GMC Sierra 1500s.

Spare change

In a nod to all that nifty wireless news above, here are a couple of sketches from Japanese TV involving cellphones. You don’t need to speak Japanese to get the gags. Also, if you’re a Japanese film buff, that’s Beat Takeshi showing up for the punch line at the very end.

Stay in touch
Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is david.lazarus@latimes.com, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your pals to join the party.

Until next time, see you in the Business section.


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A look back, and ahead, at the latest California business news.

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