Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross emphasized on Tuesday that the Trump administration is prioritizing deployment of 5G wireless technology even as major service providers are restructuring their operations in pursuit of similar goals.

In an interview with CNBC at the 2018 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., Ross shared why the administration is prioritizing 5G technology.

“Whoever pursues it, whoever does it, we’re very much in support of 5G,” Ross said. “We need it. We need it for defense purposes. We need it for commercial purposes. We really need to be the player in 5G.”

The Commerce secretary’s comments came on the heels of T-Mobile U.S.’s agreement earlier this week to buy Sprint in a deal valued at $26 billion.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who will head the merged company, said it aims to create a nationwide network that will position the United States as a 5G leader. Concerns that Verizon Communications and AT&T are further along with plans to deploy 5G services in some U.S. markets helped to drive the T-Mobile/Sprint deal, according to reports.

Yesterday’s comments by Secretary Ross follow those earlier this year by Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who said in January that he supports clearing regulatory underbrush to speed 5G service rollouts but does not want the Federal government involved in creating 5G networks.

“I oppose any proposal for the Federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network,” Pai said. “The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades–including American leadership in 4G–is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.”

To support private sector investment and innovation in 5G, the FCC adopted an order last month that removed significant regulatory barriers to wireless infrastructure deployment and revised existing processes to expedite environmental and historic preservation review. The FCC order aims to speed the deployment of advanced wireless services to provide connectivity for emerging technologies, such as Internet of Things, augmented reality, unmanned vehicles, and artificial intelligence-connected devices and solutions.

The FCC’s order falls in line with recent congressional priorities as well. The Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet took a deep-dive look at the future of broadband in the United States during a hearing last month, and highlighted promoting 5G deployment as one of its broad goals.

“To make next-generation broadband a reality and position the United States so it can win the global race to 5G, we should modernize outdated rules that delay and add unnecessary costs to broadband infrastructure deployment,” subcommittee Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said at the hearing.

From the Trump administration to legislators and regulators, Washington seems to be closely aligned on its priorities to push 5G service and technology deployments.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.