The next generation of broadband, 5G, runs as a wireless service about 70 times faster than today’s broadband network. The 5G network capacity will accommodate far more connections that are available today. In the wider community, 5G will support the operation of driverless vehicles to transport people and goods. Telemedicine will operate between clinics, patients and physicians with crisp video, sound, telemetry and secure patient records transport. More of us will work from home, taking advantage of shared project databases and full video connections with our coworkers and clients.
5G will carry video, voice, monitoring data, and industrial signaling for coordination of manufacturing processes. 5G will support home security and home services management. It will allow families to control temperature, lighting, air flow, entry access, alarm control, visual monitoring, conversations between rooms and family members or between devices and people off premises.
What used to be appointment TV and movies will morph into TV and movies at your convenience. Educational courseware will continue its migration into education on your schedule, probably orchestrated by a robotic tutor with great patience. Rare for education, the cost and administrative burden should trend lower. These applications will be possible due to the low latency, huge capacity, and high speed of 5G networks.
The $326 billion of 5G infrastructure investment is underway and should be in place by 2026. So far, just a little of 5G is in place. The 5G network uses fiber optic trunk lines (so called “backhaul”) that connect it to the internet, other major network types, communities, and cities. Those fiber optic lines are in turn connected to local area radio networks that are built around about one million shoebox-sized devices called “small cells” that process and transmit wireless data at lightning speeds.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping communities by making available spectrum to connect those small cells. It plans for spectrum auctions later this year for the upper 37 GHz, the 39 GHz, and 47 GHz spectrum bands.
Because a few state and local jurisdictions were taking excessive lengths of time to approve each small cell placement, the FCC has suggested they use a shot clock approach, and batch processing to right-size the time that commissions allot themselves for review and approval of permits. Likewise, a few jurisdictions invented outrageously high fees that would apply to a small cell siting and a right of way permit. Some commissioners sought local right of way fees as high as $45,000.
The welfare of the consumer is ignored by these egregious delays and charges. Consumers benefit from the 5G network in the form of superior employment, transportation options, education and medical services, outstanding entertainment and personal communications. Slowing the local area deployment of 5G harms local consumers the most. If the regulations in a jurisdiction are seen as antagonistic, those investing in 5G networks are likely to invest elsewhere, and that would impose an economic disadvantage for the consumers and employers that their local commissioners have promised to serve.
When they understand the issues, commissioners usually vote in favor of sane regulations. Already 21 states have streamlined regulations and harmonized the fees and procedures between jurisdictions. There is room for others to follow their lead and act constructively.