What’s The Right Path For Deploying 5G Infrastructure?

5G, the fifth generation in mobile wireless networks, promises an innovation revolution by bringing digital intelligence to previously analog technologies. 5G speeds will be ten times faster than the wireless speeds we know today and will eliminate latency (or lag time), enabling technologies that need instant, seamless connectivity. 5G will foster technologies like autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and remote surgery and will herald a new era of smart bodies, homes, cities, farms, and cars.

The comparatively easy part of 5G is retrofitting old devices with artificial intelligence (AI) to make them smart. Consider AutoPi, which turns ordinary cars into something like KITT, the talking car from Knight Rider, or Ikea’s smart lightbulbs that connect to the internet to make power consumption more efficient.

The hard part of 5G is getting new networks deployed. 5G requires a paradigm shift in the thinking and deployment of physical networks. Current rules governing physical infrastructure are predicated on monolithic, 200-foot cell towers, but 5G networks are made up of thousands of small cells integrated to street poles or camouflaged with other structures. 5G also represents a paradigm shift in business models. Instead of human users with monthly mobile phone subscriptions, 5G users will be billions of machines and sensors, the connectivity to which will likely be purchased by a variety of actors through different kinds of contracts. Unsurprisingly, the barriers to the 5G future are not technological but regulatory.

Fortunately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken the lead to modernize existing rules with an item on its March agenda to streamline wireless infrastructure deployment. This proposal was based on extensive consultation about environmental and historical concerns with state and local historic preservation officers, wireless carriers, network builders, tribal nations and intertribal organizations, relevant federal agencies, and others.

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