From the first generation technology that created the cell phone to the current generation of mobile broadband devices and Internet Protocol (IP) based mobile communications that made on-the-go video streaming possible, wireless technology has come a long way in the past 40 years. Expectations and excitement are mounting over 5G, the next generation of high-speed wireless technology. At 10 times faster than existing 4G LTE connections, the upgrade to 5G will put major innovations and efficiencies in connectivity within reach by 2020. Enhanced speeds and improved coverage mean that 5G will improve the mobile experience for everyday users, but it will also affect governments and things such as health care, transportation, and public safety.
5G connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices will make smart metering, various sensors, safety monitoring, security access, and data-sharing opportunities possible at the local level. These technologies will allow for more efficient, safer, and more reliable smart city platforms to monitor local infrastructure, public safety, and environmental conditions. Realizing the potential of 5G will call for not only infrastructure investments by mobile network operators but also close collaboration with local governments. A much denser network of both wireless and wireline connections will be needed to distribute information flow among the devices and traffic nodes that 5G will enable. Government officials at all levels need to understand that moving to a 5G network will bring vast commercial and community benefits to their citizens.
Collaboration between mobile operators and local governments will be just as important as federal rulemaking for enabling the next generation of technology opportunities. Municipal rights of way are needed for deploying wireless infrastructure that will be essential to building 5G local mesh networks and securing advanced wireless capabilities. More access points will be indispensable for enhancing the performance, speed, and reliability of the data exchange between devices. With 5G infrastructure in place, interactions that currently take minutes will take fractions of a second to execute.
Small-cell placement will create localized networks connecting millimeter wave high-band devices to wired backhaul connections. This will facilitate the dense wireless networks that will produce the availability, reliability, and scalability of the 5G system architecture.
Mobile operators have a major role to play. Changes in network architecture will increase the capacity for more connections and increase the flexibility of 5G technology. Enhanced network operations through network splicing, network function virtualization, and software-defined networks will allow for a more flexible data-flow environment and more intelligent controls for network traffic.
New mobile capacity will be created from internal infrastructure changes that can be made while small-cell technology comes online in local markets. These internal upgrades made by network operators to the management, control, and use of the routing process will increase the flow and security of information. Data will need to be prioritized by function, and some traffic may even have to be blocked if it is capable of creating a cyber incident. If life-saving devices at hospitals or fleets of autonomous cars are operating with the expectation of data prioritization for real-time information, it will be essential that the 5G network can prioritize information flows.
However, potentially the most important catalyst for implementing 5G will be the cooperation of local governments for the approval of equipment placement on utility poles and streetlights. Local governments should be a collaborative partner in broadband empowerment with industry and innovators. Those who restrict access to 5G deployment through excessive municipal fees and arduous permitting processes will be blocking the opportunity to improve their local information infrastructure for the benefit of their citizens. Investment in 5G infrastructure will go where the opportunities lie, and the right regulatory environment will be key for industry’s ability to deploy the capacity needed for the information economy to move into the next generation.