There is certainly a lot of talk about 5G. How will 5G make life better? How will it make a difference in the workplace? How will it open doors for enterprise applications? How will 5G boost the IoT (Internet of Things)? While there is a certain amount of divided thinking about when and to what extent 5G will make its impact in different sectors, for the most part, the discussion is imbibed with excitement about the possibilities.
Beyond the questions of how, when, and to what extent 5G will improve life and business, though, are some more controversial lines of inquiry. For instance, can the U.S. keep up with international rollouts of 5G in places like China? If not, what are the implications? And, as the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) recently wrapped up an auction of 24 GHz spectrum that can be used for 5G networks, entities like NASA, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin.), and the U.S. Navy are saying the FCC should pump the brakes on auctioning off more spectrum for 5G until scientists and policymakers can figure out and agree on how these networks may affect weather satellites, which are used for the critical function of weather forecasting.
Deloitte has a clear opinion on how important 5G adoption is in economic growth on the international stage. The firm says first-adopter countries could secure a decade or more of competitive advantage over others that don’t get going with 5G as quickly. Deloitte’s “5G: The chance to lead for a decade” provides a look at how the U.S. compares with other nations in terms of 5G investment, reporting that China has outspent the U.S. in wireless communications infrastructure by $24 billion since 2015. China is moving quickly, too. Deloitte’s research suggests the nation has added more than 350,000 sites since 2015 and shows no signs of slowing down.
To maintain a leadership position in the field, the U.S. will need to ramp up investment in 5G communications infrastructure. All involved parties will need to work together to create solutions to existing barriers that slow down or prevent investment. The FCC’s 5G FAST (Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology) Plan, a strategy being pursued by the commission under Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership, aims to make more spectrum available in the marketplace, update infrastructure policy, and modernize regulations that affect 5G deployment.
The FCC has been working toward achieving part one of this three-fold strategy by auctioning off high-band spectrum. The 28 GHz band auction finished in January, and the 24 GHz band auction wrapped up in early June, with the list of highest bidders including companies like AT&T, Starry Spectrum Holdings, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. However, some in the scientific community and beyond say 5G deployment could actually cost the U.S., pushing the nation back in terms of weather forecasting operations. In March, Caption Marc Eckardt penned an information brief urging the FCC to proceed cautiously, and he is just one of many others who are concerned, but the CTIA has met such warnings with a scoff.
The questions surrounding 5G range from when we can realistically expect rollouts to whether pushing forward in 5G to keep up with nations like China will set the nation back in other areas. While it’s clear 5G’s low latency and fast speeds will boost innovation and support a connected world in the coming years, there’s still a lot to navigate before the U.S. fully enters the age of 5G.
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