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5G and Next-Generation Networks in a Time of Crisis


As part of the ruling, FCC Commissioner Brandan Carr noted that “all Americans will benefit from world-leading wireless service as existing towers are upgraded to 5G.”

The nitty-gritty

While traditional cell networks have come to rely on an increasing number of base stations, achieving 5G-level performance will require a more comprehensive and expansive infrastructure. And small cells will be key to densifying networks in preparation for 5G.  

But one FCC report projects that it will take 800,000 small cell deployments to make 5G a reality, versus the 200,000 cell towers powering legacy 2G, 3G and 4G services combined. Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) will fill in the gaps, but the sheer number of small cells needed to build out 5G may make it difficult in rural areas.

The FCC is busy tackling the issues of log-jammed municipalities, bandwidth-starved rural areas and streamlined approval and permitting processes. On June 9, it took a step as part of its 5G Fast Plan to accelerate the deployment of mobile broadband infrastructure at multiple levels. The declarative ruling streamlines the permitting for wireless infrastructure, including 5G. As part of the ruling, FCC Commissioner Brandan Carr noted that “all Americans will benefit from world-leading wireless service as existing towers are upgraded to 5G.”

Crisis and opportunity

The excitement around the promise of 5G and carrier reinvestment in next-generation networks is understandable and warranted. The Economist coined the phrase “data-network effect” to describe the exponential growth of data that will take place as a result of 5G adoption. It will enable huge advances in AI, leading to the creation of bots that can do more than we ever imagined. 

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the fifth generation of cellular network technology is being rolled out in cities across the United States and around the world, and phones, devices and entire enterprises are slowly but surely becoming equipped with 5G capabilities.

As we move inexorably down the path to the next generation network, the promise and opportunity of 5G is compelling, and despite some market overhang, this path will have a sweeping impact on the entire American economy through the pandemic and beyond.



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