FCC Chairman: Path to 5G Still Rife With Challenges
Support for 5G will have to be earned from small governments, with the focus on how the faster network can help communities, he said.LAS VEGAS—Today's 4G mobile networks are fast and offer more performance than previous iterations, but the upcoming 5G networks will be so much faster and offer far more capabilities that the possibilities are almost endless, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. But to get there, many key steps still remain, including getting local officials in municipalities across the nation to agree to the installation of 5G equipment to support the higher speeds and greater productivity that the next-generation wireless systems will offer, Wheeler said in the opening keynote at the CTIA Super Mobility 2016 conference at the Sands Expo Center. To do that, said Wheeler, the wireless industry needs "to tell the story of what 5G is—and not just in terms of technology, but as deliverables that mean something to real people," he said. "We will be unsuccessful in dealing with [not-in-my-backyard critics] and the recalcitrance of local authorities if all we talk about is engineering. We may all love the fabulous engineering in 5G, but if we want the technology to be successfully deployed, we need to talk about its benefits for people and their communities." All of this comes into play, he said, because while there are just over 200,000 cell towers in the United States, millions of small cell sites will be required for the deployment of 5G and that means that planning and locating them will take the understanding and cooperation of small governments across the country. "If siting for a small cell takes as long and costs as much as siting for a cell tower, few communities will ever have the benefits of 5G," Wheeler warned. "We recognize that this is a major concern and are committed to working to lessen these burdens and costs to ensure that 5G is available nationwide, while respecting the vital role that the communities themselves play in the siting process."
The nature of 5G technology "makes the review and approval by community siting authorities, and the associated costs and fees, all the more critical," he said. "We have to help leaders at the local level—and all levels for that matter—understand that 5G will make the internet of things real. But even talking about IoT is too obtuse. Let's talk about the benefits of smart-city energy grids, safer transportation networks, and new opportunities to improve health care. Let's paint the picture of how 5G will unleash immersive education and entertainment industries, and how 5G will unlock new ways for local employers to grow, whether it's a small specialty shop or a large factory, creating new jobs and improving services for the community."