Brookings Institute 5G Game Plan for the U.S. vs Opinion

Can the U.S. catch up with China and South Korea, which are paving the way forward to deploy 5G wireless networks (whatever that means?)

Here’s what the Brookings Institute recommends for the U.S. 5G effort:

U.S. 5G deployment process is slowed by outdated regulatory processes, spectrum scarcity, and local bureaucracy related to building local towers and other infrastructure. The U.S. faces unique challenges associated with the deployment of small cells, which are antennae the size of a pizza box that enable 5G’s signal strength and resiliency. Deployment delays also result from approval times on small cell applications, permitting, and zoning processes at the local level.

While the U.S. has correctly identified 5G leadership as an important goal, a coordinated, comprehensive, and focused approach by Congress, state and local leaders, and the private sector will be needed. Currently, municipalities, states, industry, and other government agencies in the U.S. lack a comprehensive and synchronized strategy, or what I call a “5G game plan,” that harmonizes the goals of public policies, investments, and the public interest.

While having a common goal should be the foundation of any proposed 5G game plan, the framework for this discussion should also prioritize the following three points.

1. The U.S. must rapidly adopt complementary public policies with timelines that address ongoing spectrum shortage concerns.

Higher frequency spectrum will be the lifeblood for advanced wireless networks. Both the House and Senate have recently introduced the bipartisan AIRWAVES Act to expedite the creation of a pipeline of spectrum for 5G by requiring the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to make it available across a variety of frequencies, including low-, mid-, and high-bands. While the current legislation has broad bipartisan appeal, it’s important for Congress to act in a timely way. The AIRWAVES Act complements the recent enactment of the RAYBAUM and MOBILE NOW Acts as part of the 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which paves the way for future auctions and speeds up 5G infrastructure.

Concurrently, the FCC also has the opportunity to bring much-needed mid-band spectrum to market by adopting rules for the 3.5 gigahertz band that will promote 5G deployments.  At its July meeting, the FCC launched a proceeding that has the potential to free up hundreds of megahertz of mid-band spectrum in the 3.7 to 4.2 gigahertz band.  The agency is also making available high-band spectrum that will, among other things, help free up more millimeter-wave spectrum bands, improve operability requirements within 24 gigahertz bands, and adopt a sharing framework for terrestrial and fixed satellite services.

While all of these actions can address spectrum scarcity concerns, U.S. policymakers and agencies at all levels need to collaborate to hasten the availability of spectrum for commercial wireless use. They also need to work toward short- and long-term coordinated plans that may render even better and faster results.

2. The deployment of small cell technologies must become a priority to accelerate 5G infrastructure.

It is equally important that local, federal, and industry stakeholders work collaboratively on small cell deployment, which is the technical architecture required at the local level. With more than 89,000 local governments in the U.S., policymakers must strike a balance that harmonizes and expedites processes and approvals, and still provides specific localities, especially tribal lands, the ability to provide guidance on safety and aesthetics.

To this end, policymakers should identify and work on laws and regulations at the municipal, state, and federal levels that effectuate a 5G game plan. Jurisdictions without a plan should employ strategies for advancing wireless networks rather than delay the deployment of next-generation mobile networks for their residents, including updates to the guiderails for state and local siting. As of June 1, 2018, 20 states have enacted legislation modernizing regulations to facilitate small cell deployment, and more should follow suit.

Congress is also taking its own steps to expedite 5G readiness. Last month, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced legislation to speed up small cell deployment called the Streamlining the Rapid Evolution and Modernization of Leading-Edge Infrastructure Necessary to Enhance Small Cell Deployment Act (or STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act). The legislation creates a shot clock between 60 and 90 days for state and local governments to decide on industry applications for small cell installation. If the entity misses the deadline, the application would be automatically approved. The legislation also ensures that localities don’t foot the bill for installation of small cells, and requires reasonable cost-based fees for processing applications. Finally, the bill calls for a GAO study on the important issue of identifying barriers to broadband deployment on tribal lands.

While there are legitimate concerns from municipalities about unfair burdens and deadlines, political dogma should not overtake this issue. If passed, the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act may go a long way toward finding a balance between local entities, the federal government, and the private sector to avoid burdensome application processes, unfair and disparate fee structures between localities, and difficult compliance requirements for municipalities. Moving forward, these issues require a multi-stakeholder approach where policymakers and practitioners can embrace the ultimate benefits of 5G deployment, particularly those that will accrue social and economic value back to constituents.

3. Stakeholders involved in 5G deployment must keep top of mind the economic and social good that these next-generation networks can deliver.

The final leg of the 5G game plan is to ensure that efforts are ultimately promoting economic and social good. For example, 5G networks can enhance healthcare through the integration of electronic and digital devices (e.g., sensors, smartphones), in upward of $650 billion savings by 2025 provided that faster and more reliable networks enable new technologies, according to a report commissioned by Qualcomm. From medical internet of things devices to online consultations, the capture of real-time medical information and data analytics will empower the healthcare sector, patients, and government to find remedies for skyrocketing costs.

In the healthcare industry and other sectors, 5G can reduce costs for the governments that deploy these networks, the consumers who are in need of additional savings (especially for public interest applications and services), and the enterprises that desire a faster access to the global marketplace.

These three points are not meant to be exhaustive, but a starting point for building a sustainable, competitive, and resilient 5G game plan. The game plan should also include proposals on policies that accelerate fiber availability and regulatory permissions that should go to wireline providers that are also critical to 5G deployment.

But what should be evident is that without a plan that addresses both the priorities of multiple stakeholders as well as the technical requisites of this emerging technology, the U.S. will not be 5G-ready, thereby falling behind our global competitors who seek dominance in the ecology driving the next-generation of wireless networks.

Christoph Mergerson contributed research to this blog post.

Alan’s Opinion:

First, we have to define and classify 5G while identifying the critically important use cases.  Instead of doing that, wireless carriers have been making noise, promoting nonsense, hype and spin over their proprietary higher speed wireless networks, e.g. fixed BWA, mobile 5G, 5G backhaul from a WiFi hotspot, etc.

Next, carriers MUST respect and not ignore the true 5G standards, from accredited standards bodies such as ITU-R, ITU-T, and IEEE 802.11.  The 5G standards (especially IMT 2020 radio and non radio aspects) from those organizations won’t be completed for a couple more years but they will eventually take over from all the proprietary 5G offerings from 2018-to-2020.   If that doesn’t happen, 5G won’t scale to serve a large number of users and the technology will be DOA!

7 thoughts on “Brookings Institute 5G Game Plan for the U.S. vs Opinion

  1. China aspires to lead the 5G world market in 2025 with the installation of 430 million connections, that is, a third of the global total, a specialized report revealed today.

    The text, presented at the World Mobile Congress in Shanghai, refers to the successful tests carried out by three telecommunications companies supported by this network, the fastest connection network, with a view to its large-scale commercialization in 2020.

    It also predicts that the pre-commercial phase of the service in the Asian nation will be the largest on the planet thanks to the Government’s support to build multiple stations, accelerate its launch and later widespread growth.

    This year the Chinese company Huawei and the British Vodafone made the first call of the world supported in 5G from Castelldefels to Madrid, both cities in Spain, with a bandwidth of 3.7 GHz, which will be incorporated in the future deployment of the new technology.

    In addition, a video call with the latest generation network was also tested without problems.

    Subsequently, his compatriot ZTE successfully completed its first phone call in the 5G, which brought closer to the country the introduction of this technology in mobile phones.

    The operation was possible thanks to a collaboration between that firm and the China Mobile Communications Corporation. China carries out several phases of technical tests and accelerates the planning of systems, chips, and other devices in order to have the 5G pre-commercial service ready as soon as possible.

  2. Question: Apart from market timing, what other misconceptions about 5G appear prevalent?

    Nandagopal: The bigger challenge is the hype. There’s a notion that 5G is going to solve every challenge under the sun, that massive connectivity, incredibly low latencies, and unprecedented bandwidth will win over consumers. Evangelists claim that 5G will provide sub-millisecond latencies with 5 gigabits bandwidth to every user and connect billions of devices. That’s not going to happen in the next ten years because the network fundamentals haven’t changed enough to accommodate all of those metrics. One of those three metrics may be met. Possibly two. I’m deeply skeptical that they’ll achieve all three anytime soon. It was fine in 2012 to dream this way. But in 2018 we know better. Reality has to sink in at some point.

    Question: Without a killer app, does the 5G business case remain a work in progress?

    Nandagopal: This may be the biggest challenge. The cost of 5G service is not being talked about. The carriers spent billions upgrading networks to 4G, which is currently benefiting users. 5G supposedly offers greater benefits, but the associated costs mean that network operators must deliver a killer app at a price point that stirs demand. That discussion is still nascent.

  3. Last comment was terrific. Is anyone else countering the 5G hype that has reached epic proportions?

  4. 5G Presents the Biggest Opportunity for U.S. Operators, But Poses the Most Challenges (Reality Check)

    While it is hard to underplay the transformative potential of 5G speed, the new revenue streams it could create through innovations such as augmented reality are more than a few years out for U.S. telecom providers. Mobile phones with 5G chips won’t arrive in the U.S. until at least 2019, which means the first usages of 5G in the states will be with a hotspot or ‘puck’, rather than a phone. Therefore, those pegging 5G as a revolution should think of it more along the lines of the Atlantic Revolutions, which were long-drawn-out changes.

    The more likely scenario is that 5G is an evolution for the U.S. telecom industry. While AT&T has committed to providing 5G ‘pucks’ in 12 cities this year, including Dallas and Atlanta, and Verizon plans to bring 5G wireless home internet to five cities including Sacramento, these are more likely placeholders to larger developments in 5G infrastructure that build off already existing network infrastructure.

  5. Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying IEEE Techblog and look forward to new posts and updates.

    1. You can follow me on Twitter via @ajwdct to receive notifications of new posts and important comments.

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