On 26 September 2018, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on an order that members of the Commission believe will help pave the way for deployment of the small cell technology that supports 5G technology.
5G refers to a next generation wireless technology that promises to deliver wireless communications at faster speeds with increased data capacity. Writing for TechTarget.com, Margaret Rouse describes 5G as a technology that could provide data traffic speeds of 20 gigabits per second while enabling increases in the amount of data transmitted due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.
“In addition to improvements in speed, capacity and latency, 5G offers network management features, among them network slicing, which allows mobile operators to create multiple virtual networks within a single physical 5G network. This capability will enable wireless network connections to support specific uses or business cases and could be sold on an as-a-service basis.” — Margaret Rouse
Unlike current 4G Long Term Evolution wireless technology that relies on the deployment of large cell towers, 5G depends on the deployment of small cell antenna sites that are placed on utility poles or rooftops. 5G is designed to operate in frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz allowing for greater data capacity but over shorter distances.
Commissioner Brendan Carr has been given credit for driving the development and release of this order. Mr. Carr has been traveling the United States advocating for streamlined regulations that in turn would facilitate deployment of 5G technology. Mr. Carr sees local and state regulations for cell tower and other facility siting as an issue and is making the argument that Sections 253 and 332(c)(7) of the Communications Act of 1934 can be leveraged to make local and state regulations less adverse to 5G deployment.
Under Section 253 of the Communications Act, the Commission may preempt any local or state statute or regulation that prohibits an entity from providing intrastate or interstate telecommunications services. States and localities can regulate telecom companies in order to preserve universal service, protect the public safety and welfare, and manage public rights-of-way. Section 332(c)(7) maintains a state or local government’s authority over decisions regarding placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless facilities.
Mr. Carr argues that the order will generate $2 billion in cost savings for the wireless industry while generating an additional $2.4 billion in wireless investment. Actual deployment is still nascent with expectations as to what 5G can do versus what it is actually doing. Phones using 5G standards, according to Ms. Rouse’s article, are expected in 2019. Cities are still constructing their blueprints for reconciling their smart city concepts and the “internet of things” with 5G expectations. It may not be until 2030 that 5G becomes commonplace.