The race to 5G; Arizona leading the way

The next-generation wireless network, 5G, is fast-approaching. Countries are racing to be the first with national 5G data, and Arizona is helping advance the United States.

According to “the voice of America’s wireless industry,” CTIA, the next-generation 5G network will be one hundred times faster than 4G, will connect one hundred times more devices and be five times more responsive.

Arizona is a key leader in advancing the technology. Last year, Arizona State Representative Jeff Weninger sponsored Arizona House Bill 2365, which allows wireless carriers to install, operate and maintain small cell equipment in city and town rights-of-way. Governor Doug Ducey signed the bill into law on March 31, 2017.

“What this means for our businesses is that they can be more productive, handle bigger projects, and develop complementary technology to grow and expand. I think what this signals to the country is that we’re ready for business here in Arizona,” said Rep. Weninger.

In December 2017, Gilbert became the first community in the state to fully implement a streamlined program that permitted small wireless facilities in municipal rights-of-way, allowing wireless companies to install small cell infrastructure on street lights, traffic signals and other utility poles.

“Gilbert is the first community in Arizona and, very likely, in the country to fully implement a small cell technology program like this,” Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels said in a statement. “This is a critical step in preparing our community for future jobs and technologies and will help us tremendously as Gilbert continues to grow.”

In August, Mayor Daniels was awarded CTIA’s first 5G Wireless Champion Award for being the first community in Arizona to “streamline the ability of wireless companies to deploy small cells, the infrastructure for next-generation 5G wireless network.”

“Mayor Daniels has built a successful record bringing investment and opportunity to Gilbert,” Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO of CTIA said in the press release. “As one of the first communities in America to streamline rules for small cells, Gilbert will benefit from increased economic and job growth, as well as the innovations that 5G will deliver.”

On Sept. 14, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Brendan Carr, joined Mayor Daniels and Rep. Weninger to discuss the smart infrastructure policies the town and state have implemented to pave the way for next-gen connectivity.

According to Carr, “the story of Gilbert really is a microcosm for what we want to see in communities across the country.”

To Mayor Daniels this is more than just a technology advancement, it’s a way to connect with her constituents.

“We’re thinking often about how we can connect our citizens both to each other and our local government. It builds trust, it creates an opportunity and environment for economic development to thrive,” she said.

5G is expected to bring a range of economic and social benefits that enable a variety of smart city innovations, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, etc.

“The economic opportunity that has arisen from tech innovation is amazing,” Carr said.  “It’s estimated $140 billion have flown to U.S. based companies [because] the U.S. led the world when it came to the deployment of 4G networks… 5G is going to be like that but on another scale. We’re in a global race to move to 5G and the country that wins that race is going to have economic dominance for the next decade.”

CTIA reports the wireless industry supports more than 4.7 million jobs and annually contributes $475 billion to the American economy. They anticipate 5G will lead to three million new jobs, $275 billion in new investments, and $500 billion in economic growth.

In Gilbert, this next-generation technology is expected to bring $200 million in community investments, more than 2,000 new jobs, and add $369 million to the economy.

The FCC is set to vote on Carr’s proposed 5G order this month. The order would cut costs and streamline approval periods for small cells nationwide. It is estimated to cut $2 billion in unnecessary fees, stimulate $2.4 billion in additional small cell deployments – with 97 percent of the next-gen coverage going to rural and suburban communities – and create more than 27,000 jobs.

Emily Richardson

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