5G can’t get here fast enough, but who will thrive when it does? (Reality Check)

This article originally appeared on RCR Wireless News by Marc Price, CTO Americas, Openet.

It’s no surprise that the future of today’s service providers hangs in the balance. Their role as traditional communications and broadband service providers is constantly challenged and the rise of global internet powerhouses, capitalizing on services that were once their bread and butter, is significantly hampering growth and revenue.

But this shift hasn’t happened overnight. In fact, several factors have culminated in the crossroads that service providers today find themselves at. Indeed, the same factors that directly contributed to operators’ initial commercial success – namely, the digital revolution that made compelling content available and handy, followed by the mobility revolution that made said content available anywhere, anytime – has played a part in the inevitable decline of traditional business models.

The revolution is coming

There’s no doubt that our reliance on smartphones has changed the way we live. This reliance has changed the focus for operators and so the question today is: can they compete in this new landscape? One where the emphasis is no longer around accessing content, but around connecting users with content – something which the likes of Google, Facebook and Netflix have been heavily invested in doing.

Operators have several advantages over the big internet players, namely their direct access to the customer and delivery channels. But they are also lumbered with many obstacles – for one, the massive investment made in legacy technologies means they are slow to move and finding it difficult to change.

However, this isn’t the first time that telecom service providers have had to reinvent themselves, and successfully doing so will determine if telecoms can profit in the age of digital maturity.

One of the most pressing business challenges for modern service providers is to curate quality content for subscribers and effectively monetize third-party platforms in a widening ecosystem that encompasses the IoT and enterprise businesses. To do this successfully, service providers must embrace new technologies and harness the assets they already own.

Cloud technology is essential to this. Cloud-native applications can be scaled independently, dramatically reducing the time and cost needed to deploy new services and business functions. What’s more, the autonomy of these functions means service providers will be better positioned to improve automation, empowered by the use of data.

Data will also play an important part in operators’ transformation. Network traffic for the largest service providers is rapidly increasing, from exabytes to zettabytes of data. This means that billions of events, interactions and content exchanges are recorded each day. No other industry generates and has access to such a wealth of data – but few service providers know how to utilize this information in a way that drives efficiencies and creates new business models.

In the era of 5G, data will be key to service providers’ transformation by allowing them to harness the interactions between users and content, improve the way that content is discovered and accessed, and improve network efficiency around these functions.

Getting to 5G faster

Embracing new technologies and utilizing existing assets is only half the work, however. If service providers are to reap the rewards of their transformation, they must ensure that existing business models are evolved and new systems developed to mirror the alterations that will be made to the Radio Access Network (RAN), the packet core, and the end-user devices with the arrival of 5G.

Cloud-nativity will not only mean greater autonomy but will also enable network applications to be elastically scaled. This allows applications to interact better with non-network systems, such as IT and enterprise solutions through the use of open APIs.

The facility of these interactions will determine the effectiveness of the “new service provider” in embracing new enterprise business models across a wider ecosystem of partners, and coordinating interactions shaped by new data privacy principles applied across a wide range of industries.

Improved coordination between network analytics functions and other functions, such as policy and charging, will enable machine learning and AI to influence and automate actions that can improve service experience, reduce churn, and raise profitability.

Survival of the fittest

If service providers are to compete successfully, they must become global in scale, whether that be through collaboration or reach, to tap into the new revenue streams and market potential.

The reality is that while Internet giants are stealing the limelight, they’re mostly one-trick ponies when it comes to data – selling relevant advertising on the basis of data gathered from users’ behaviour. Operators could be far more efficient in using the data they own, and could drive the creation of new business models, greater costs savings and innovation just by harnessing these datasets.

For service providers, 5G can’t get here fast enough, but it’s only the companies that are capable of transforming themselves that will thrive once it gets here.


Will the US be 5G ready?

This article originally appeared on Brookings by Nicol Turner-Lee.

Commissioner Brendan Carr of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently spoke at Brookings on why the U.S. needs to ramp up its efforts to deploy fifth-generation, or 5G, networks. With expected peak download speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second, 5G networks can download a full-length high-definition movie in seconds. It also has lower latency and greater connectivity to enable specialized tasks and functions, including remote precision medicine, connected cars, and augmented reality. 5G will also enable better end-to-end machine connections, which will drive the burgeoning economy of the “internet of things” (IoT) and related applications.

However, China and South Korea are poised to outpace the U.S. in 5G deployment, according to a recently commissioned study by CTIA.  China, who ranks first in the study’s 5G readiness index, is already eliminating regulatory red tape to expedite deployment and make it easier for industry to access large blocks of higher frequency spectrum bands, which are the airwaves that will enable these next-generation wireless networks. As part of a five-year plan to deploy 5G by 2020, China’s advanced wireless networks are projected to reach 428 million people by 2025, add more than RMB 6.3 trillion into their economy, and create more than eight million jobs. A 5G-ready China will not only be a global leader in product delivery, but also in technical patents, usability testing, and industry certifications.

While the U.S. is rightly no longer considering a similar government-led model, our 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.

So what will it take for the U.S. to be 5G ready, and why is it important for us to beat global competitors who are on an accelerated schedule to roll out this emerging technology?


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 legislationmodernizing 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.

The U.S. just took a key step to making 5G smartphones a reality

This article originally appeared on USA Today by Mike Snider.

It’s completely understandable why you might overlook the news that the Federal Communications Commission will conduct a pair of high-band frequency spectrum auctions later this year.

But if you are among the 77 percent of Americans who own a smartphone or you wish your home broadband speeds were faster, this is an important development.

The two spectrum auctions announced Wednesday by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, planned to begin in November, will help drive innovations in the evolution of 5G.

5G is the next generation of wireless technology, which will succeed current 4G, LTE and 3G networks, and promises to deliver not only super-fast connections for smartphones, but also higher capacity for faster, more robust home broadband networks. That means the potential for speeds 100 times faster than current 4G networks and far lower latency, or better network responsiveness.

Interested in self-driving cars, virtual reality, Amazon delivery drones and other gee-whiz developments? 5G networks are critical for all of that, as well as other remote computing technologies within the growing Internet of Things ecosystem.

“5G has the potential to have an enormously positive impact on American consumers,” Pai said in a statement to USA TODAY. “High-speed, high-capacity wireless connectivity will unleash new innovations to improve our quality of life. It’s the building block to a world where everything that can be connected will be connected – where driverless cars talk to smart transportation networks and where wireless sensors can monitor your health and transmit data to your doctor. That’s a snapshot of what the 5G world will look like.”

Pai announced Wednesday that the FCC will vote in its Aug. 2 meeting to conduct a November 2018 auction of spectrum in the 28 gigahertz band, with a subsequent 24 GHz band auction soon afterwards. He made the announcement in his monthly post on the Medium blog.

These so-called high-band spectrum swaths are necessary for wireless providers and other tech players because, even though they travel shorter distances than other spectrums, they can deliver more data and traffic more quickly. 5G networks will be created using a combination of high-band spectrum, along with low-band and mid-band, which can travel farther but handle less data at slower speeds.

Each of the major wireless carriers has some spectrum it plans to use for 5G trials and deployment. But not much high-band spectrum has been made available up until now, with Verizon holding the most.

AT&T, as well as T-Mobile and Sprint, which are seeking to merge, will be among the players looking to secure spectrum holdings for 5G deployment.

In the second half of 2019, the FCC will hold an additional high-band spectrum auction of the 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands.

The wireless and tech industries have called for the FCC to make high-band spectrum available to spur research and development – and prevent the U.S. from falling behind other countries such as China in the race for 5G.

The U.S. global lead in 4G deployment spurred innovation and development and boosted GDP, says telecom industry analyst Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics. Should the U.S. not maintain global leadership for 5G, “a lot of the innovation, a lot of the development and cutting-edge stuff that was all developed here like Facebook and Google, all these things will happen in China and Japan,” he said.

At its regular monthly meeting Thursday, the FCC will also vote on a proposal to allow 5G use for mid-band spectrum.

But this upcoming series of high-band spectrum auctions, Pai said, will “make it easier to deploy the physical infrastructure that will be critical to the 5G networks of the future, I believe that the United States is well positioned to lead the world in 5G. … The large amount of spectrum that the FCC will make available for commercial use will enable the private sector to bring the next generation of wireless connectivity to American consumers.”

Charting a Course to 5G

This article originally appeared on Government Technology by Adam Stone.

Sacramento, Calif., expects to soon be the first city in the nation with commercially available 5G telecommunications networking. City officials see big promise in the emerging technology. “Smart city stuff, IoT, autonomous vehicles: We will use it for all of those things,” said CIO and IT Director Maria MacGunigal.

Yet MacGunigal isn’t primarily focused on the whiz-bang municipal impact of 5G. “The use cases will change 100 times,” she predicted. “What we do know is that we will need the infrastructure, so we want to build it and build it well. The infrastructure is what needs to be strong.”

Nationwide, IT leaders in state and local government are following a similar trajectory. They’re stoking enthusiasm for the promise of 5G: a bigger, faster, more reliable network built to empower a coming wave of connected-everything. At the same time, they’re taking a sober look at infrastructure requirements, seeking a path forward that is financially viable and technically feasible.


Along with increased bandwidth, 5G networks promise speed and reliability, with network latency reduced from about 50 milliseconds to one. Because 5G would operate in the high-frequency spectrum, between 30 GHz and 300 GHz, signal would travel across hundreds or thousands of small cells, often attached to telephone poles and light posts, rather than relying on dozens of big cell towers.

As described in IEEE Spectrum, small cells would be placed every 250 meters across a city, forming a dense urban network for efficient, uninterrupted signal relay. “This radically different network structure should provide more targeted and efficient use of spectrum,” IEEE predicts. Traffic-signaling techniques such as “beamforming” (which concentrates Wi-Fi signals to improve signal strength) could identify the most efficient route for data delivery, reducing interference and bolstering network efficiency.

All these technical enhancements could open up a range of game-changing use cases for municipal IT leaders.

In a world of connected devices, 5G’s speed, bandwidth and super-low latency could help shape vehicle traffic flow in real time. It could enable interconnected sensors to report on the status of infrastructure elements, or leverage the full potential of real-time video in emergencies. “As we move to the IoT area, anything that has streaming video or large amounts of data transfer will benefit from 5G,” said San Jose, Calif., Chief Innovation Officer Shireen Santosham.

She’s especially excited about the potential to ensure the safety of self-driving cars. “We are in the heart of Silicon Valley and we have many of the autonomous vehicle companies here,” said Santosham. “5G can be very useful to them in terms of vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity.”

Unlike previous telecom networking schemes, the 5G specs were drawn up with connected devices as a prime consideration. This means, for example, that the network is optimized to prolong the battery life of IoT devices, which could be a boon for municipal IT executives looking to roll out smart city solutions. “If you are a municipality trying to deploy sensors and you don’t want to change batteries more than every five or 10 years, then power consumption becomes important,” said Dileep Srihari, senior policy counsel and director of government affairs for the Telecommunications Industry Association.

The power-management standards are part of a bigger picture. Unlike previous iterations, the 5G network has standards — for example, around network security. “There has been a lot more thought put into this than has happened before,” Srihari said. “Consumers might not draw on this so much, but for state and local government, this becomes extremely important.”

A standards-based approach gives state and local government some assurance that their 5G investments will lead them in the right direction. “In 2G and 3G, you couldn’t forecast what the carriers were going to do, you couldn’t know whether future networks would be affordable or stable. 5G stabilizes your business decisions. For the first time the carriers have laid out a road map, giving a clear forward-looking view,” said Scott Nelson, chief product officer and vice president of Product at IoT provider Digi International. “Having standards means you can reduce cost and increase flexibility.”

All this sounds promising: Standards help deliver more bandwidth, more stability, as well as the promise of real-time communication across a broad spectrum of connected devices. That’s 5G in a nutshell, and while municipal IT chiefs are excited about the potential, they acknowledge that getting there may still be a long and winding road.


In Oakland County, Mich., Deputy County Executive and CIO Phil Bertolini echoes a sentiment shared by many in government IT. He likes 5G in principle, but he’s looking for the catch. “We have legacy equipment, so the question becomes: What happens to that equipment and is it capable of running 5G? Will we have to change out all our devices? We have police with mobile networks in their cars, and what happens to that under 5G? Those are all unknowns,” he said.

If the unknowns are worrisome, so are some of the knowns. Various estimates put the cost of 5G upgrades at $200 billion a year in the short term; a Deloitte study suggests at least $130 billion in new fiber-optic cabling will have to be deployed to support the network. While carriers will likely foot the bill for much of the needed research and development, as well as for hardware deployments, local government still will have to find its way through a new and largely uncharted telecom territory. Much hinges on those “small cells,” the hundreds or thousands of base units that will form the core of the 5G network on the ground.

“Municipalities need to understand the business case that will be needed to get the carriers to make the commitment. The cost structure for a million small cells is very different from the cost structure around a cell tower,” said Tejas Rao, managing director and global 5G offering lead for Accenture’s network practice.

That means cities must rethink the rules of engagement they apply when negotiating with carriers over right of way and access to critical assets like lampposts and stoplights. “The fees associated with permitting, the rental fees associated with being on that pole — all that will have to be drastically different,” Rao said.

This is a potential minefield, made more complicated by the Federal Communications Commission’s recent efforts to tilt the tables in favor of the carriers. In March the FCC voted to loosen regulations, effectively making it easier for operators to deploy small cell infrastructure. The commission removed federal oversight of small cells outlined in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and nullified certain required environmental assessments.

The changes don’t override state and local regulations, but they are indicative of what some see as a contentious environment, with carriers seeking unfettered access to deploy small cells and cities grasping to maintain control of their local assets.

Still other potential pitfalls loom. Take, for instance, the need for backhaul, some kind of fiber connectivity to link together those thousands of small cells. “If you are going to be running fiber to all those small cells, then a big part of the city’s role is about permitting, managing the public right of way,” Srihari said. “Digging up roads is really expensive. Our association advocates a policy of ‘dig once.’ Whenever a road is being dug up, there should be a conversation with the local broadband providers to talk about maybe putting in a piece of pipe today while we’re digging that will save everyone on costs further down the road.”


AT&T has said it will seek an early rollout of 5G capabilities in Dallas and Waco, Texas, two cities with which it has close ties. Waco already has a 5G pilot underway and retail availability should come around by the end of 2018. Officials in Spokane Valley, Wash., have said they will write small cell installation agreements with Verizon, Mobilitie and MCI Telecom. They’re updating city code to allow for implementation of this key piece of 5G infrastructure. San Jose officials approved a deal with AT&T in May to deploy about 200 small cells on city light poles, and Santosham said the city is likely one to two years away from a 5G deployment. In order to get there, the city must get some of its own assets in order.

“Deployment of 5G small cells will be predominantly on streetlight infrastructure, so there need to be upgrades to that including electronic upgrades, mapping of that infrastructure, training for the Public Works Department on how to work with the new technology,” she said. “There is also a conversation about where in the city we will deploy small cells and what the coverage is going to look like. We want to balance access across the city so we get 5G to all our neighborhoods and not just in the wealthier neighborhoods.”

In Sacramento, those conversations have been going on for some time, largely between the city and its 5G partner, Verizon. The city expects to deploy 5G as early as this summer, thanks in part to diligent legwork by municipal authorities.

Knowing 5G would require a dense distribution of small cells, officials undertook a wireless master plan that calls for a broad rollout of radio sites and supporting infrastructure. In June 2017, the city inked a deal giving Verizon access to 101 utility poles and promising expedited permitting. In exchange, the company agreed to establish 5G infrastructure throughout the city and install free Wi-Fi at 27 parks, investing $150 million overall in the 5G effort.

While other carriers can compete to enter the 5G market in Sacramento, the city’s strategic partnership with Verizon clearly was key to its rapid adoption timetable. “They are building out the fiber-optic network and we get a piece of some of that, with things like connected intersections. They also provide us smart city solutions,” MacGunigal said. “In return, we provide them with reduced or deferred lease rates for streetlight attachments and a streamlined development process.”

Looking ahead, many see this cooperative approach as a key element in future municipal 5G implementations. Where some describe a competitive situation — with carriers and cities vying for control of key assets — others say that a spirit of cooperation will likely yield better results for all concerned.


As Sacramento’s partner on the telecom side, Verizon says it is equally invested in the cooperation narrative. The company sees an opportunity to partner with cities in helping them achieve some of their objectives with the deployment of smart community solutions, while also deploying the backbone that’s required for a whole array of added solutions that will benefit from 5G in the future, according to Sean Harrington, Verizon’s vice president of City Solutions.

Harrington acknowledges that cities and carriers don’t always start out on the same page: In his view, municipalities may over-rate the commercial value of their lampposts. But he also talks up the value of honest dialog around these issues.

“Some cities may have higher expectations around what they think the value is of the assets that they have, and we want to take those expectations into account, while also thinking about the realities of our business,” he said. “It really is a partnership: Here are our objectives, tell us your objectives. We have a bunch of tools in our toolkit. Let’s put those pieces together.”

Some telecom industry advocates go a step further, urging cities to rein in their ambitions. “People should be focused on reasonable cost recovery. If you are talking $6,000 or $10,000 fees to put one small cell on one lamppost, that’s not reasonable. And we have seen that: There are all sorts of crazy practices,” Srihari said. “The industry is very concerned about this. There is no opposition to reasonable cost recovery, but we do need to change the paradigm to recognize that these are not gigantic towers. If you charge these kinds of fees you will slow down deployment. Carriers won’t want to come.”

Santosham sees plenty of room for compromise. “There is a narrative in the space right now that says cities are the problem and are getting in the way of deployment because of overly burdensome regulations. The reality is, I don’t know a city that doesn’t want broadband,” she said. “They really want this technology and are looking for ways to work with the carriers. There is mutual interest here,” she said. “Our role in government is to make sure we get those deployments in a way that is equitable and in the best interests of our residents.”

It isn’t all about the money, either. In the run-up to 5G, IT leaders must think not just about the monetization of lampposts, but also about more fundamental infrastructure questions, and some in government say they are waiting for industry to take the lead.

The state of Georgia has sent out feelers around 5G, with a couple of legislative efforts to streamline permitting. But IT officials there say they need technical guidance from the carriers in order to move forward.

“From a technology point of view, our philosophy is to lean heavily on the private sector to bring a solution. We look to our partners: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and Southern Linc. 5G will show up when they say it is ready,” said the state’s Chief Technology Officer Steve Nichols. “At the moment we don’t have a real technology strategy. Other than telling us how great it’s going to be, they haven’t shared with us any concrete road maps.”

As IT executives wait for those new models to emerge, they can still lay the groundwork for 5G by considering internal issues.

“You need to look at your processes about how you want to lease, what your design standards are, how you will provide electricity. All those things are really important,” Sacramento’s MacGunigal said. “We have more than 40,000 streetlights but only 9,000 are appropriate for attachment, so you need to have a really good asset inventory in order to understand that.”

With that asset inventory in hand, it may be possible to find ways to leverage carrier investments for maximum municipal benefits. In simple terms, cities may want to hang sensors on those same lampposts where carriers want to install small cells.

“It’s a business model that benefits both the municipality and the carrier,” said Brenda Connor, head of Smart Cities and Intelligent Transport Systems for Ericsson. The same logic works when it comes to laying fiber. “If cities are digging ditches to upgrade water and sewer, maybe you think about growing some fiber down there. It’s about having a combined consideration.”

Civic technology leaders should be using this time in the run-up to 5G to look at the big picture. With a major infrastructure overhaul looming, it certainly makes sense to ponder finances and also take a deep look into processes around such things as permitting and inspections. Underlying these considerations, though, is a deeper discussion about how 5G’s capabilities will be used, by whom, and for what.

“Cities first need to understand what services and solutions they could leverage to make it worth their opening up these assets,” Rao said. “They need to look at their communities and the services they are already using. That data could help them to make smarter decisions in terms of the deployment and also the services that might be offered.”

Thune, Schatz Introduce Small Cell Siting Bill

This article originally appeared on Wireless Week by Andy Szal.

Wireless industry groups this week hailed introduction of bipartisan legislation they said would enable faster deployments of small cellular infrastructure.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, on Thursday introducedthe STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii and ranking member of its communications subcommittee.

Text of the legislation was not immediately available on the congressional database, but Politico reportsthat it would require state, local and tribal jurisdictions to make decisions on small cell applications within 60 to 90 days. If no determination is made, the application would be automatically approved.

The measure would also require fees charged by municipalities to reflect the actual costs to local governments, and would direct the Government Accountability Office to evaluate barriers to broadband deployment on tribal lands.

Although small cells are a tiny fraction of the size of conventional cell towers, they will need to be deployed in far greater numbers to enable 5G networks. Industry officials particularly complained about lengthy and costly review and approval processes at the state and local government level.

“Small cells are the technology of tomorrow, but unfortunately, there are lots of barriers that prevent them from being rolled-out on a broader scale,” Competitive Carriers Association President and CEO Steven Berry said in a statement. “This bill helps reduce these barriers, in part by putting reasonable processes and timelines in place for small cell applications.”

CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker added that the Thune-Schatz legislation would accelerate “deployment of next-generation wireless infrastructure while preserving local authority.”

The Federal Communications Commission earlier this year curbed federal oversight of small cells, and commissioners are likely to move forward with an effort to ease state and local regulations in coming months.

The Wireless Race the United States Must Win .

This article originally appeared on CTIA by Meredith Attwell Baker.

Countries around the world are vying for leadership in the next-generation of wireless, 5G. New research ranks China narrowly ahead of South Korea and the United States as the most 5G-ready nation.

We should all take note because continuing to leading the world in wireless matters, and this global race has true economic consequence for all Americans. We know this because the U.S. won the race to 4G, which drove a nearly $100 billion increase to our economy, spurred new jobs, and created new industries, like the app economy.

On the other side of the coin, we see what happened when wireless leadership was lost in Europe and Japan, which previously led the world in wireless. At their height, they were respectively home to the world’s leading handset, mobile internet service and telecom hardware and software industries.

The European Commission now concedes that, “we had 80 percent of the market in 2008 and because we were not ready for 4G mass deployment, the EU industry lost almost its entire market share for mobile phones.” Despite efforts to reverse those negative trends for 5G, the study reveals European nations still significantly trail in the 5G race, clear evidence of the long-lasting consequences of losing wireless leadership.

Read the rest of Meredith’s op-ed, here.

CTIA to FCC: Move forward on 3.5 GHz to ensure U.S. wins race to 5G

This article originally appeared on Fierce Wirless by Monica Alleven.

Low-band spectrum, check. High-band spectrum, check. Midband spectrum, not quite yet. But CTIA is urging the FCC to move forward in July on both the 3.5 GHz and the 3.7-4.2 GHz bands to ensure the United States wins the global race to 5G.

CTIA always has lobbied for more spectrum for the mobile industry, but its voice is taking on renewed urgency as the rest of the world moves ahead in the 3.5 GHz space in particular. In the U.S., the FCC set up a unique sharing model for the 3.5 GHz band, also known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band. It’s the licensed portion of the 3.5 GHz band that has been the subject of much debate in the U.S.

In a May 30 letter to the FCC, CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker spells out all the reasons the FCC needs to step up efforts to get 3.5 GHz into the market. Citing an Analysys Mason study, she said the U.S. ranks only sixth out of 10 countries studied with respect to mid-band spectrum availability, and other nations around the world are accelerating 5G deployment by streamlining access to mid-band spectrum.

South Korea announced plans to auction 3.5 GHz spectrum in June, and Japan committed to release spectrum in the 3.6-4.2 GHz range by March 2019, she noted. China already released 100 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz range to each of its national operators, which are deploying early 5G gear for tests in multiple cities.

“Notably, the standards for 5G terminals and base stations in the 3.5 GHz band are being finalized now, and the world is marching toward deployment this year,” Attwell Baker wrote. “That is why it is imperative that the Commission act quickly to make additional mid-band spectrum available for wireless use and set a clear schedule of future spectrum auctions.”

Of course, there are myriad stakeholders that want the rules for the 3.5 GHz CBRS band to go their way, and CTIA is among them. The association reached a compromise with the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) this spring that accommodates smaller geographic license areas based on counties and Cellular Market Areas (CMAs), but it’s adamantly opposed to using census tracts, which it says would materially inhibit 5G deployment and preclude full-power operation in some instances. Other groups are pushing for census tracts and/or more smaller licensed areas.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he’s ready to put a 3.7-4.2 GHz band item on the FCC’s July agenda, so that’s moving forward. If indeed the chairman were to add the 3.5 GHz band to the agenda, it would make it a potentially banner month for mid-band.

In rural America, digital divide slows a vital path for telemedicine

This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe by Newton N. Minow and Ajit Pai.

KENTUCKY’S ALLEN COUNTY has 20,000 residents. Its school system serves about 3,100 students — but it has no pediatrician. The nearest one is 28 miles away. For years, when a child in the county seat of Scottsville became sick in school, parents and teachers didn’t have any good options.

But that’s now changed because of high-speed Internet access. Thanks to a digital connection between Allen County and Vanderbilt University’s Children’s Hospital in Tennessee, students in Scottsville simply walk to the school nurse’s office to see a top-notch pediatrician. Doctors can see their faraway patients on a screen, and parents can check in using an app. Everyone wins: Kids are healthier, parents don’t have to take time off work, teachers can focus on teaching, doctors can extend their expertise, and Scottsville is a stronger community.

This story illustrates that telemedicine — the delivery of health care services using communications technology — can be a critical tool for making Americans healthier. A concerted push to seize the untapped potential of telemedicine could help us tackle today’s health challenges.

Telemedicine has progressed quite a bit in recent years, and health care facilities have led the way. Today, the Cleveland Clinic deploys a mobile stroke unit with advanced wireless capability in order to assess and stabilize a patient 38 minutes more quickly than before (vital, since a stroke victim loses 2 million brain cells a minute). A hospital in rural Virginia uses technology to remotely monitor patients who’ve left the hospital, dramatically reducing sepsis. The Mayo Clinic serves more than 45 hospitals across nine states with an emergency telemedicine practice.

Telemedicine also can help address urgent public health challenges. For instance, the White House’s November report on combating the opioid epidemic highlights telemedicine as an integral part of the solution, especially for rural areas with limited access to health services. Telemedicine can connect opioid patients to caregivers when there is no other option. And wearable biosensors can detect real-time drug use and alert a family member or first responder to intervene.

Telemedicine also can empower patients directly. People with diabetes can now use digital tools to monitor blood-glucose levels. Simple smartphone apps can serve as behavioral coaches, which can have a huge impact, considering that an estimated 125,000 deaths a year result from patients failing to take prescribed medications.

While the benefits of digital health care are clear, we’ve been too slow to embrace its potential. According to a recent white paper, fewer than one in five Americans regularly benefit from telehealth services. It’s time we integrated communications technology into our health care system just as fully as we have in other parts of our lives.

The most crucial step in seizing the opportunities of digital medicine is making sure that every community has high-speed Internet access. More than 24 million Americans don’t even have the option of subscribing to home broadband service at the baseline speeds required for high-bandwidth applications such as telemedicine. Those who stand to benefit most from telemedicine disproportionately find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. Roughly 30 percent of rural Americans lack access to high-speed wireline broadband. (This exacerbates the fact that it’s harder than ever to attract physicians to practice in rural communities.)

The Federal Communications Commission plays a leading role in closing the digital divide. Currently, it’s finalizing a $2 billion plan to spur fixed broadband access and a $4.5 billion plan to promote mobile broadband, all in unserved areas. The FCC also operates a Rural Health Care program that offers $400 million a year to help health care providers afford connectivity. Demand for this funding exceeds the spending cap, and the agency is exploring whether to increase the size of the program and how to ensure that every dollar is stretched as far as possible. Meanwhile, the FCC’s Connect2Health Task Force is collaborating with the National Cancer Institute to study how broadband can improve cancer care for patients in struggling parts of Appalachia.

In addition to connectivity challenges, regulatory barriers holding back telehealth deserve examination. For example, the law currently requires an in-person medical evaluation prior to the prescription of a controlled substance. Relatedly, state licensing requirements can impede telehealth providers from treating patients across state lines — a problem interstate licensing reciprocity would overcome. The Federation of State Medical Boards is trying to work out licensure arrangements for this sort of interstate practice.

Extending Scottsville’s story to every part of America will be a challenge. But that’s no reason to relent. Both of us have different perspectives and may disagree on many issues and policies at the FCC. But on the importance of developing telemedicine, we share the same determination to move forward. Recent advances in communications technology could enable millions of Americans to live healthier, longer lives. Achieving that result requires forward-thinking policies on telemedicine. We’re firmly committed to helping America adopt those policies and bringing our health care system more fully into the digital age. As President Kennedy said, we “refuse to see this country, and all of us, shrink from these struggles which are our responsibility in our time.”

Newton N. Minow served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 1961 to 1963. Ajit Pai has served in that position since 2017.

How the Industrial Internet of Things Is Changing the Face of Manufacturing

This article originally appeared on The Institute by Kathy Pretz.

New networks could reduce maintenance costs and make workplaces safer

Manufacturing is undergoing a digital revolution. All types of machinery—old and new—is being embedded with sensors, switches, and intelligent controls to generate data and send it over the Internet, all in the service of making factories smarter. It’s the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

A huge amount of useful data is trapped in factory-floor machines. If captured, the data could be applied to improve operations, reduce costs, and make for a safer workplace. The ability to predict when a machine needs servicing instead of waiting until it breaks down, for example, could reduce overall maintenance costs by about 30 percent, and also could lead to nearly 70 percent fewer breakdowns, according to an IIoT report from Accenture, a global management consulting company.

“The idea behind IIoT is to connect independent things—machines, robots, and humans—and use that intelligence to get much more value from them together than you can individually,” says IEEE Member Anurag Garg, founder of Dattus, in Indianapolis, a company that helps manufacturing facilitiescollect, manage, visualize, and analyze data from disparate sources.

“Data from the machines is there for the taking because new technologies are able to capture it,” says Senior Member David Durocher, global industry manager for mining, metals, and minerals at Eaton, in Cleveland. The power management company provides energy-efficient solutions that help its customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power more efficiently, safely, and sustainably. The company’s products include intelligent power solutions like smart equipment and components. “The data and analytics around the electronics in the equipment is helping not only to solve problems in the electrical space but also of entire systems.” Durocher is the 2018 IEEE Division II delegate-elect/director-elect.


Attempts to make factories more intelligent are nothing new. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems have been on factory floors for years. Through networked data communications and graphical user interfaces, they gather data on the processes, send it to computers, and issue commands to connected devices. But SCADA systems don’t “talk” to other systems, like logistics or production, nor is the data that SCADAs generate analyzed in any meaningful way.

“Most people think the IIoT is the sensors and data on the SCADA dashboard, but that’s just scratching the surface,” Garg says. “The value of IIoT comes from what you do with that data.”

Imagine an autonomous assembly line that can automatically reconfigure itself to produce products in small batches because it can be connected to other systems that include sales, inventory, and delivery.

“Companies have always had access to the data, but they had to develop the software to give the data value. That took a lot of time and testing,” says Robert Fenton, a product line manager at an Eaton facility in Milwaukee. Fenton also helps set up IIoT systems for the company’s customers. “In the long term the programs were a good idea,” he says, “but in the short term, factory owners just wanted to get their processes up and running.”


The cost to have a large service provider such as General Electric or Siemens install an IIoT system can run into hundreds of thousands if not millions of U.S. dollars. But a startup like Dattus handles smaller installations and charges much less. Manufacturers can also retrofit their equipment themselves with smart sensors and components, or they can buy machines with such features built in.

Eaton, for example, offers on-line partial-discharge sensors that continuously monitor the insulation integrity of medium-voltage equipment so as to identify low-level capacitive discharge activity prior to insulation failure.Similarly, new protective relays on large machines use algorithms to measure high-frequency motor-current signatures to detect cracked or broken rotor bars, firing off an alert before there’s a mechanical failure. What’s more, industrial motor control centers now come equipped with intelligent motor management relays and human-machine interface dashboards. The idea is to optimize productivity by communicating data about system health for plant-wide process control and maintenance.

The return on investment in the smart devices comes from operational efficiencies and workplace safety. Fenton points out, for example, that a smart device in a remote pumping station can alert the maintenance staff when there’s a problem. That eliminates the need for a worker to routinely drive to each location to check on the machines, he says.

Workplace safety is also enhanced, Durocher says. For example, sophisticated motor protection and management relays can reduce the risk of an electrician being exposed to arc flash. That’s because the worker no longer must manually connect instruments to measure power. An arc flash occurs when the insulation or isolation between electrified conductors is no longer sufficient to withstand the voltage between them. A flash can injure anyone too near the equipment.

Is 5G the Magic Bullet for Rural Internet Access?

This article originally appeared on MeriTalk.

The Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet took a deep dive look at the future of broadband in the United States during a hearing on Tuesday.

“To make next-generation broadband a reality and position the United States so it can win the global race to 5G, we should modernize outdated rules that delay and add unnecessary costs to broadband infrastructure deployment,” said subcommittee Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

5G, the latest and greatest in wireless technology, is the cream of the crop–providing faster and more reliable connections on devices than ever before. The downside? 5G requires different hardware installation to deliver that level of speed and reliability, putting it out of reach for some underserved, rural communities.

“We can all agree consumers living in rural America deserve exactly the same digital opportunities as those citizens living in urban areas,” said Robert DeBroux, director of Federal Affairs and Public Policy at TDS Telecommunications. “How we close the digital divide and what steps Congress can take in the short and long-term deserve policymakers’ full attention and commitment.”

During Tuesday’s hearing, while everyone in attendance agreed with DeBroux’s sentiments, the debate on bridging the broadband gap is almost 20 years old and how to successfully address the issue remains a point of contention for industry and policymakers alike.

For Wicker, bridging the gap doesn’t just mean building more towers; it means collecting better broadband data.

“This process [of increasing broadband infrastructure deployment in rural areas] should start with collecting standardized and accurate data about where reliable fixed and mobile broadband already exists and where it does not–both in Mississippi and around the country,” Wicker said. “This is critical to delivering broadband to rural communities that lack service, whether that be through infrastructure legislation or existing federal programs like Phase II of the Mobility Fund. Inaccurate information of where broadband exists will only exacerbate the digital divide and leave millions of rural Americans further behind.”

Industry leaders agreed that accurate data is necessary.

“You cannot manage what you cannot measure,” said Steven Berry, president & CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association. “Moving forward, it is critical to accurately measure the extent of unserved and underserved areas across the United States to implement practical, useful solutions to expand mobile broadband service to all consumers.”

The Promise of 5G

While Feds are interested in expanding 4G and LTE access, there is heavy industry focus on 5G. Brad Gillen, executive vice president of CTIA, a broadband industry group, explained that 5G networks are expected to be up to 100 times faster than 4G networks, connect 100 times the number of devices, and respond five times as quickly. Plus, the small, pizza box-sized cells are far easier to deploy than large towers.

During the hearing, broadband industry groups sought to persuade Congress to invest in 5G and rework current regulations to make deployment easier. When it came to whether broadband can help connect rural and underserved urban areas, however, there was some disagreement.

Industry groups believe that 5G has the capacity to improve broadband access in underserved rural areas.

“5G will absolutely benefit rural America,” Gillen said. “It will start in the denser parts, as any technology does, like college campuses.”

As part of his testimony, Berry discussed 5G Internet of Things (IoT) narrowband technology as a possible solution for rural Internet access. Because the narrowband technology can reach 10 times further than existing LTE technology, Berry explained that the technology would prove both useful and cost-effective in bringing access to rural areas.

Gillen also tied back to his earlier calls for reforming outdated regulations as an important part of deploying 5G in rural communities.

“We are equally confident that reforms can help the industry expand wireless coverage throughout the country, particularly in rural areas,” he said.

Limitations of 5G

While industry leaders seemed confident in 5G’s potential impact in rural areas, government leaders expressed concern.

“It’s entirely possible that I don’t understand how 5G works,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., humorously admitted during the hearing. “But from what I do understand, it seems likely that 5G would be even more slowly implemented in rural America than what we’re doing now.”

While Gary Resnick, Mayor of Wilton Manors, Fla. saw 5G’s potential in urban areas, he remained unconvinced about the benefits for rural areas.

“While wireless providers have touted the potential of 5G, it is important to keep in mind the realities of prospective 5G networks, and the limitations of the technology,” Resnick said. “5G deployment will not be a panacea for digital inequity in the United States, particularly in rural areas. 5G, which is still being standardized, necessitates the buildout of hundreds of thousands of small cell sites because the portion of the spectrum it uses cannot travel very far. This makes them great tools for densifying downtown networks and event venues, but terrible tools for covering sparsely populated, far-flung communities.”

Michael Romano, senior vice president of Industry Affairs & Business Development at NTCA, a rural broadband industry group, agreed that 5G isn’t a silver bullet for unconnected Americans.

“It is important to take realistic stock of whether, when, and to what degree 5G services will be available on a widespread basis in rural America,” said Romano. “A technical paper released last year found that the full promise of 5G capability can only be realized in rural America if small cells are placed every several hundred feet apart, and it will take significant amounts of backhaul capacity–‘densification’ of fiber–to manage the data loads that 5G is hoping to handle.”

The Race to 5G

In the push to the finish line, industry agreed that current regulations–written when deploying broadband meant building large towers and not attaching small cells to the side of a building–are a sticking point for advancing 5G.

Berry specifically called out spectrum auctions–when the FCC auctions licenses to transmit signals over specific bands of the electromagnetic spectrum–as a regulatory area that needs reworking in light of the push to 5G.

“While other nations are moving forward with spectrum auctions, particularly to support 5G services, it is critical that the United States does not fall behind,” Berry said. “Congress must authorize this change in the auction process and encourage the FCC to auction all bands suitable for mobile broadband use as soon as possible, and the FCC should move forward with a proceeding to begin the auction process.”

“Massive private investment from the national providers and regional carriers will be unleashed in the United States if the government modernizes its approach to infrastructure siting this year,” Gillen said. “We are confident that, with this subcommittee’s continued leadership, we can win the global race to 5G–as we did for 4G.”

At the end of the day, a few things are clear. 5G wireless broadband will provide better, faster connections–and better data management–for many underserved areas across the country. But, regulatory overhaul is required so small cell technology can flourish beyond urban areas. While covering sparsely populated areas that account for large tracts of the country is still desperately needed, the debate on how to do it efficiently is far from over. Industry leaders are confident, but government officials seem unconvinced. Here’s hoping the issue moves at the speed of 5G so rural Americans aren’t left unconnected for much longer.