5G Is on the Horizon, Can the U.S. Capitalize?

November 21, 2017

7:15 am

Not only will 5G wireless networks offer the faster mobile internet speeds we’re all looking for, but it’s the infrastructure needed to support some of the most innovative technologies of recent years including driverless cars, augmented reality and smart homes.

5G simply means “fifth generation”, and while the new mobile network standard is currently undefined by the global mobile standards body 3GPP, many parts of the technologies needed to bring about the next generation network are starting to come together.

Qualcomm recently announced details of establishing their first 5G mobile connection, offering speeds of 1Gbps, but others are also working their own 5G connections.

Current 4G mobile networks operate on sub-6GHz frequencies, but increased use is making this frequency range too busy to allow much faster connections. 5G aims to make use of frequencies between 28GHz and 39GHz. While there are benefits to using these frequencies the signal also deteriorates quickly, so underlying infrastructure, i.e. fiber broadband, is even more important.

Economic Benefits

There’s good reason to be excited about 5G. The new technology could boost the economy by billions of dollars and make many of the most innovative technologies and business models a reality. Owning the intellectual property behind 5G could grant the U.S. even greater global influence, especially important at a time when China is trying to do the same.

The U.S. led the way with 4G technology, and global mobile data grew twenty-fold as a result. The GDP was boosted by an estimated $151 billion and it created up to 700,000 jobs.

Fiber

Unfortunately, the U.S. isn’t making the most of 5G. While it’s unclear exactly what 5G will be, it’s almost certain to require improvement to the country’s current internet infrastructure. The U.S. doesn’t have sufficient fiber to maintain such a network or accommodate expected rises in data traffic. The U.S. needs more investment in “deep fiber” to capitalize on new wireless technology.

This could also bring about improved competition in the broadband market. Currently, just 39 percent of households have access to more than one broadband provider offering speeds of 25Mbps or more. Fiber rollout could mean more choice and better deals for consumers.

It’s estimated that hundreds of billions of dollars of investment is needed to support deep fiber broadband development, but it also requires will. Restrictions and red tape at federal and state level could impede the timely development of deep fiber broadband necessary to facilitate 5G wireless networks any time soon.

Read more about mobile trends on TechCo 

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Sarah Willis is a freelance writer who cover subject relating to finance, business and technology.

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