Dave Hansen | May 1st, 2018

Article by Dave Hansen of ACES – Published in the Cedar Valley Business Monthly, May 2018

On March 22nd the FCC voted in favor of updating the rules that had been creating a major barrier for 5G technology in the United States.  Previous rules had been developed with the 100-foot cell towers in mind when considering rules for the building of wireless networks.

5G (Fifth Generation) wireless technology uses several small “cells” rather than fewer large cellular towers that currently are needed for 3G and 4G wireless networks.  Because of this dramatic difference in the physical infrastructure required to deploy 5G networks, the FCC determined that the current regulations were too restrictive and did not apply to this new technology.

Concerns over impacts on the environment, damage to historic places and general unsightliness of current massive cell towers is not a factor with 5G.  The much smaller cells are about like the size of a pizza box.  There are many, many more cells needed, however, to create an effective network.

With this step, the FCC has cleared the way for wireless providers to begin development of their 5G networks.  The U.S. is racing to lead the way with this service as it is expected to have a huge economic impact on the economy with job creation and increases to the country’s gross domestic product.

Why is 5G such a big deal? Put it this way, I have been living in an underserved area, in terms of internet service, for over 12 years.  I have gone through many different “high-speed” internet options and all have fallen short until recently when our local utility company brought fiber optic internet service to our neighborhood.  It changed our lives in terms of being able to enjoy new technology that all relies on a truly high-speed internet connection within our home.

Many of the businesses in the Cedar Valley have recognized that current internet service options are also not meeting their needs when they want to implement new technology in their operations.  Many internet service providers have been focused on providing faster download speeds because streaming video and music services require more bandwidth to function without delays.  Unfortunately, in business there is often a need for faster upload speeds as well to power technology such as cloud software applications, off-site cloud back-ups and communication technologies like video conferencing.

With this increased demand for faster upload speeds, only the internet providers who have already made large investments in a fiber-based infrastructure are keeping up.  In areas where this has not been done, options are very limited for service that provides fast upload speeds.  There are several companies who are working to build fiber networks, but the cost can be prohibitive to a small or medium business when building the physical network needed to offer this level of service.

All of this could change quickly with the launch of 5G wireless communications.  It is anticipated that 5G will offer connection speeds similar to the fastest fiber-based networks available today.  Advancements have been made in that drastically reduce latency in connections meaning the reliability of 5G will be like nothing we have experienced before from a wireless solution.

5G will also have an impact on how we work.  While 4G wireless technology made steps towards widespread internet connectivity, it still has limitations and drawbacks.  Latency and expensive data usage rates are obstacles that 4G cannot overcome.  Since 5G is built on completely different network communications technology (4G was an enhancement of the existing 3G network), the possibilities seem endless for what can be done with 5G.

The impact of having one of the fastest internet connections available in the palm of your hand will change how we do many things in our daily lives.  Think of it this way – Right now you can stream a video using the 4G connection on your cell phone, but it is not uncommon that there is delay in loading the video and if you stream too much you could end up with an overage charge depending on your data plan.  Not only is the speed of 5G expected rival the fastest fiber connection currently available, but the capacity for handling data is much greater.  This should eliminate data limiting service plans that are needed with current wireless networks to accommodate their customer base.

New technologies that rely on a high-speed internet connection have experienced explosive growth in the past several years.  Smart TVs, mobile devices, security cameras, heating and cooling systems, voice-activated shopping and entertainment services and many others have quickly become a reality when truly high-speed internet connections became available.  The major limitation of all these technologies is the connection speeds needed for the smooth operation of these systems has been localized to a building that had a fiber connection physically installed.  5G will change that by providing Gigabit and better speeds to mobile devices.

The possibilities are endless if you consider how many wired devices could be eliminated with a data connection similar in speed and reliability to a fiber optic connection.  If the promise of 5G service lives up to its hype, the way we communicate, work, play, shop, study and much more will change dramatically.  With the recent steps taken by the FCC, these capabilities are much closer than you may think.  Some service providers expect to begin offering 5G by the end of 2018 and there is a race to be the leader in this industry.  Expect promotional messages to begin in the very near future as huge communications companies begin positioning themselves as the leading provider of 5G services and technological break-troughs.

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