US Innovation Depends on 5G Buildout

Federal Leaders Outline “Must Dos” for Smart City Success

Innovation is taking place at the local level. Across the U.S., cities are striving to become “Smart Cities,” which in its simplest form means applying information and communications technologies to urban challenges. While it is easy to get excited about the shiny objects that are permeating the Smart City conversation — such as driverless cars — it is also important to understand underlying and enabling technologies like 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT). They play an important role in creating cities of the future.

Examples of this futuristic-sounding technology are already active in U.S. metropolitan areas. In New York City, police monitor 15 square miles of the Bronx and Brooklyn through 300 noise sensors that are programmed to detect the sound of gunfire. In Boston, trash bins are equipped with sensors and solar panels that alert crews when to pick up. These are encouraging early examples of innovation applied to empower citizens, optimize existing infrastructure, connect all things and ultimately increase the efficiency of city government. But it’s just the beginning. Without a robust communications infrastructure, the promise of these technologies will not be realized.

At a recent event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler spoke about his vision for our mobile future and clearly outlined three factors that we must be cognizant of maintain U.S. leadership with next-generation technology on the horizon.

What Could Hold Us Back?

First, the speed of the wireless connection must be bolstered. Chairman Wheeler stated, “The next generation must be mobile fiber…100 times faster than it is today.” Second, responsiveness (also called latency) must be greatly improved. Today we experience an average of 10 milliseconds (or 1/100 of a second.) When this ratio is applied to a driverless car navigating traffic, this becomes much more real. It needs to be less than a millisecond. Finally, spectrum (the invisible airwaves on which mobile communication depends) capacity must be increased. Without the appropriate amount and the right bands of spectrum available, the potential for mobile-based technology becomes severely limited.

It’s clear that the future of Smart Cities and the future of the Internet of Things (IoT) will be based on mobile innovation and capacity. Therefore, we must have the right foundation for all of that mobile technology to run. Today, our world runs on a 4G network which powers consumers’ ever-growing need for video and constant connectivity. Carriers are furiously preparing for the next generation of networks — 5G — which holds the promise of having the capacity and speed to actually power Smart Cities. As Chairman Wheeler stated, “Yes, 5G will connect the Internet of Everything. If something can be connected, it will be connected in a 5G world.”

The Keys Lie in Smart 5G and Spectrum Deployment

Chairman Wheeler asserts that the success of the US as a world leader in wireless depends on the speedy deployment of 5G, stating “American leadership in 5G must be a national priority. The driving force of the 21st century will be powerful processing centralized in the cloud and wirelessly connected to thin clients.”

The 5G world will require an entirely new level of spectrum allocation. On July 14, the FCC will vote on Chairman Wheeler’s Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, which “is the final piece in the spectrum trifecta of low-band, mid-band, and high-band airwaves that will open up unprecedented amounts of spectrum, speed the rollout of next- generation wireless networks, and re-define network connectivity for years to come.” It is one of the first national steps to establishing an infrastructure that can handle Smart Cities.

Can Government Keep Pace?

“Turning innovators loose is far preferable to expecting committees and regulators to define the future,” Wheeler said. I am pleased to hear federal officials repeat that technologists should be the driver in this conversation. Statements like this provide hope that we are headed in the right direction. With this mindset, the US, which is lagging in Smart City technology execution compared to cities like Barcelona, Amsterdam and Singapore, has the potential to catch up quickly.

With the right policies in place, that will enable 5G network investment, and a smart spectrum allocation strategy, Wheeler states that “U.S. companies will be first out of the gate.” In many cases, Smart Cities technology is already available. Innovators are waiting for the signal that policymakers on the local, state and federal level “get it” and are willing to get out of the way.

The future is wide open. No one truly knows what 5G will bring. Cities that are just beginning to experiment with connected technology to optimize the overall experience of living in large cities will have many challenges and exciting successes. Innovation is never easy, but one thing remains crystal clear: We must continue to insist that building the next-generation network remain a priority. Making the preparations for a 5G build out while allocating the appropriate levels of spectrum is of the absolute highest priority. It will be the foundation on which everything else succeeds.

Published on Industrial IoT 5G


US Innovation Depends on 5G Buildout was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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