Red Tape Is Hampering US in Race to 5G
The U.S. is ranked only third globally in readiness for 5G, according to a recent study, with China and South Korea in the lead. The crux of the problem, the analysis finds, is that excessive government red tape threatens to jeopardize the technological advantage the U.S. has historically enjoyed over its international competitors. The wireless technology landscape is shifting rapidly, and the U.S. needs to adapt to maintain its leadership position in the world.
Since 2010, wireless data traffic has increased 35 times, and analysts believe that the number of internet-connected devices will increase threefold by 2021. To meet this exploding demand, service providers have turned to the next generation of wireless infrastructure: 5G small cell technology. With its blazing fast speeds and lower latency, 5G has the potential to usher in innovations like Smart Cities, Internet of Things (IoT) technology, powerful health platforms, and much more — making our lives safer, longer, and happier.
An analysis by the American Consumer Institute estimates that investing and building a 5G network would generate $533 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and deliver $1.2 trillion in additional consumer benefits. A separate study by Accenture Strategy found that deploying 5G would create 3,000,000 American jobs.
Major infrastructural changes are needed to make 5G operational in the U.S. The deployment of 5G networks will involve many times more locations than 4G or 3G. Whereas existing wireless technology relies on about 200,000 large cell towers, 5G would operate on a network of millions of small-cell devices. These devices are about the size of a shoebox and will need to be spread in neighborhoods around the country in order to deliver the speed and network capacity necessary to meet the growing demand for wireless connectivity.
America’s wireless industry leads the world in its capacity to deploy 5G commercially. But government red tape stands in the way. Old regulations designed for large cell towers are making it inefficient and costly to deploy much smaller 5G devices, and the delays they cause are depriving consumers the benefits that 5G will bring. States and localities could do much to remove these regulatory hurdles and jumpstart investment in 5G. Onerous rules, delays in approval, deployment moratoria, and the imposition of high fees are just some of the barriers wireless companies face as they work to make 5G available to consumers. Combined, these policies make it difficult for the U.S. to compete for state-of-the-art wireless services on the world stage.
More than a dozen states have already taken steps to harmonize regulations with 5G technology, and similar legislation has been introduced in many other states around the country. These reforms need to continue. Policymakers around the country should work to minimize barriers to 5G.
Not long ago, the U.S.’s victory in the race to 4G boosted employment in the wireless industry by 84 percent and added $100 billion to our GDP. Meanwhile, Europe couldn’t deploy 4G fast enough, thereby impeding the delivery of wireless broadband services and their economic benefits.
The race to 5G isn’t one we can’t afford to lose.
Liam Sigaud writes for the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit www.TheAmericanConsumer.Org.