coalition for
regulatory innovation

February 22, 2018

The Key to 5G Next Generation Network is Next Generation Regulations

Key players in the telecommunication industry have likened the great “5G Race” to an “arms race.” Countries all over the world are competing to be the first to roll out the transformative next generation of communication that will add bandwidth to make browsing and streaming over mobile phones much faster.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on 5G:

“We’re moving from a world where we all have our wireless devices in our pockets to one where our entire landscape will be connected to the internet of things.”

As is the case with our roads and bridges, the telecommunication industry needs to update and build out the new 5G infrastructure in order to usher in the next generation of high-speed internet and mobile connectivity.  To do so most effectively, we must implement some regulatory updates and streamline the process.

The U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) discussed several ideas for how to best achieve this goal in a recent op-ed.  Together, the senators outlined four resolutions that include: laying out principles prioritizing infrastructure funding, easing the regulatory process, ensuring coordination among all levels of government, and crafting clear, consistent rules for all forms of broadband technology.

From U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Communications and Technology Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) op-ed:

“All Americans should be able to fully realize the opportunities made possible by broadband internet, like telemedicine, online education, and starting or growing a business. The Energy and Commerce Committee has already begun efforts on this front, and as we continue, we are glad to have an ally in President Trump, who understands the importance of expanding broadband infrastructure across the nation.”

The senators went on to say how we can remove those obstacles standing in the way of equal access to broadband:

“Last week, after the president signed two significant executive orders on improving broadband infrastructure, members of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology introduced four resolutions laying out our principles for broadband expansion nationwide. The resolutions include prioritizing infrastructure funding to areas that are currently unserved, easing the regulatory process, ensuring coordination among all levels of government, and establishing clear, consistent rules regardless of broadband technology.”

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are recognizing the importance of cultivating 5G. Recently, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a bipartisan resolution in support of deploying 5G mobile broadband technology throughout the nation.

Sen. Hassan spoke to the need to bridge the divide between rural and urban areas when it comes to access to broadband.

As the importance of internet access increases, the digital divide between urban and rural areas is widening, putting those living in rural areas at a disadvantage. This bipartisan resolution emphasizes the importance of making life-changing technology more accessible and fostering the spirit of innovation in hard-working Granite Staters and Americans.’”

This bipartisan resolution acknowledges the importance of 5G, but there is still much work to be done to cut the red tape holding back the U.S. telecommunication industry.

An important factor to keep in mind about 5G is that unlike mobile networks of the past, 5G has some unique architectural differences impacting deployment on the regulatory front. The new 5G technology includes small cells that require denser configurations, but can be incorporated into common infrastructure like light poles, existing buildings and stop lights. This type of architecture deployment plan is something that has never been done before and, importantly, has never been regulated before.

Many telecommunication companies looking to pilot 5G in local cities are running into regulatory roadblocks. Current regulations are insufficient and only address traditional towers, so these companies are stuck applying for outdated permits that don’t address the new wireless antennas on non-tower structures. Along with denied access due to 5G not fitting the parameters of old 4G style permitting applications, telecommunication companies are being hit with higher regulatory cost and longer application reviews.

The new 5G network needs updated regulations to remove the barriers holding the U.S. back in the “race to 5G” by updating and streamlining the permitting process, addressing and standardizing a uniform regulatory cost and modernizing the permitting procedures. Regulatory Innovation is a must to allow the U.S. telecommunication industry to win at the global “5G race.” But there’s more than just being “number one,” there are far reaching benefits that will improve more than just the way we livestream on our wireless devices. A recent study by CTIA says that a transition from 4G to 5G will create more than 3 million jobs in the U.S. and add $500 billion to the U.S. economy. In addition, the CTIA study projects that the advanced connectivity of 5G will save lives by improving emergency response.

With the many benefits of 5G comes a large price tag. A recent report estimates the cost to transition from 4G to 5G to be around $275 billion in industry cost structure investment. With such a hefty bill to foot, regulatory burdens shouldn’t add to the already herculean task the telecommunication industry is met with to move the U.S. into the next generation of technology through 5G deployment.