Opinion

5G Requires Sound Infrastructure Investment to Succeed

5G has become a buzzword in tech circles. But to take full advantage of the technological marvels 5G will make possible, the United States must invest in sound infrastructure capable of supporting it.

The incredible speed, processing power and near-instantaneous response times of 5G can bring us new augmented and virtual reality capabilities, autonomous vehicles and much, much more. Every developed country on earth is going to pursue 5G and, to remain competitive, the United States must have nationwide, next-generation wireless networks. If we don’t establish and support the private-public partnerships necessary to construct these networks, our current status as the world’s wireless leader will be a thing of the past.

Transportation in general, as well as smart and autonomous vehicles in particular, will benefit immensely from 5G deployments. The success of autonomous vehicles in particular hinges on the guarantee of instantaneous automatic mapping of vehicle routes as well as the safety and security of humans and other assets. This degree of certainty requires technology responding with the real-time location as well as active safety response measures. While perceptive sensing technologies such as Lidar, camera-based, vision and radar technologies are quintessential for real-time accurate location tracking of vehicle surroundings, we also need V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle) and V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) communication for active cooperation among vehicles and surrounding transportation infrastructure in order to avoid congestion and collision. Given 5G’s instantaneous response times and high speed, it is going to play a significant role in enabling V2V and V2I communication as well as real-time accurate positioning technology to make autonomous vehicles a true reality.

But 5G – and all of the technology that relies on it – won’t happen unless we invest in the infrastructure that makes it work.

This infrastructure, such as the small cell antennas that will support 5G, is just as important to our economy as roads, bridges, airports and other conventional infrastructure components. Federal, state and local governments need to work together to enact the right policies that invite real investment in network infrastructure. They must coordinate efforts to reduce barriers to deployment, streamline permitting processes, and rethink cost-inhibitive fee structures.

Greenlighting policies that remove regulatory barriers and incentivize private-sector network investment will keep us at the front of the pack in the race to 5G. Without those regulatory updates, 5G deployment could slow down — along with American innovation. The app economy boom that followed our early embrace of 4G, a great technology but not nearly the game-changer 5G will be, provides ample proof that staying on the cutting edge of technology can provide rapid, tangible economic results.

The Federal Communications Commission and especially Commissioner Brendan Carr are leading the charge to speed 5G deployment. They are taking steps to streamline regulatory frameworks that could inhibit buildout, making it easier for providers to build the next generation of networks. They are also working to make more spectrum available, especially mid- and high-band spectrum, both of which are critical components for 5G capabilities.

These policies are putting the United States on the path to global leadership in 5G. The forward-thinking efforts of FCC commissioners are essential to 5G deployment and should be embraced – not rebuffed.

States and communities also need to take action to support the rollout of 5G. Failure to follow suit on momentum at the federal level could jeopardize the promise of next-generation technologies. Officials at all levels of government must join together with the private sector to build a future that benefits everyone.

It’s time to enable the digital future. Government leaders who lean in will create a roadmap to 5G that other communities can adapt and follow, a road that can lead to prosperity and better lives for all Americans.

In addition to being an industry visionary, thought leader, adviser in the areas of AI, autonomous vehicles, mobile/wireless, internet of things technologies, health care, cybersecurity and founding member of the Advisory Board of The Alliance for Transportation Innovation,, Sateesh Kumar is currently the founder of Pathronic Inc., a stealth mode startup working on a breakthrough technology in the area of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.

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