WASHINGTON, February 26, 2020 – Depending on who you asked in the Dirksen Senate Building, America is either “in very good shape” or has “a big catch-up to do” in the so-called 5G race against China.
Speaking at an event hosted by the American Consumer Institute, speakers also had different thoughts on how the United States can improve deployment in the wireless communications field.
Evan Swarztrauber, policy advisor to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, said he believes that the U.S. is doing better than one might expect.
“America is in very good shape,” he said. The elements that allowed America to “win” the 4G race will also bode well in the contest for 5G dominance.
He insisted that “modernizing” regulations and opening up certain wireless technologies to “commercial uses” will prove their worth in the American economic landscape.
Consequently, Swarztrauber disputed the idea that China has an advantage in building out 5G due to its authoritarian ability to bulldoze red tape. The country’s innovators and governors lack a spirit of innovation and a lightly regulated, healthy economy.
Swarztrauber’s fellow panelist Nicol Turner-Lee of the Brookings Institute disagreed. “We are in a race with China,” and “we have no reasonable response” to Huawei,” so the U.S. still has a big catch up to do.
Turner-Lee also highlighted issues posed by the digital divide. She recounted the story of rural kids in Alabama using iPads donated to them, but not being able to make use of them due to the town’s lack of broadband.
Consequently, the schoolchildren had to finish their homework before school on the stoop of their classroom, since there was no other place with coverage, said Turner-Lee.
She compared this story with reports that China has nearly completed full buildout of high-speed fiber-optic broadband, which some estimates have placed its buildout as high as 87 percent.
Swarztrauber countered that the buildout is meaningless if adoption for China’s 1.4 billion citizens is not practical.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn also gave remarks on spectrum issues.
“We need to officially reallocate mid-band spectrum” and “get this done as soon as possible,” she insisted. Blackburn also stressed that there should be a healthy balance between licensed and unlicensed spectrum.
Tech-Backed Infrastructure Firm Says Private Financing Needed for Shared 5G Facilities
Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners representative says investors must step in as large carriers are burdened by high costs of 5G rollout.
HOUSTON, May 3, 2022 – A representative of an infrastructure firm affiliated with Google’s parent company Alphabet on Monday emphasized the need for private financing in funding open access networks for 5G expansion.
Noah Tulsky, partner at Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, participated in a panel on private financing of broadband infrastructure projects as part of Broadband Breakfast’s Digital Infrastructure Investment during the Broadband Communities annual summit here.
Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners is an independent company. Alphabet is one of many investors in SIP, alongside Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and StepStone Group.
Tulsky stated that at the present, private investment into shared broadband infrastructure networks is particularly necessary in large part because it is capital intensive for large cellular carriers to expand their rollout of 5G networks.
The market climate of the moment makes it difficult to charge cellular customers higher data rates for 5G implementation as consumers are largely unwilling to pay such fees.
Broadband Breakfast’s event also focused heavily on ideal strategies for fiber builds with additional input from advisory firm Pinpoint Capital Advisors’ managing director Andrew Semenak, internet service provider Next Level Networks’ CEO David Barron and Chief Technology Officer Darrell Gentry, and ISP Stealth Communications’ CEO Shrihari Pandit as well as its Business Development Director Joe Plotkin.
Pandit summed up the central question on discussion, stating “Will throwing more money at broadband help to solve key issues like closing the digital divide and making broadband access more affordable for millions?”
Tulsky has written previously in Broadband Breakfast on the symbiotic relationship fiber has with wireless, stating that “wireless broadband can complement fiber technology, which drive down consumer costs and help close the digital divide.”
He stated Monday that funding from Congress’ bipartisan infrastructure bill is likely the best way to build conduit and predicted that in less wealthy, low-density areas conduit will be funded by the government as opposed to private investors, while small and medium fiber companies will be consolidated into larger companies that focus on city-based fiber deployments.
Information about the presentations made during the “Private Financing” panel are available at the Digital Infrastructure Investment page.
T.J. York contributed reporting to this article.
Noah Tulsky: Shared Infrastructure Can Make 5G Work For Cities
Cities should prioritize competitive processes to select an open access neutral host infrastructure provider.
Wireless data throughput is expected to increase nearly fivefold over the next four years, a surge driven by overall demand for data and enabled by new chipset technology and increased spectrum allocation.
Traditionally wired internet service providers like Comcast and Charter are investing in mobile connectivity, alongside incumbent mobile network operators. Meanwhile, mobile network operators are amortizing their spectrum investments to compete in the fixed broadband market wirelessly.
A quiet but critical race to deploy wireless networks throughout the country is well underway.
For cities and towns, this rapid growth can represent both a blessing and a curse
More demand for fixed and mobile wireless services means more infrastructure in the form of radios close to end users with annual small cell deployments in cities expected to grow at a roughly 25% compound annual rate through 2026.
Uncoordinated growth can cause headaches and have lasting local and national implications for digital equity, urban landscapes and economic growth.
At the same time, cities that harness the wireless revolution can propel themselves into the future.
Wireless broadband can complement fiber technology, which can drive down consumer costs and help close the digital divide.
And 5G mobile connectivity itself is quickly becoming a necessity. Communities without 5G will be cut off from coming technologies that can save lives and spur economic growth, including autonomous vehicles to serve transit deserts, drone-based maintenance of essential infrastructure and distributed renewable energy.
The deployment of 5G must be carefully managed
Not all 5G build-outs are created equal.
If providers build discrete, separate networks, cities can become overwhelmed by permitting requests to mount radios on light poles and street infrastructure.
If three different companies latch their technology onto the same telephone pole, city infrastructure will end up cluttered, and city residents will be understandably frustrated.
These promising technologies might roll out slowly as city departments work through 5G deployment permitting backlogs.
Worse still, service providers might end up building only in the wealthiest areas—where they can most easily recover their investment. Thus, communities and even whole towns at the margins may be left out.
Policymakers have an opportunity to leverage their infrastructure and ensure that networks are built to be compatible with their goals. State and local officials can use their clout to deliver real and lasting value to as many residents as possible.
Seek out neutral hosts through public-private partnerships
Cities should prioritize competitive processes to select an open access neutral host infrastructure provider that can work with multiple carriers to co-locate on shared infrastructure.
A neutral host can marshal private investment to accelerate network builds and organize the service providers on behalf of the city — all while keeping the process competitive.
This type of public-private partnership has a multiplier effect: Private capital can be united with any public broadband funding and directed toward municipal priorities.
In this model, cities also retain control. Leaders can promote equitable build-outs, ensure that neutral hosts commit to aesthetically consistent and minimally invasive infrastructure, and even earn back a portion of the rent that neutral hosts charge from service providers.
At Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, where I work, we believe that the best type of neutral host for a city is one that allows multiple operators to share more than just the passive pole infrastructure, and by doing so reduce the visual clutter of the deployment.
For this reason SIP established its innovation platform CoFi and acquired Dense Air Networks, which uses software-defined networking techniques to share radios among multiple MNO tenants, significantly reducing their rental costs and allowing MNOs to deliver quality service economically in areas that would otherwise be underserved.
Coordinate fiber and wireless builds to put federal funding to highest and best use
Cities can now access unprecedented federal funding to fast-track connectivity.
In the recent infrastructure bill, the federal government allocated $65 billion for broadband expansion, in addition to the $10 billion made available through the American Rescue Plan.
These are huge sums, and as with all government funding, they can be used wisely or poorly.
Much of this funding will go toward building fiber and, if done correctly, cities and their private fiber partners can leverage these dollars to ensure that fiber network plans anticipate and enable wireless footprints as well.
Close consultation with wireless neutral hosts, MNOs, and ISPs can help cities get the most bang for their federal buck.
Cities can also avoid the faulty ideas of the past, such as one-time public WiFi builds. These have largely become cost centers, and they rarely deliver quality connections or cover a meaningful geographic footprint.
Cities can instead allocate funding toward financially sustainable projects, which align incentives and help build networks that can last beyond the limits of federal funding.
The 5G rollout offers an opportunity for cities to correct past mistakes — and bring millions of people online and into the digital economy.
With innovation in public-private partnership models and technology, cities can, and should, harness the secular growth in wireless broadband to their advantage.
Noah Tulsky is a Partner at Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP), where he focuses on SIP’s CoFi platform, which works to advance shared broadband solutions, and 5G strategy. SIP owns, operates, and invests in innovative technology to transform infrastructure systems, advancing scalable solutions to society’s biggest challenges. Previously, Noah worked at Goldman Sachs, where he invested across the power & energy, transportation, and telecommunications & data sectors on behalf of the firm’s infrastructure funds. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to email@example.com. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
5G Will Impact the Future Beyond Previous Generations of Wireless, Company Execs Say
With every generation of wireless technology new applications reveal themselves, and experts say 5G is no exception.
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2022 – As 5G continues to deploy at a faster rate than any previous generation of wireless technology, some experts argue that the next ten years will lead to more disruption and innovation in society than the last 20 years combined.
During the “AT&T Policy Forum on 5G and Innovation” on March 15, David Christopher, AT&T’s executive vice president and general manager of partnerships and 5G ecosystem development, argued that the next decade will be defined by “mega-tends” that will be enabled by 5G technology.
He pointed out that each generation of wireless technology advanced what kind of activities consumers could engage in – from being able to make calls with 1G all the way to being able to participate in online shopping from almost anywhere in the world with 4G. Similarly, Christopher argued that 5G will enable consumers to participate in things like artificial intelligence, precision medicine, driverless cars, blockchain, and the metaverse.
“These ‘mega-trends’ build off each other and they accelerate any one individual trend,” Christopher said. Christopher said that the deployment of and use of 5G technologies will contribute to 4.5 million new jobs and $1.4 trillion towards the economy between 2020 and 2030. “None of that takes into account the economic impact of all the mega trends I just spoke of, and how they build on each other.”
Christopher added that in addition to all the benefits of 5G, it is being deployed faster than previous networks. “Look at the fact that 5g is actually being rolled out 40 percent faster than 4G was – from a network build perspective – across all carriers in the United States.”
“We are now at the point – poised for the arrival of applications, of services, and of new business model innovation that rides on top of [5G] just like we saw with 4G,” he said. “5G is all about making everything connected, whether it is faster speeds, lower latency – with features like edge computing, network slicing, better security, private networks, massive IoT – all of these are going to enable applications that were simply not possible in 4G.”
John Smee, chip maker Qualcomm’s senior vice president of engineering and global head of wireless research, explained that the 5G era is now well underway and has left the early stages of its infancy behind. “We are, in some sense, almost halfway through the standardization of 5G,” Smee said. “Now we are embarking on 5G ‘advanced’ – it is a new point of inflection.”
Smee said that Qualcomm’s priorities are now looking past how to simply ensure that all consumers have access to 5G, and has shifted to the specific technology capabilities that will define the generation. He said that Qualcomm has now raised the questions, “what is going to differentiate 5G from 4G [and] how can we make sure it’s a full decade of innovation?”
For Qualcomm, Smee said, this will include innovations such as an expanded cloud network, improved device machine learning and AI, and low-latency application processing at the edge of the networks.
“5G really is a platform for good,” Christopher said. “Whether it’s education, whether it’s climate, whether it’s innovation, and we are just getting going.”
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