Earlier this month, Accenture Strategy published a report entitled “Smart Cities: How 5G Can Help Municipalities Become Vibrant Smart Cities.” The next generation of wireless network infrastructure will employ 5G technology, which will feature the dense placement of small cells to deliver speeds 10 times faster than 4G. When 5G technology is deployed, cities will be able to enjoy smarter and more efficient use of local government services such as energy, utilities, transportation, and public safety.
5G wireless technology is anticipated to produce very large economic and social benefits in the United States. The Accenture report projects that 5G will create $275 billion in investment, 3 million jobs, and $500 billion in gross domestic product. In addition, the capabilities enabled by 5G technology will allow cities to save millions of dollars. For example, smart lighting automatically will dim public street lights when no pedestrians or vehicles are present. Public transportation will be able to reduce wait times by optimizing bus and train schedules with commuter smartphones. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications will minimize congestion and lead cars through hazardous road conditions.
When it comes to public safety, deployment of 5G networks in smart cities will save lives. High-speed video surveillance will allow first responders to assess crime scenes and dangerous situations before arriving. Real-time monitoring of gunshots will provide the police with exact locations and timelines. Sensors with 5G technology will warn local residents about possible emergencies, such as tornadoes, flooding, or security threats.
Importantly, 5G networks will impact positively cities of all sizes. The report estimates that 5G’s impact on the city of Saratog, CA, with a population of 29,900, will be 300 additional jobs and $50 million in additional economic activity. The use of 5G in the city of Beaumont, TX, with a population of 118,000, will create 1,000 new jobs and $180 million in additional economic activity. The use of 5G in the metropolitan area of Chicago, IL, with a population of 9,472,000, will create 90,000 new jobs and $14 billion in additional economic activity.
Another report published earlier this month by Deloitte, entitled “Wireless Connectivity Fuels Industry Growth and Innovation in Energy, Health, Public Safety, and Transportation,” contains similar findings on the economic and social benefits of 5G wireless technology. This report says that smart cities collectively could create $1.8 trillion in additional revenue to the U.S. economy. With regard to public safety, the Deloitte report finds that a one-minute reduction in response time translates to an 8% reduction in mortality. It also says that self-driving cars could reduce emissions by 40-90%, travel times by 40%, and delays by 20%. Whether the economic impact of 5G technology is $500 billion or $1.8 trillion, it is clear that deployment of 5G will make cities safer, healthier, and contribute significantly to the U.S. economy.
However, there are some existing regulatory barriers and practices that stand in the way of realizing these significant benefits. Some municipalities take 18 to 24 months to approve small-cell implementations. Also, because providers must deploy many densely-placed small cells for networks to operate smoothly, the practice of municipalities charging a fee for each individual cell placement will discourage deployment. Reducing these barriers, by allowing the use of public rights of way, eliminating or minimizing fees, and streamlining approval processes, will increase the rate of 5G deployment and help unlock smart cities.
5G technology is the future of mobile wireless broadband. And the future is now. Without unnecessary delay, the FCC, along with state and local governments, should take affirmative actions that encourage 5G deployment and, at the same time, eliminate, or at least reduce, restrictions and fees that hinder 5G deployment.