A Deloitte report recently analyzed what is necessary to ensure that fifth generation mobile
networks (5G) are ready to field test and launch. They estimate the U.S. requires between
$130 and $150 billion over the next five to seven years to adequately support broadband
competition, rural coverage and wireless densification.
The report shares that way back in the day, when 4G services were launched, the U.S. government took action to make new spectrum available. As a result, service providers invested. With that investment, the country saw a twenty-fold growth in global mobile traffic. The result? More competitive pricing and a bump in job growth – about 700,000 jobs were added.
Here we are now, with 5G trials beginning from providers like Verizon and AT&T. Today,
the potential for 5G to stimulate the economy is even greater than what 4G delivered. By the end of this decade, analysts predict that 50 billion sensors will connect to mobile networks consuming 100 times as much data as today’s mobile gadgets. With connected homes, Industrial IoT, M2M, Cloud, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and new video streaming apps, we can’t begin to imagine the business models that will be created as a result.
But, we must remember, the wireline network is at the heart of 5G’s potential success.
Fiber is needed for backhaul, fronthaul and midhaul. The wireline transport network must
connect to the radio access networks (RANs) or centralized radio access networks (CRANs) for 5G to deliver on its promise.
This means a huge increase in the need for small cells deployed deeper in the network and
closer to end-users. Small cells typically have a range of approximately 10 to 200-meter radius within urban and in-building locations, and up to one to two km in rural areas. Centralized or Coordinated-RAN solutions bring baseband units together and share the information required for 5G to do its magic. And, you guessed it, only fiber with extremely high speeds and low latency can deliver the juice 5G needs.
With all of this potential, the Deloitte report makes a good point. While the first FTTH networks were deployed nearly 12 years ago, only 38% of homes today have the ability to choose two providers offering 25Mbps. (I’m not in that group. I have ONE choice – cable. In rural areas, 61% of the population pays as much as three times the premium over suburban customers to get that 25Mbps. Talk about a roadblock! These historical trends point to the bigger question. Will providers, government entities and cooperative ventures pony up the investment required per the Deloitte report? Sure, they may say the right things and make a good effort. But, when it comes to meeting the insatiable bandwidth appetite of our citizens and helping our country thrive in the future, effort doesn’t matter. Results do.
Sharon Vollman is SVP and Editorial Director of ISE Magazine (ICT Solutions and Education Magazine). She leads the brand’s strategy with more than 20 years of experience in telecom coverage. Vollman has created educational partnerships with ICT companies, including AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications and Cincinnati Bell.