The war on 5G Nationally and Internationally

The first, 1G, was invented by Motorola in 1973. The 1G networks provided basic phone service with analog protocols and speeds of 2.4 kilobits per second. Compare that to today’s 4G network speed of 100 megabits per second and 5G’s proposed 100 gigabits per second. Also in 1973, IEEE Member Robert M. Metcalf invented Ethernet, one of the key enablers of wireless and local Internet access. Ethernet is part of the IEEE 802 suite of standards that underpins wireless networking applications and includes access to the Internet. The 802.11 standard is better known by its trademark name: Wi-Fi. More here.


When fourth generation (4G) services launched early this decade, the U.S. led the way. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unlocked valuable spectrum, and carriers responded by accommodating a radical, 20-fold growth in global mobile data traffic. The massive investment in wireless network infrastructure rewarded American consumers with faster wireless speeds at affordable prices. In addition to speeding up smartphones in our pockets, the U.S. economy saw an estimated increase in GDP between $73–$151 billion and up to 700,000 new jobs as a result and America was established as the test bed for innovation in the global digital economy.

Now our country faces a similar opportunity and challenge with fifth generation (5G) mobile networks, and it warrants the attention of consumers, the mobile industry, and policymakers. The economic stakes for 5G may be significantly higher than for 4G, led by large-scale job creation and incubation of new devices, applications, and business models that could dramatically stimulate the U.S. economy. More here.


As of 2017, development of 5G is being led by several companies, including Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm, Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson, ZTE and others. Huawei and ZTE are part of the Chinese government and all our intelligence agencies have declared they are NOT safe to use in the government realm or the private sector. Canadian media is warning the same due to cyber vulnerabilities. This is all about the expanding digital economy where various cyber currencies will prevail over tangible currency and those respective values cannot be controlled or managed.

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President Donald Trump signed an executive order in January calling on federal agencies “to use all viable tools” to build broadband in rural areas on federal lands.

“Those towers are going to go up, and you’re going to have great, great broadband,” Trump said.

But telecom companies don’t have plans to expand 5G to rural areas. Where are they going? To urban and suburban neighborhoods where the business-friendly FCC is considering rules that would limit local governments from having as much of a say over where they go, how they look and how much they can charge for use of public property. Published in partnership with the New York Times 

Small cells, the next generation of wireless technology that telecommunications firms and cell-tower builders want to place on streetlights and utility poles throughout neighborhoods nationwide. The small cells come with a host of equipment, including antennas, power supplies, electric meters, switches, cabling and boxes often strapped to the sides of poles. Some may have refrigerator-sized containers on the ground. And they will be placed about every 500 or so feet along residential streets and throughout business districts.

Telecom companies say the cells will be both unobtrusive and safe, and insist the technology is needed to bring faster internet speeds required by a more connected world.

Telecommunications companies say the current 4G network is becoming overloaded as more people stream more videos and use more data-heavy apps. The advent of driverless cars, smart homes, telemedicine and virtual-reality will create more demand on wireless networks, requiring more bandwidth and faster speeds.

What’s needed, the wireless industry says, is 5G. The next generation network, still in development, is a combination of advanced hardware and standards such as distributed antenna systems, more fiber-optic cable, new data management practices and higher frequencies that will enable the network to carry more data up to 100 times faster than 4G.

5G will depend on so-called millimeter waves. These high-frequency bands, however, don’t travel as far as the signals 4G relies on and are easily blocked by walls, trees and even rain. So the network needs to be dense, with cells placed much closer together. That means way more wireless facilities. More than 300,000 cells are now in operation nationwide, and estimates for the number of small cells needed to make 5G work range from hundreds of thousands to millions more.

The rollout of 5G will be evolutionary, with the standards for the full complement of advanced technologies expected after 2020. Small cells already are being erected with 5G tests in many cities, and as that’s happened, citizens have descended on government meetings to express their anger — from  Woodbury, New York; to Liberty Township, Ohio; to Charlotte; to Pasco County, Florida; to Olympia, Washington.

5G promises to generate huge profits for the wireless companies, with as much as $250 billion in service revenue expected annually by 2025. And 5G will unleash an economic boom, say supporters of pre-empting local rules. They frequently cite a report by the consulting firm Accenture, which concluded that wireless firms will invest $275 billion over the next seven years deploying small cells, creating 3 million jobs and eventually boosting the national economy by $500 billion annually.

The study appears everywhere — mentioned by FCC commissioners in speeches, cited in an official FCC docket, in wireless carriers’ comments, and in statements by the powerful Washington associations that represent them. What most don’t mention is that the study was paid for by the wireless association CTIA, one of Washington’s top lobbying spenders.

The wireless industry argues that localities’ high fees, design requirements and delays in processing permits have effectively prohibited the deployment of broadband, which they argue is a violation of federal law; they’ve asked the FCC to make that clear in reining in cities and counties.

Wireless carriers and the companies that build towers for them have begun flooding city and county permitting offices with applications for attaching small cells to poles and building new ones. Cities that normally see a few dozen such applications yearly began in 2016 to get hundreds, such as Houston.  Montgomery County said it had at one point more applications filed in four months than in the previous 18 years.

Wireless companies complain local governments can’t process the permits fast enough because their systems are set up to review applications for massive cell towers, not the small cells they claim are less intrusive. The process needs to move quickly, they say, because 5G requires so many more cells, and they want to beat other countries to set standards.

The FCC issued a notice in April that it would consider rules to streamline cell deployment by reducing the time cities’ and counties’ have to review applications. The agency also said it would study, with the possibility of proposing rules later, both how the FCC could limit cities’ requirements on the look and design of small cells, and if local fees to attach to poles are excessive. The FCC also asked for ways it could amend its own rules. The agency may consider the proposals by the summer.

Pai, a former attorney for Verizon, also created last year a committee of representatives mostly from the wireless industry to develop model codes that cities and counties can adopt to speed the permitting of small cells and to reduce costs to telecoms. The committee is considering proposals, which it plans to formally submit to the FCC later this spring, that run the gamut, from simply calling on cities and the wireless industry to work together to controversial recommendations such as capping what cities charge to attach to public property.

Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose, California, one of the few members on the committee representing local interests and who has been critical of wireless companies’ efforts to weaken local rules, resigned from the group in January, saying the wireless industry “has sought to create a set of rules that will provide it with easy access to publicly-funded infrastructure at taxpayer-subsidized rates, without any obligation to provide broadband access to underserved residents.”

In response, Pai said in a statement that the committee has “brought together 101 participants from a range of perspectives” and he looks forward to working with the committee and others “to remove regulatory barriers to broadband deployment and to extend digital opportunity to all Americans.”

Bipartisan agreement

Congress is also weighing in — in rare bipartisan fashion — on the side of the telecom firms. Numerous bills in both the Senate and House would ease regulations and fees for erecting cells on federal lands, such as a bill the Senate passed last summer that would exempt certain small-cell deployments from environmental and historic reviews. The bill, which the House has yet to consider, is sponsored by South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Republican chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the ranking member of the committee.

Also last year, Thune joined Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz from Hawaii to circulate a draft bill that rolls back local government control over wireless facilities including small cells, including shortening the permit review times to 60 days on applications to collocate wireless facilities and 90 days for other wireless applications — the same time frames wireless providers are asking the FCC to consider.

Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., introduced a bill that would exempt small cells being deployed in a public right of way from environmental and historical reviews under certain circumstances. A companion bill is in the House. Numerous other bills are moving through the House

Wicker and Thune are among the top 25 senators who have received the most campaign contributions from AT&T and Verizon since 2010, pulling in $32,500 and $30,500, respectively, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Schatz has received $29,000 from the two carriers, the third most among senators since 2014, when he ran his first campaign.

With such bipartisan support in Congress, and with an FCC that is sympathetic to telecoms, cities view their control over small cells as slipping away. That leaves people like King resigned to what is coming.

“A Russian woman stood up to speak at one of these public meetings, and she said that when she lived in Russia, the government slam dunked her and she had no say,” King said. “Now she lives in the United States of America, where she’s getting slam dunked by the government and she has no say. That gives you a window into what’s going on here.”


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Denise Simon

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