This Wireless Future

Published December 22, 2016

Not long ago, to be connected online a person had to be anchored to a desk with a personal computer. Not long after, laptop computers began a more formal era of mobility. And now mobile connections to broadband seem to be part of everything a person does, and yet consumers are just beginning to realize, much less maximize, the benefits. As broadband access continues to grow in its ubiquity, Americans have even greater access to broadband services and hence to a greater variety of innovations.

Today, the U.S. leads in access to 4G LTE services with nearly every American, 99.6 percent to be exact, having access. 4G LTE is a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data, providing broad coverage and wireless connectivity that offers unmatched consumer benefits in areas such as education and health. Such high-speed access has become critical to an economically successful community. This great accomplishment is a testament to consumer adoption of new technologies and to the willingness of industry to make big bets with big investments. However, innovation never stands still.

An old Steve Martin comedy routine summarizes the future of high-speed data – “Let’s get small.” Small cell technology, small antennas, will be deployed everywhere for faster, more complete coverage. This advance to 5G will better enable more capable, efficient and intelligent capabilities, an increase in network reliability, reduced latency (the delay in the transmission of data), and is capable of serving a greater number of wireless devices than current technology.

These small antennae connect people, businesses and the foundation of the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of physical objects connected via a network imbuing them with some functionality, particularly when it comes to collecting and using data. We have moved decisively into a connected world, a world where machines work more intelligently for us than ever before. Whether personal, such as with applications of augmented and virtual reality or through entire enabled cities enabled by connectivity, technological advances that will make our lives even easier and more productive can deliver the benefits of innovation to society. But that consumer-loved innovation can be stopped dead in its tracks if laws, regulations and ordinances create uncertainty or construct a barrier.

State governments must provide regulatory certainty for the deployment of small cell infrastructure, for the 5G network, and work with local governments and businesses to streamline local jurisdiction application processes. That means allowing access to public rights-of-ways and adopting a predictable and fair fee structure. Further, local governments should avail themselves to the expertise in businesses to really understand not just the current state of technology but also the trajectory of innovation so as to facilitate the deployment and timely placement of wireless facilities. This will result in the most appropriate modernization of laws and regulations.

The next generation of wireless networks promises increased capacity to accommodate skyrocketing consumer demand, faster wireless speeds for consumers and businesses alike, reduced latency periods and increased network reliability. The next generation of government will hopefully find ways to encourage greater and faster deployment by removing any barriers that now slow such deployment.

[Originally Published at the American Legislative Exchange Forum]