Video: Time to Invest in our Wireless Future

Let’s Invest in 5G

Video: Time to Invest in our Wireless Future

February 7, 2017

The U.S. leads the world in wireless.  Thanks to a fiercely competitive marketplace, America’s wireless consumers benefit from a mobile ecosystem that offers faster speeds, better coverage, and greater value, year after year.

U.S. devices and operating systems own an outsized share of the marketplace, capital investment and VC funds flow to U.S.-based wireless companies, and no other country in the world has such robust and competitive national wireless providers—not to mention dozens of regional carriers around the country—competing to bring consumers the most advanced mobile experience.

But today we are on the cusp of a revolution.

5G is the next generation of wireless that will connect more families, save more lives and transform futures. The U.S. must invest in 5G to bring the new benefits of wireless to communities across America.

Global Lead in 4G.  Yet the past offers us an important lesson: just fifteen years ago, America was perceived as behind Europe and Asia when it came to wireless development.  But then something remarkable happened.  With billions in investment and R&D—and smart spectrum policies—America once again became the home for wireless innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The timing could not have been better as 4G LTE, the first wireless technology to enable full and fast mobile access to everything online, was right around the corner.  Now countries around the world have seen the benefits flowing from our 4G mobile leadership—the jobs, the investment, the app economy.

Promise of 5G.  These nations are now aggressively trying to seize our leadership position because 5G networks will be transformative. This next generation of wireless will weave through every aspect of our economy and our society—creating jobs and growing the economy, making our lives better and our communities safer.

In local communities, increased 5G connectivity will mean officials can more quickly respond to emergencies. 5G will make our roads safer. Smarter energy solutions will lower our monthly bills, and mobile healthcare solutions will instantly connect patients with doctors. And, remote learning opportunities will make education more accessible for students of all ages.

America’s wireless industry is ready to make significant new investments to bring these benefits to communities all over the country.  One recent study estimates that wireless operators will invest $275 billion over the next decade to deploy 5G.  According to Accenture Strategies, 5G investment all across America is projected to create 3 million jobs—that’s almost one job for every 100 Americans—and generate $500 billion in GDP. And from that new platform, millions more jobs will be created and hundreds of billions of new economic benefits will flow to American families and businesses.  Eight out of 10 small businesses say leading the world in 5G will make the U.S. more economically competitive.  They’re right.

We need to keep investing as a nation.  Demand for wireless data continues to surge. In 2015, Americans used 25 times more mobile data than they did in 2010. And by 2020, mobile data usage will be six times greater again than 2015 levels.  Even though wireless carriers have invested $300 billion in network infrastructure over the past decade, the capacity of today’s networks will be strained handling all that growth. 

Government’s Role.  The speed with which these 5G benefits reach all Americans will depend, in part, on decisions made by the new Administration, Congress and the FCC.  I am very encouraged to hear Commerce Secretary designee Wilbur Ross focus on spectrum policy.  Similarly, in the first weeks of the new Congress, we have seen bipartisan focus on spectrum from the key leaders of both the Senate and the House, and a broad cross-section of Members are focused on our nation’s broadband infrastructure.  It was great to see so many Senators and Representatives at last week’s bi-cameral and bipartisan broadband caucus event.  New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Digital Empowerment Agenda underscores his vision and strong focus on promoting investment and innovation in the next generation of wireless.  Our 5G future is in great hands.

Infrastructure and Siting.  We need a national focus on our broadband infrastructure.  But, unlike the public investment likely required to modernize our ports, rebuild our roads, and fix our bridges, launching this 5G-powered American economy may not require any taxpayer dollars at all.  We—the wireless industry— will invest its own dollars,  we simply need help streamlining federal, state, and local regulations governing the deployment of 21st century wireless infrastructure.  Specifically, we’ll need hundreds of thousands of these new small cells—antennas the size of pizza boxes—in communities large and small to handle the wireless traffic of tomorrow.  Those cities and towns that create investment-friendly rules now will be the first to realize the benefits of the next-generation of wireless. 

Spectrum.  And because it takes a long time—13 years on average—to bring spectrum, the fuel that powers mobile networks, to market, policymakers in Washington must have a renewed focused on a spectrum pipeline for wireless use.  Our 4G lead was based, in part, on successful spectrum auctions in 2006 and 2008.  We need a clear pipeline of additional licensed spectrum to meet tomorrow’s challenges.  After the successful 600 MHz auction concludes, there are no major auctions currently scheduled.    

The wireless industry is ready to invest in what’s next. As a new Administration and a new Congress begin their work, we have a simple ask: help us invest. Help us create jobs. And help us ensure that America remains the global leader in wireless innovation.

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