Elon University

Internet Governance Forum, USA 2019 – 5G Enabling Innovation

IGF USA LogoPanel – The Potential Impact of 5G On Current and Emerging Technologies

Brief session description:

Thursday, July 25, 2019 – 5G technology, when connected at full potential, is likely to be an upgrade over current bandwidth constraints. Its advocates say it is the next generation of digital transformation, enabling business innovation and more mobility and enhancing aspects of the Internet of Things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, voice-command technologies and real-time data analytics. It will take some time to make it widely available outside of major metropolitan areas because it requires significantly more connection points and investment. It uses a combination of wireless and wireline options to allow more devices to be connected. It is expected to enable faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage, more-stable connections and less latency over shorter physical distances. It is expected to allow for enhancements in health care applications and for industrial equipment, self-driving cars and smart cities. It will also allow closer tracking and surveillance.

Moderator – Shane Tews, president, Logan Circle Strategies, an ICT consultancy, and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute’s Global Internet Strategy program

Patricia Paoletta, partner and technology policy specialist, Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP
Evan Swarztrauber, policy advisor, Federal Communications Commission
Sanjay Udani, vice president, technology policy, Verizon Communications
Francella Ochillo, executive director, Next Century Cities

Details of the session:

Experts in the field of 5G technology discussed the benefits and repercussions of bringing the next generation of connectivity to the United States, touching on equity and infrastructure concerns.

Panelists at the IGF-USA breakout session said 5G devices are both a trend of the present and the future. They said the next generation of technology is capable of overcoming current bandwidth constraints by greatly increasing Internet traffic and reducing latency down to a millisecond. It also has the potential of powering artificial intelligence, voice command technologies and real-time data analytics.

Because providers and consumers are only beginning to understand the potential implications of 5G, Sanjay Udani, vice president of technology policy at Verizon Communications, said that the possibilities of a 5G network are virtually limitless.

“It’s not just one network,” Udani said. “Think of it as a network for whatever you need.”

Minding the Gap

According to Evan Swarztrauber, a policy advisor at the Federal Communications Commission, network providers are beginning to roll out the necessary 5G infrastructure, one mile of cable at a time.

In order to support 5G’s lightning fast processing speeds, new cell towers would have to be built across the United States with short antennae to receive ultra-high-frequency radio waves. 5G devices are designed to pass those radio waves between each other almost instantly and would therefore require a high concentration of smart devices in close proximity, as well. These requirements are being met in larger cities, like New York and Chicago, but may take years to reach rural areas.

Francella Ochillo, executive director at Next Century Cities, said that 5G may be a far-off concept for lower income and rural communities who already have an unreliable broadband connection.

“I think 5G is something that’s literally putting connectivity on steroids for people who have it,” Ochillo said. “However, there’s a large swath of the population that has no connectivity at all or at least unreliable connectivity. Some people call it digital equity, some people call it the division of resources, but I think there has to be an agreement that everyone should benefit from the technology.”

The panelists agreed that educating people in digital literacy would be an essential step in building a fully 5G nation. But Evan Swarztrauber, a policy advisor at the Federal Communications Commission, said providers are doing more than just talking to people about the next wave of technology. They are also involving people in the process. The 5G infrastructure manufacturing process has created thousands of middle-class jobs, he said.

“As the government, our job is not to create the product and figure out the usage,” Swarztrauber said. “Our job is to take regulatory laws out of the system so that we can get this infrastructure deployed quickly.”

Udani said Verizon is currently deploying 1,000 miles of cable fiber every month

“This stuff is real, but it takes time,” Udani said. “You can have the best network in place, but if you don’t maintain it and manage it properly, you’re nothing.”

Powering the Future

Patricia Paoletta, a partner at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, said that thinking globally and acting locally are both key components to a successful 5G rollout.

“People have to want to invite the innovation into their cities,” Paoletta said. “Locally, I think people do understand the impact 5G will have across the range of society’s needs. 5G globally, it’s not just seen as a way to get the rich city slickers faster videos, but a lot of it is about education and a range of issues.”

In the coming years, 5G technology may have the ability to enhance the Internet of Things, power Smart Cities, perfect agricultural practices and launch fleets of driverless cars.

Swarztrauber said that the FCC is already working on widening the broadband in low income communities to support telemedicine services. This would allow patients to virtually connect with health care professionals in minutes.

“A lot of the news articles will focus on video games, and that’s OK because I love video games,” Swarztrauber said. “But what we’re talking about is real life saving technology here.”

But according to Udani, the 5G technology in five years may look different from what is currently on the market.

“I think right now in the discussion about what we will use 5G for, we are in some sense limited by our own imagination,” Udani said.

– By Hannah Massen

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Full Video of “5G Enabling Technology Innovation” Panel – https://livestream.com/internetsociety2/igfusa2019/videos/194182078

The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at IGF-USA 2019 included the following Elon University School of Communications students, staff and faculty:

Janna Anderson, Maeve Ashbrook, Elisabeth Bachmann, Bryan Baker, Paloma Camacho, Samantha Casamento, Colin Donohue, Abby Gibbs, Jack Haley, Hannah Massen, Grace Morris, Jack Norcross, Maria Ramirez, Brian Rea, Alexandra Roat, Baylor Rodman, Zach Skillings, Ted Thomas, Victoria Traxler, Julia Walter, Courtney Weiner, Mackenzie Wilkes and Cameron Wolfslayer