Once 5G cellular networks are permitted to take root, they have the potential to revolutionize the U.S. economy in ways we can’t imagine.
That is just one of the consequences of implementing 5G, the latest technology for wireless communication. In ways that most of us can’t imagine right now, we will be impacted.
There was a mandate for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and cellphone operators to postpone a statewide deployment of the service. That is until early next year due to a last-minute complaint by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and additional arbitrary FAA interventions and delays may be on the way.
The FAA is concerned that the 5G deployment would cause difficulties with altimeters on certain flights.
Last week, the FAA issued a directive. This mandate states that the 5G network’s rollout would cause delays in plane schedules, then the agency could take further action. A Senate Commerce Committee hearing was convened. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in the hearing that the interference could cause a delay in up to 5% of their planes’ schedules.
On the other hand, the agency’s concerns may have more to do with interagency intrigues than with safety. Or with how small businesses will work around these things.
The FAA’s complaint comes at the culmination of a lengthy investigation that started more than a decade ago. The FCC started planning for the transition to 5G seven years ago. Those preparations included a slew of tests to verify that 5G networks wouldn’t interfere with adjacent spectrum users.
The issue with the delay is that the advantages of a statewide 5G network are massive. Aside from allowing us to download services faster than we can now. That is to say, downloading a movie will go from seven minutes to six seconds. The lightning-fast connection would enable all sorts of other business applications to emerge. Our lives will improve in ways that many cannot yet imagine.
It is, for example, a crucial step for self-driving automobiles.
Delaying the widespread deployment of 5G will be very costly. One researcher predicts that the advantages of 5G deployment would total $300 billion over the next six years.
AT&T and Verizon started rolling out the service in congested metropolitan areas in 2019. They had expected to roll it out statewide within a month. Both companies have spent tens of billions of dollars acquiring bandwidth. They are constructing the requisite towers and other infrastructure for the network’s deployment. For example, Apple and Samsung have released a new generation of phones that can connect to 5G networks.
The FCC Engineering Team
The FCC’s well-respected engineering team looked into the new technology’s potential repercussions. The team found no reason to suppose it would interfere with altimeters. And it is the FCC, not the FAA, that is in charge of this. That’s a good thing since the company’s workforce training is precisely what the company wants to do.
On the other hand, the most significant project of the century is years behind time and billions of dollars over budget, with no end in sight. And what is the project you ask? It is the FAA’s Nextgen Air Transportation System, which aims to enhance navigation and capacity at U.S. airports.
Six former FCC Commissioners recently signed a letter expressing their surprise that the FAA voiced this complaint. This complaint was very late in the process. The complaint is urging the two agencies to work closely together to fix the matter promptly.
Delaying 5G deployment has an equality problem. For now, those in vast urban regions get 5G. Meanwhile, others in the comprehensive center of the nation are still waiting. And, in addition to deepening the digital divide, the delay also hurts the few who have it. So, without a large client base, the apps that rely on it will be unprofitable.
The FAA’s last-minute action reflects a more significant regulatory challenge. The challenges are within agencies as they struggle to consider responsibilities. They consider the costs and benefits of activities that may extend beyond their own smaller authority.
5G and the White House
The White House should be more proactive in resolving this disagreement. It seems that it has attempted but failed to arbitrate it.
Part of the difficulty is that it has yet to officially designate an Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is an office inside the Office of Management and Budget. The Office of Info. and Reg. Affairs is entrusted with monitoring regulatory actions and acting as a traffic policeman for interagency conflicts.
It’s difficult to exaggerate the significance of 5G to our country’s future living level. More delays would cost American families dearly by postponing technologies. Technology that might enhance their health, safety, convenience, and living standards.
These infighting squibs may just be small business irritations. Or, worst-case scenario, they may jam up things for good.