The tech devices of the future promise to be smarter, faster, and even more powerful than what we have today. Imagine your refrigerator telling your smartphone that you’re out of milk or smartphones with built-in heart-rate monitors sending real-time heart tracking data to your doctor.
All of that will require faster wireless networks than the 4G networks we currently use. Enter 5G. This next generation of wireless networks is developing rapidly but will require greater spectrum (or the frequencies of airwaves used to move Wi-Fi and data and power wireless networks). This is a role for government.
Today, the Trump Administration announced that it will work with the private sector to develop a national plan to expand spectrum. The White House launched a task force to study how to make more airwave licenses available and to forecast future spectrum needs.
This joins recent efforts by the Federal Communications Commission, to speed up the development and deployment of 5G by limiting local fees and reducing red tape.
At the heart of these efforts is the realization that we may be running out of what’s called unlicensed spectrum. These frequencies are unrestricted and available for any and all wireless communication companies to use.
Their importance to our economy can’t be overstated. According to communications industry experts, unlicensed spectrum boosted the U.S. economy by $525 billion in 2017 from the sale of wi-fi and Bluetooth-enabled devices as well as increased efficiency and cost savings for consumers and businesses.
To remain competitive with other nations, it’s also imperative that Washington not kick the can down the road on 5G.
There are plans on the table to expand unlicensed spectrum. The Internet and Television Association (NCTA), for example, wants the FCC to “take a fresh look” at one specific band of airwave.
However, Washington gets it done, now is the right time to make 5G a priority.