Peoria, Ill., Businesses Need 5G to Compete, Advocates Say

But before that can happen, the region needs to attract a carrier to build out the high-speed service.

by Steve Tarter, Journal Star / August 17, 2018
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(TNS) — PEORIA, Ill. — If Peoria-area companies had access to Internet speeds 100 times faster than they have now, business and the community would benefit.

That's what led Ross Miller and Randon Gettys to hold a recent workshop on 5G, a Wi-Fi connection that promises to usher in an era of autonomy and advanced connectivity.

"There are 5G projects going on now in 20 cities across the United States — none in Illinois," said Miller, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University.

"The earlier we get on the list, the better off we are," he said, referring to the installation of 5G in Peoria.

"We have to make a business case for carriers to come to Peoria," said Miller, who also directs the Institute for Innovation through Collaboration at the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, 801 W. Main St.

"We've reached out to companies in the area most likely to use it, companies like Caterpillar Inc., OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, OneFire, CSE Software, AutonomousStuff, Precision Planting and Bradley," he said.

Attracting a carrier to set up a 5G network here is important for development in central Illinois, said Gettys, who oversees startup operations at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

"From 2008 to 2018, the workforce here has declined by 15 percent. We have to make some dramatic moves to attract people to come here, for businesses to start here — and stay here," he said.

Having 5G would be one of those dramatic moves, said Gettys. "Being able to move massive amounts of data will help our companies get ahead," he said.

Miller and Gettys worked up a white paper that makes a case for 5G in Peoria. The pair cited area companies that work on autonomous vehicle systems, noting that AutonomousStuff, Rivian, Caterpillar and Komatsu would benefit from the availability of 5G.

"Having 5G will affect transportation, allowing for the monitoring of vehicle movement. Autonomous vehicles can work without 5G, but they will work better with it," said Gettys.

Other 5G applications affecting local companies include business analytics, connected factories, remote healthcare delivery and connected agriculture.

"There are also long-term benefits for government," said Gettys, referring to improved connections between citizens and city services.

The availability of 5G would make Internet connection 100 times faster, he said. "You'll be able to download a TV episode in under three seconds," said Gettys.

But 5G wouldn't arrive without a cost. Miller noted that 5G would represent a sizable investment for the company providing the service. "This is going to be a very expensive deployment for cell carriers. We're talking about thousands of cell sites required for Peoria," he said.

Michael Kinnavy, head of research and development of 5G for Naperville-based Nokia, a company that makes 5G equipment a carrier would buy, said that 5G systems are still being developed, but carriers such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint probably would roll out 5G systems in select cities in the fourth quarter of this year.

"In 2019, you'll see more 5G systems but it won't be deployed nationwide. They're going to be cost-conscious about rolling it out," he said.

"You're likely to see it in some of your big cities. Peoria is probably not on a carrier's radar as the next big thing, but the white paper (generated by Miller and Gettys) shows why Peoria may be the right place for 5G," said Kinnavy.

The United States isn't the only country deploying 5G, he said. "You've got Korea and Japan very involved and China has been very aggressive in becoming a 5G leader," said Kinnavy.

©2018 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.