In looking over GT coverage in 2018, a number of major themes emerged — like microtransit and the rise of ransomware — that highlight where government’s attention was and what will be on priority lists in 2019.
“5G deployment is not imminent at all,” said Doug Dawson of CCG Consulting, a telecommunications advisory firm, in an interview with GT in early 2018. But this year’s headlines might lead to a different conclusion.
Possibly the buzziest term in telecom this year, major carriers aggressively lobbied to pepper urban communities with the small cell technology that brings speeds 10 times faster than 4G with lower latency. A big part of the effort was changing the rules to make it easier for telecoms to install the cells that power 5G. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr explained in February that rules governing infrastructure were crafted with hundred-foot 3G and 4G towers in mind, not backpack-sized 5G equipment. “It’s the regulatory equivalent of requiring a commercial pilot license to fly a paper airplane,” he said, citing concerns that high costs and cumbersome red tape would put the U.S. at a disadvantage on the world stage.
Many local communities pushed back, fearing the loss of local control over decisions within their borders. Nevertheless, the FCC decided in late September to ease the path for 5G by requiring localities to speed up application processing times and limiting what cities can charge for cell installations on new and existing poles.
Several communities had already laid significant groundwork in advance of the FCC decision, seeing its potential to set them up for sophisticated smart city endeavors requiring a foundation of sound connectivity. 5G rollouts from both AT&T and Verizon began to dot the map in 2018. Verizon chose Sacramento, Calif., and Los Angeles, as well as Indianapolis and Houston, while AT&T set up the service in 12 cities including New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Raleigh and Jacksonville, Fla. These lists will grow in 2019 as 5G continues to proliferate and second-wave cities look to apply the lessons learned from early adopters.