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There is a tremendous opportunity for the telecommunications industry to capitalize on the onslaught of demand for connectivity. Whether delivered through existing 4G networks or through the small cell sites needed to deploy 5G, consumers and businesses need more bandwidth to realize the technological advances on the horizon.
According to the Eighth Broadband Progress Report, delivered by the FCC, nearly 19 million Americans, six percent of the population, still lack access to high-speed internet. The hardest hit are those in rural areas where 14.5 million people cannot access fixed broadband service at threshold speeds.
Without access to high-speed internet, these areas will miss many of the advantages afforded by a connected society. In the same report, the FCC concludes that "broadband is essential to innovation, jobs, and global competitiveness."
Technology alone is not enough. – Steve Jobs
How Will 5G Impact Communities?
Perhaps one of the most exciting innovations afforded by 5G is the advancement of Smart Cities. Communities around the country are working to improve environmental, financial, and social aspects through the use of technology.
According to Zygmunt Lozinski, telecom industry technical leader at IBM, "over the next decade, we will see 5G impacting cities around the globe, and that's because of the deployment cycle for any new wireless technology. It's about every ten years that we get a new technology that's ten times better than the previous one. And it then takes about seven years to deploy that at country scale, so we're going to see 5G be the technology of the 2020s." He goes on to state that "5G will spur a period of the greatest innovation since microprocessors came out in the early 1970s, and [that] cities will see many benefits from it."
With the 2020s just around the corner, it is time to begin looking at how these technologies are becoming a reality. Sixty-six percent of American cities have invested in some form of smart technology – from street sensors and drones to ridesharing innovations; communities are embracing the benefits of a connected world.
There is not power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about. – Margaret J. Wheatley
Where are the Smart Cities?
As the winner of the Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge and recipient of a $50 million grant, Columbus is embracing the promises of Smart living through the implementation of a series of projects.
One project brings together the many transportation options available in the city under a single mobile application and payment system. The "multimodal trip planning/common payment system application" allows users to plan rides and parking across a wide variety of modes, including public transit, parking, bike-sharing, car-sharing, and services like Uber, Lyft, and Yellow Cab.
The goal of a second project is to improve freight transportation and reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. Columbus is the country's tenth most active logistics hub; a distinction that has caused the city to be known for poor air quality and traffic. To combat this, the city plans to develop a truck platooning system. The system would allow two or more semi-autonomous freight trucks to communicate in real-time so they can closely follow one another, resulting in saved fuel, increased vehicle safety, and improved traffic flow.
As the unofficial first Smart City in America, Pittsburgh's technology growth is supported by its partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. The University began deploying and testing autonomous vehicles in the 1980s, long before 5G was on the horizon. Since then, the University and the City of have entered into an agreement that resulted in Metro21: Smart Cities Institute. Since its inception, Metro21 has supported efforts to increase connectivity in rural areas, increase sustainability, and decrease light pollution.
Many other American cities, including Denver, Colorado; San Francisco, California; Dallas, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; and LaGrange, Georgia are also actively implementing Smart City technology to drive innovation throughout their communities.
Preparing for 5G
To prepare for even more significant technological advances, the wireless telecommunications industry is overcoming a significant talent shortage by implementing internal training programs.
The key to an effective training program is to understand where the talent strengths of your team lie and where they need to be. To do this, companies often choose to start with a Training Needs Assessment. An assessment not only reveals where to focus your efforts, but it can also uncover hidden talents within your team.
The next step is to outline the needs of the business. For many wireless construction firms, this leads to a focus on radio-frequency engineers. RF engineers are needed to support current infrastructure maintenance and to work through 5G implementation plans.
With a clear understanding of your team's skills composition and the needs of the business, it is time to develop a plan to fill the gap. The solution could be an education reimbursement incentive, cross-training between employees, developing a mentorship program, or even bringing in experts to host on-site training programs.
Often, the best solution is a combination of these options that creates learning diversity and allows employees to choose the learning style and topic in which they have the most interest.
Preparing your business and your team to bring 5G to burgeoning Smart Cities across the nation will allow you to capture more market share, achieve higher profits, and play a pivotal role in bringing the technology of tomorrow to Smart Cities across America.