Through President Donald Trump called 5G cellular connections a “vital link to America’s prosperity and national security interests in the 21st century,” Anthony Price, manager of the Hillsboro Verizon store, said the driving force behind proposed nationwide upgrades to 5G is speed.
“Right now in this area, download speeds max out at about 120 megabits per second,” Price told The Times-Gazette. “With the 5G network, we could see those download speeds reach up into the one gigabit per second range, which is 10 times what we have now.”
The term “megabit” refers to a data transfer rate of one million bits of data per second, while “gigabit” denotes a transfer rate of one billion bits of data per second, he said.
Jacob Pence, a customer service representative at the AT&T store in Hillsboro, said that speed, combined with those who stream video and use the internet for gaming, played a role in the need to upgrade.
“For all the people who stream and game, you need that extra bandwidth,” he said. “4G just couldn’t keep up with the demand of those that were streaming and bogging down the network, and it was taking away from those that didn’t stream.”
He said with a proliferation of streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, streaming a typical video could potentially use three to six gigabits of data per hour, and since he both streams and games online, his data usage per month is typically upwards of 40 gigabits.
“Just imagine if 100,000 people were doing that all at once on that same network,” he said. “They’ll be eating up a ton of bandwidth to the point that the person who isn’t streaming but is just checking his email is going to have a hard time just doing that, if he can do it at all.”
The main concern for the consumer, Price said, is what will happen to older phones consumers may still be using.
“Anything older than a 4G phone won’t work in the 5G environment,” he said. “And there are some 4G’s that may not work either, since the phones have to be capable of HD voice, or advanced calling, so if your old phone won’t do that, it won’t work.”
Pence said that 5G service is currently available in some major cities across the country, such as Columbus, but according to his sources, it could be in the Hillsboro area in the next few months.
“In Hillsboro, from what we’re hearing, it may be late spring to early summer when they flip the switch in order for us to get 5G,” he said. “But depending on how the upgrades progress, we could be looking at some time in the fall.”
In Trump’s comments, delivered in the Roosevelt Room at the White House recently, the president spoke of making a 5G broadband upgrade of benefit to rural America, saying “the farmers and others just haven’t been treated properly” and that the White House is working closely with federal agencies “to get networks built in rural America and at a much lower cost than it is even today.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission, one of their aims is to create a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund headed by the agency, with the money earmarked at extending high-speed broadband to 4 million homes and small businesses in rural America.
“Everything that I’ve heard from the top on down is that this will affect the rural areas more than they do now,” Price said. “To accomplish that, they’ll have to put up more towers, but they’ll be micro-towers, and what I’m hearing is these micro-towers will be an antenna that is mounted on top of a street lamp or utility pole, or a smaller building.”
Trump said the FCC has also taken action to streamline the permitting process for 5G infrastructure with state and local governments, with approval now being required within 90 days instead of up to five years and with a cap on how much a local or state entity can impose in fees.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said at the Friday gathering that his agency wants to make it easier to install the wireless infrastructure, echoing Price’s comment that 5G relied heavily on a web of smaller antennas.
“When I came into office, regulations designed for tall towers threatened to strangle our 5G future in red tape,” Pai said. “We have eliminated these rules, because infrastructure the size of a pizza box shouldn’t have to jump through the same regulatory hoops as a 200-foot cell tower.”
By the end of the year, the FCC projects the United States will have 92 5G deployments in markets nationwide, with the next nearest country, South Korea, projected to have 48.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.