5G functionality is on track to expand wireless functionality over 4G LTE's capabilities, but there is more policymakers can do to set the stage for innovation, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) found in a new report (PDF) it released Thursday.
The report offered two primary recommendations for policymakers to further support 5G development:
Bring high-band "millimeter wave" spectrum to market and put it in the hands of innovators
Enable local governments to streamline infrastructure deployment, including wired backhaul connections and small-cell siting
For the first recommendation at least, initial signs are encouraging. Several industry stakeholders speaking at an ITIF discussion on the report Thursday morning were highly supportive of the FCC's recent moves to make that spectrum available.
"Let me say here this was one of the most astounding efforts, and I really give Chairman Wheeler high praise for doing all of this," said Peter Pitsch, executive director of communications policy and associate general counsel at Intel Corporation.
"A lot of countries are saying, 'We're going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on public-private partnerships to promote 5G,'" he added. "That isn't going to happen in the U.S. But what is going to happen is we're going to get spectrum in the marketplace in a flexible way incredibly quickly."
Pitsch's praise was echoed by other industry stakeholders in attendance, many of whom lauded the quick timeframe and noted it was almost a year faster than they expected.
Stakeholders were similarly impressed by the broad support spectrum sharing has gathered. "In an era where everything is partisan, not just at the FCC but writ-large in the United States, writ-large around the world, it is really gratifying to see spectrum policy for 5G be bi-partisan," said Dean Brenner, SVP of government affairs for Qualcomm.
The second recommendation, in contrast, on expanding local infrastructure, needs more policy action than what's already taken place. But Doug Brake, telecommunications policy analyst at ITIF, noted that 4G can pick up the slack to some extent, allowing for a more gradual roadmap.
"We believe, considering the deployments and use cases that are still being fine-tuned and explored, and the fact that LTE still has a significant amount of gas left in the tank, the interaction around 5G at this point should be sort of in a stage setting area," Brake said.
In the report, ITIF outlined three major challenges of 4G networks spurring the 5G charge:
The need to enhance mobile broadband with greater capacity and reliability for consumers, including providing more data, which is always in greater demand
The need for a network that can support massive deployment of the IoT
The need for a highly dependable network to support critical communications and public safety functions
Brenner, for one, supported the idea of that more gradual development pace as helping the U.S. move in cooperation with international 5G innovators. "Borrowing a line from a famous basketball coach Jonny Wooden, I would say be quick, but don't hurry. So the idea is to accelerate things, work with regulators and fellow vendors and operate around the world because economies of scale are so important," he said.
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