Digital Divide 2.0

5G Networks And Infrastructure: The Prescription For Improving Telemedicine

The Federal Communications Commission’s $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support virtual healthcare, or “telemedicine,” is a vital program to bring high-quality care to our veteran, low-income, and minority communities, writes Kish Rajan, chief evangelist for CALinnovates. But telemedicine isn’t a viable option without the high-speed wireless connections needed for quality videoconferencing.

The answer to this problem, Rajan says, is upgrading the nation’s wireless infrastructure:

To deal with the demand today and to lay the foundation for the 5G networks of tomorrow that will allow telemedicine to reach its full potential, we must upgrade and densify our communications infrastructure by expeditiously deploying more fiber optic cable and densification devices known as “small cells.”

Read what this entails here.

The Millennial Dilemma: Too Many Smartphones And Not Enough Bandwidth

The Pew Research Center says 100% of Americans age 18 to 29 own a cellphone, with 94% owning a smartphone,” writes CALinnovates’ Mike Montgomery on Modernize California. “A separate survey from Pew found that 89% of smartphone users go online daily, while nearly four out of 10 18- to 29-year-olds go online ‘almost constantly.'”

He continues: “While the increased use of connected technology has certainly made our society more efficient, we are at a tipping point where our networks and infrastructure must be modernized to deal with the massive demand for data.”

Read Montgomery’s proposed solution to this issue here.

The Key To The Future Of Self-Driving Cars: 5G

“Small cell and fiber deployment, much like autonomous vehicle progress, is not happening fast enough,” says CALinnovates’ Mike Montgomery. “The reality is, we will need thousands of small cells connected by thousands of route miles of fiber for our mobile networks to reach their full potential.”

“Prioritizing communications infrastructure buildout now is not only fundamental to speeding the adoption of self-driving cars, but enabling countless innovations that stand to make our communities smarter and safer through the power of 5G.”

Read Montgomery’s full column on Modernize California.

Cities Shouldn’t Wait For 5G To Install Small Cell Antennas

By Mike Montgomery

It’s hard to remember, but a little more than a decade ago flip phones were the height of mobile phone innovation. Texting via a numerical keypad was all the rage and only a handful of mobile devices could even access the internet.

The difference between that time and today is remarkable. Now we do everything on our phones – staying in touch with friends via video chat, keeping up with family on social media, banking and even watching movies. A lot of these advances have come from improved device technology, but many have come from upgrades to the networks that power our devices to make room for the extra data needed to keep us hyper-connected.

For many of us, 4G isn’t the marvel it used to be. Dropped calls, slow downloads and sinking number of bars have become more prevalent as we continue to add more and more devices to our wireless networks. And guess what? Our networks are going to continue to get more crowded – according to projections, in North America alone mobile data traffic will reach 6.4 Exabytes per month by 2021.

The good news is, there is a solution to our capacity problems, and that solution is already underway – upgrade both our network and the infrastructure that powers it. Let’s start with the network upgrade. The next evolution of our mobile networks will be 5G, but in reality 5G will be more of a revolution.

You see, 5G is expected to be 100 times faster and support 100 times the capacity of 4G. The benefits to users are obvious – instantaneous video downloads, fewer dropped calls, zero lag in live video – but 5G will also be a major boost for the U.S. economy. Accenture predicts that 5G will bring with it $500 billion in GDP growth by making smart cities a reality. 5G is the key to faster speeds and more connections points, which will ultimately help cities use less energy through smart grids, limit commute times and traffic fatalities by powering self-driving cars, allow cities to deploy sensors that will instantaneously alert police to things like gunshots, and help make emergency services more efficient.

However, 5G is not available to the public yet and the rollout of the network will take several years, which obviously doesn’t do much for our immediate capacity issue. What will help immediately, and is also an absolute necessity to making 5G a reality, is the modernization of our communications infrastructure.

While we wait for the 5G revolution, cities can begin to reap the immediate 4G boosting benefits of new wireless antennas known as small cells. Small cells are exactly what they sound like, small, low-powered nodes located near the end user that add much needed capacity to existing 4G networks while simultaneously laying the groundwork for 5G – small cells will literally serve as the backbone of 5G networks. Thanks to their size and ability to be camouflaged, small cells can be placed on utility poles, traffic lights, even under the seats in a stadium.

London is already doing this – building out a network of small cells to improve 4G coverage in the city. According to Techradar:

“As the finance capital of Europe, it was seen as unacceptable to have poor mobile coverage thanks to the numerous tall buildings blocking signals. Small cells were identified as the ideal solution.”

London expects to have 400 small cells by March 2019.

The essential point, small cells help bridge the gap between 4G and 5G while improving the customer experience right away. Installing a robust small cell network now is a rare win-win for cities by allowing them to deal with the immediate growth of data traffic – which climbed 238% in the last two years alone – while laying the groundwork for 5G.

Mobile Connectivity Key To More Reliable Emergency Communications

mudslide

By Mike Montgomery

Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans own a mobile phone (95%), with three-quarters of us owning smartphones. Whether we’re ordering dinner or a ride home, apps on our phones always seem to know our location. It is a common misconception, however, that because apps like Lyft and Postmates know where we are, that in emergency situations, first responders will also be able to find us.

The truth is far more complicated. Our apps know where we are because of opt-in location services on our devices. Ride sharing services, for example, use GPS, cellular and Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint your location. But when calling 911 from your cell phone, the emergency operator will more than likely not know your exact location because the only information your phone transmits to the operator is the Caller ID and location of the nearest cell tower that is connecting the call. It is mind-boggling to think that more often than not, your pizza delivery person has more accurate location information than the paramedics – especially when you consider the fact that upwards of 80% of 911 calls originate from a mobile device.

Additionally, mobile communication plays a huge role in disaster mitigation. Mobile alerts are used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing persons, natural disasters and other critical situations – an absolute necessity as more than 50% of households have abandoned their landline. Even the FCC has called wireless emergency alerts “an essential part of America’s emergency preparedness”.

Most municipalities have systems in place to alert residents of pending danger but often these systems require residents to know they exists (hint: many do not) and opt-in. And sometimes these systems fail – alerts come too late, or not at all. That’s what happened in Santa Barbara in January when mudslides wiped out hundreds of homes and killed at least 20 people. Residents in the evacuation areas said they never saw the mobile alerts. The state experienced similar problems late last year when trying to alert people to evacuate from massive fires in Santa Barbara and Napa Valley.

There is no denying the direct correlation between public safety and connectivity. As such, we must ensure that our communities always have access to the best available communications tools.

So, where do we start? The answer, infrastructure.

Upgrading our wireless infrastructure – specifically deploying a robust network of densification devices know as small cells – is key to ensuring present and future connectivity. Right now, our devices are mostly connected by large towers or macro antennas spread miles apart.

Small cells, on the other hand, are small antennas or nodes, affixed to existing infrastructure in close proximity to one another. The lack of distance between nodes is one of the factors that allows for the increased wireless coverage and capacity.

A robust small cell network makes for a more resilient and reliable network, which will ultimately allow for 911 operators to get a better read on where a person is located and ensure that mobile alerts are pushed out in an effective and timely manner.

Further, building out a permanent network of small cells across the country will not only help ensure our safety today, but will also serve as the backbone for future 5G networks that will redefine what we think of as being “connected”.

There’s no question that we must find better ways to utilize mobile technology to ensure people can find safety during an emergency, whether that means calling 911 or evacuating before a natural disaster. The devices we all carry in our pockets have the potential to save our lives, and it would be irresponsible of us to not take full advantage of the technology right at our fingertips.

To Stay Globally Competitive, The U.S. Needs To Embrace 5G

By Kish Rajan

Walk down the street in any American city and it’s easy to see that we are already deep into the wireless age. Ninety-five percent of Americans now own a cellphone, and we are using our devices not only to communicate but to watch videos, order cars, handle banking and much more.

But we are only beginning to understand what will become of our insatiable appetite for next-generation connectivity. In the past two years alone, data traffic has increased 238%. With the advent of the internet of things (IoT) – which will connect cars, household appliances and even pets – that data usage is going to grow exponentially.

In order to handle this traffic, America must get ahead of the curve by upgrading our network to 5G. The state-of-the-art 5G wireless network promises to handle 100 times more capacity and move data 10 times faster than the current 4G LTE network most prevalent in the U.S.

However, according to a recent study, America is lagging behind both China and South Korea when it comes to 5G deployment – which is a potential big problem for our country.

Why? Well, there’s more at stake here than just lightning-fast video downloads. 5G will create enormous economic growth. Accenture estimates that 5G could lead to $275 billion in investments, 3 million new jobs and $500 billion in GDP growth. Faster wireless networks will position us to see incredible innovation in smart-cities technology, healthcare and education.

To date, the U.S. has been the global leader in innovation – in large part due to our leadership in the wireless space – but there’s a real risk America will lose our position to China and South Korea if we lose the race to 5G.

The economic benefit of leading the move to the next level of network speed and capacity is not fiction. History shows that 5G will provide tremendous economic benefit. America led the way on 4G technology, resulting in $100 billion in economic impact. We took that lead position from the European Union, which had been ahead of the game on 2G. Losing that front-runner status led to job losses and contractions in the telecom hardware and software industries in Europe.

We can’t afford to have the same thing happen in the U.S.

Bringing 5G technology, and all of its benefits, to market requires the deployment of new infrastructure, namely a new network of small wireless nodes called “small cells.” Small cells are about the size of a pizza-box and are most commonly attached to existing infrastructure, such as utility poles and streetlights. In order to lay the foundation for 5G, we will need small cells deployed in mass to optimize the strength and reach of the coverage.

To roll out these new networks, municipalities and states must be forward-thinking. We can’t just default to the regulations established in the past that slow the deployment of small cells. We must rethink regulations to allow for 5G networks to spring up all over the country so every community can benefit.

If not, there’s a real risk we will not only fall behind China and South Korea, but that within the U.S., we will be creating a new type of digital divide.

Cities such as Sacramento and Long Beach in California are aggressively moving forward with 5G. Officials in Long Beach hope that the new network will help bridge the city’s digital divide and attract new businesses. These emerging cities may find themselves attracting the Googles and Amazons of tomorrow as larger cities drag their feet on 5G.

While that might be good for some, it would be better for entrepreneurs everywhere to have access to the 5G network. If we don’t put ourselves in a position to lead on 5G, we could feel the effects in the not-too-distant future.

Unblocking 5G: New FCC Rules Make it Easier to Build Fast Networks

“The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to kick-start 5G wireless networks in the United States by exempting them from some reviews that hinder installation,” writes CALinnovates’ Kish Rajan. “It’s about time.”

He continues:

So far, the U.S. lags far behind the world leader — China — at getting 5G networks up and running. “There is a worldwide race to lead in 5G, and other nations are poised to win,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel acknowledged in January. It’s an embarrassing place for the country that invented the internet. But more than that, our hesitancy to streamline the process for installing vital infrastructure is costing us money, jobs and security.

Read the rest of Rajan’s stance on this issue here.

CALinnovates Statement on 5G Access

A statement from CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery:

“In today’s booming digital economy, fast and reliable internet connectivity is an absolute necessity, as nearly every industry job depends on it. Keeping up with the global sprint to 5G will mean the difference between U.S. innovation surging or falling behind. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr’s common-sense approach to removing regulatory roadblocks will promote 5G access for every American. It’s about time.”

Time for California to build a 5G network

By Kish Rajan

Here in California, we like to think of ourselves as being on the cutting-edge of all things technology. After all, California is home to Silicon Valley and we are the birthplace of companies like Google, Apple and Tesla.

But in one crucial area, we are at a high risk of falling behind. States like Virginia, Florida and Texas could all have state-wide 5G networks before California does.

And that’s a problem because 5G has the potential to unlock enormous economic growth, help grow new businesses and jobs, improve transportation, save energy, and greatly improve our infrastructure.

Right now, most mobile devices work on a 4G network where signals are bounced off of large cell phone towers than can a mile or more apart. This works fine. But as anyone who’s ever lost coverage or waited with growing frustration for a video to download knows, we need to upgrade these systems to keep pace with the growing demand.

4G has the potential to hit maximum speeds of 1 Gbps, but because of interference from buildings, it rarely hits those speeds. A 5G network has the potential to move data 10 times faster. Yes, that’s going to be good for consumers who want to enjoy quick downloads, but it’s so much more than that. 5G will power the infrastructure necessary to make our cities smarter.

According to a report from Accenture, new 5G-based technologies will enable intelligent transportation and energy systems – easing traffic gridlock and improving the performance of the electrical grid. These improvements alone have the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. We’re already seeing the possibilities for this kind of technology in San Diego with sensors in street lights collecting data that will track air quality and improve traffic flow and parking helping the city save $2.5 million per year. Imagine that kind of innovation on a state-wide scale.

Then there’s the economic benefits of building out the network itself. Accenture predicts that 5G could result in $275 billion in investments, creating 3 million new jobs nationally and growing GDP by $500 billion.

But we’re not going to see any of that potential come to fruition if we constrain the emergence of 5G by subjecting it to the old approach to 4G regulations.

Right now, it can take up to two years to approve a permit for a cell-phone tower. But a 5G network requires 10 to 100 times more small cell antennas than a 4G network. And then different municipalities have different requirements for cell-phone antenna permits.

These old regulations make it almost impossible to build out a vibrant 5G network that could benefit everyone in our state.

That’s why states like Virginia have put new rules in place to make it easier and faster to build a 5G network. Governor Terry McAuliffe just signed a bill that creates a state-wide permit to place cell antennas on lamp posts and utility poles. Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana and Iowa are all looking at similar bills.

It’s time for California to catch up.

We have our own 5G bill making its way through the state Legislature. SB 649 will lay the ground work for a 5G network. It’s crucial that it moves quickly through the legislative process and that Gov. Jerry Brown signs it in to law. The longer we wait, the further we fall behind.

California has never taken a back seat to any other state when it comes to innovation. We must not start now. Let’s unleash our full potential and remind the country and the world what we’re made of.

Kish Rajan is chief evangelist at CALinnovates and former director of Gov. Jerry Brown’s GOBiz initiative. He can be contacted at kish@CALinnovates.org.

This piece was originally published in the Monterey Herald.

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