@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

5G wireless could help NC make leap from smartphones to smart cities

Posted May 16
Updated May 17

— New technologies like self-driving cars and self-aware appliances connected to the internet require a faster connection, and a bill in the state House would make it easier for providers to build towers needed to establish a 5G connection.

5G technology could help local leaders make the leap from smartphones to smart cities. The screaming-fast cellular platform of the future has the potential to link municipal services together, making them more efficient and easier to use.

"That will deliver things such as better and cheaper water services, better flood monitoring, better traffic monitoring," Dan Ault, Cary's assistant town manager, said.

Ault said 5G would help to power driverless cars, but to do it, wireless providers need access.

Instead of building bigger towers, providers said 5G relies on millions of small cell towers. Right now, cellular data providers are lobbying the state for permission to install the towers on public rights of way.

"As soon as you move into the right of way, you join the water, sewer, gas, electricity, transportation," Ault said. "Maximizing public benefit should be where we start from and then work back from."

Telecommunications consultant Rusty Monrow said House Bill 310 is heavily weighted in favor of providers, not communities.

"It gives them the authority, as long as they are in the right of way, to effectively put them wherever they want," Monroe said. "Ninety-eight percent of these communities are not going to know how to deal with the issue."

CTIA, an organization that represents wireless providers and supports the bill, said providers are ready to invest $362 million in Raleigh to deploy 5G. They say that, while local governments would retain some regulatory power, a statewide system would ensure a faster rollout of the service as cities and states compete for high-tech jobs and resources.

The House Energy and Public Utilities Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Thursday. 5G is expected to roll out in 2020.

Cary town leaders said they would like to see the bill include a partnership between cities and wireless providers.

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