October 11, 2016–States and localities could be a “serious bottleneck” in the deployment of 5G infrastructure if they don’t streamline their processes to enable the wireless industry to roll out what could be millions of small cells, according to Richard Adler, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future. The deployment of 5G cell sites will require “new kinds of public-private partnerships between industry and government,” Mr. Adler told reporters during a conference call this morning. He added that if states and local governments don’t “streamline the deployment of this wireless infrastructure, it’s possible that they could become a serious bottleneck.”
He stressed the importance of access, timeliness, and cost efficiency as 5G infrastructure is deployed. State and local governments must provide easy access for companies to install small cells, including by not requiring separate zoning approval, Mr. Adler said. Government officials must provide access to rights of way, utility poles, and public spaces for infrastructure deployment, he added. Governments should also adopt a streamlined process, perhaps with a fixed schedule, to rule on permits, he said. Officials also should only require one permit application for multiple facilities, he said.
As for cost, there should be reasonable fees to access ROWs and poles, and governments should adopt dig-once policies, Mr. Adler said. “When it comes to 5G, there’s going to be a distinctive and important role for state and local government,” he said. “I think there’s a pretty good awareness on the federal level of the importance of this. Where I think the awareness isn’t yet is on the state and local level – that they’re going to have to be involved.”
Asked if there is anything the Obama administration can do to spur 5G deployment in its remaining months in office, Mr. Adler referred to an initiative in which the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC plan to implement a “model city” program to spur spectrum sharing. He noted that the proposal is still in the planning stages. “We got to get it out of the laboratory and, you know, out on the streets,” he said of wireless technologies.
Mr. Adler’s remarks today came ahead of a planned White House Frontiers Conference Oct. 13 in Pittsburgh. In response to a question, Mr. Adler said the Institute for the Future, which is a non-profit research organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., receives funding from telecommunications carriers, among other clients, including government agencies. “They are among our sponsors, but they’re not our dominant sponsors,” he said of telecom companies.
Last year, Mr. Adler authored a report called “Preparing for a 5G World” on an Aspen Institute spectrum policy roundtable. – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org