In this episode, Tom Taylor, ETI’s Chief Strategy Officer, provides an overview of 5G and the history of the Gs. Tom also offers insight into why 5G is important to municipalities considering or currently offering broadband services. Listen to the podcast here.
Tom Taylor: We’ve all heard a lot about 5G. It's in the news a lot. And many people have a lot of questions about 5G. What I thought I’d do is start with a little history about what are of the Gs? After the history of the Gs then what does that mean for municipalities. Is this something that's only going to happen in the biggest of cities or is this something that will be everywhere? And if I'm kind of a small municipality, what does that mean for me and what do I do? Let's start with 1G.
1G was the beginning of communications as we think about it. It was those analog phones. You may remember a time when you had a phone wired to the wall and a cord to that little handset to your head. We'll call that zero G. Then we came up with mobile communication. It was a first analog phone. It's what we call 1G, and it really did one thing for us. It allowed us to place a phone call. Then we moved into the digital world with 2G. Going from analog voice to digital voice. This is also the very beginning of text messaging.
When we moved 3G, that's where text messaging went to SMS, and then with 4G came MMS - where we could send pictures with text message and full blown video and social media services.
Tom Taylor: Each of the Gs take about ten years to evolve. It's not quick. They take a long time to get there and today most of us are in the 4G world, sometimes called LTE. 4G was introduced to be faster and better, and what it did is introduced social media and apps. You may recall was just a little over 10 years ago, the first smart phone, iPhone came out. It's hard to believe right.
It was just in 12 years when that revolution has happened, so we've all lived through that. 4G tried to connect everyone. Everyone is connected on social media and occasionally, we place a voice call.
5G, which is not far along yet, will move from connecting everyone to connecting everything. Can you imagine a world where everything is connected? It's not just my phone, it could be my watch, the shirt I wear, my toothbrush, my tennis shoes, or my mirror, my car, my drone…; you get the idea. All these connected things I can speak to and they speak to me. Everywhere we go things will be connected and in many ways that will be good for all of us.
Tom Taylor: One driving force comes from technology companies. They need to do something new and different to maintain or gain market share. Imagine that you are a big wireless carrier, how do you get more subscribers than your competition? That would be what I would call a top down approach.
But it really comes from the bottom up. We as consumers, we say “Aww I wish I could do this kind of thing.” And so, a start-up does some things, and we often think about the Apple watch as a new thing but there were probably 100 companies that came out before Apple with a kind of connected watch, or connected wearable. So there, that's really where a lot of the new ideas come from, is from small start-ups coming up with new ideas and trying things in the marketplace, and some of them really catch on while some of them kind of fall off to the edge.
Tom Taylor: For a lot of people, 5G is big and scary and thought to only affect big cities, the NFL cities if you will. But what does it mean to small town America? What I think is really cool about it, is this is not going to widen the digital divide rather it will be a great equalizer. Imagine now that you have the capability of connecting up everything, everywhere. So that means for me, in a municipality here anywhere in the U.S., I can potentially bring a lot of new services that I didn't have before. It could be a way to catch up to the bigger towns and cities around me. Let's talk about a couple of examples. One would be in what we call telehealth or connected health care. If you go back 20 years, all of the best health care was in the biggest cities, where the best hospitals were and that would be one of the reasons why I would move from a small town into the big city, was to get better health care. But, if I have a fast 5G network, which gives me high bandwidth and low latency and everything connected, I can potentially bring the best health care into my municipality. What I can do is to partner my local hospital with one of the bigger hospitals in a town near me. And I can really begin to bring great health care into my municipality.
Craig Corbin: Any conversation with regard to municipalities, growths, you have to deal with the competitive nature of how 5G will impact municipalities. And that's one of the things that I think was a common thread in the recent Mountain Connect event, where municipalities viewed embracing 5G as vital to the future competitiveness with regard to attracting industry, attracting new growth for their area.
Tom Taylor: Exactly right. Imagine I'm a small town, and I'm an hour or two away from a big airport. That’s easy to envision in the city we are in, Atlanta, Georgia, is that you live in the city and still takes an hour to get to the airport. I can forget all that traffic. I'm going to move out to a municipality that may be in the southern part of Atlanta. Shoot, I can get to the airport in an hour or two hours easily, and then when I get to the airport, I'm one hop to anywhere else in the world. And now imagine that place has got fantastic telecommunications, so I can do all my work from there. And I can go to my little local hospital, and it has the best healthcare in the world cause its connected with these new 5G networks to other hospitals around the world, right. That'd be a pretty cool place to live, right?
Pete Pizzutillo: I would add to that the aging baby boomer population are moving from more affluent areas and downsizing into more rural areas. Bringing with them their expectation of broadband. They're smart, savvy and monied, so I think if you're looking to attract that type of citizen to your community, that expectation is going to be there. We are seeing baby boomers are moving to these locations, realizing that there's a gap and getting upset. And it plays in line with the telehealth point that you made. These folks want to age in place, they want to make sure that they can still connect to their, their doctors back in the big city and not have to worry that.
Tom Taylor: Yes and then not only connect up to the doctors, they want to connect up the rest of their families, right, so now I've got fantastic telecommunications and so it's not an old 2G, 3G, just barely connecting and grand mom can't hear you. Now, it's like perfect video to my grandkids and what not, yeah, what could be better.
Craig Corbin: And one of the other areas in addition to the telehealth, and that's huge with regard to having instantaneous monitoring and the ability to interact with, health professionals worldwide. But from an educational standpoint, you mentioned the age in baby boomers, and university towns are also becoming very attractive spots, destinations for, for growth. I would assume that 5G will have huge a role in the growth of those areas as well.
Tom Taylor: Absolutely. Let's talk education. That's the other reason why people will leave my small municipality and go to the big city, because they have a big university there. But how about if I could bring the university to me, right, so what do you need for that? I need fantastic telecommunication, but the second piece of that is all our young folk are growing up with what we call ARVR, augmented reality virtual reality. They'll grow up with VR headsets, it'd be just the way you interact with the world. Their educational experiences will be quite different than what maybe you and I grew up with. These experiences will be more immersive and for those to work, I just need great telecommunications and great connections to another place that provides some of those things.
Pete Pizzutillo: I would include the elementary and high school population as well, right. There's a statistic, I think its 70% of kids can't do their homework because they just don't have access to the internet. They got to go park outside Starbucks or whatever, siphon off that internet to get there. So that's a pretty big movement that you see not only locally, but federally trying to close that digital divide as well.
Tom Taylor: Absolutely, and you're seeing this in the education system more and more. The Internet is how teachers interact with their students. It's with a telecommunication system and what not. And the better we can make those, the better that people can interact together. And what we'll see is not so much interactive with my teacher in my local school, but that I'm doing a middle school program and were doing it with a school in Sweden. I want to interact with them and I want that to feel that they are right next door to me. And that's one of the things that 5G will do, is it will bring the municipalities into other parts of the world in a new way.
Pete Pizzutillo: You've done a great job laying down that 5G it's the next generation and it creates the opportunity for all these capabilities. But it's just technical or architectural decision. When you pull back the covers, it's really the deployment going from large cell, large towers down to small cell, to including fiber so you have greater bandwidth. We need to talk about how municipalities can start learning how to discover what the technology is to demystify it because I think that's a non-starter for some.
Tom Taylor: Yes, the first step is to get engaged and see what's going on. There are a lot of ways to put your toe in the 5G pool and one of them may be putting fiber through a lot of your communities, right. Because now you’ve got what we call gigabit connectivity and now you are drawing people in because of that. But you may find in your community, putting fiber in is expensive. There's another way of doing it, with what we call fixed wireless access. This is a tower or two, which is transmitting to certain parts of your town, super high bandwidth services. It's now wireless and so I don't have to run a fiber to everybody's home. It gets to their house kind of geographically, automatically. And so there are a lot of ways to do that and they can be different solutions for different municipalities.
Tom Taylor: And so the first step is to just begin to get educated, talk to people of other municipalities near you to see what they are doing. See what works for you geographically. See what federal funding is available for you because as you know there's big programs to try to levelize telecommunication across the country. And there may be a lot of funding in your particular area, there may be state funding programs you can also use. It could be that the city near you was doing a big innovation program and they're, they're trying to reach out to other communities, and you can tag in with that, so they're lots of ways to go figure out how to get started. And it can be different for each different municipality.
Pete Pizzutillo: There are two things I should mention. The new century cities are a great place for municipality, specifically to start getting down that learning curve that you mentioned before. The other is to learn about the collectives and the cop-ops, were seeing people, municipalities not going in this alone. Right, and we talked about the Thor project in Denver, right, the collection, there's, your neighbors, your neighboring cities are also going through this.
Tom Taylor: Another thing that you can do is in your particular municipality, you can start an innovation culture, but maybe have a coffee shops that host something once a month, you can have a hack-a-thon, or you can have an even build your innovation center. And it goes back to what you said Pete earlier, is how do these new ideas happen? Well you just get people working together. So now, have the spirit of innovation in my town and somebody bubbles up, hey if we only had this thing, it would be great for us, right. And then you get a lot of community moment I’ve and now you've got something going.
Craig Corbin: This is exciting because to think that most municipalities do understand the importance of beginning the process to your point, putting the toe in the pool of 5G because if you don't begin that now, very quickly you will be behind the curve. I wouldn't leave it to just the residential needs, I think Wilson, the city of Wilson you mentioned, right, we've had the conversation before. And we talk about maybe the businesses that are helping, getting those requirements, and saying hey what are the businesses, sees potential capabilities that they would like to have access too. That's very much a part of their long-term vision for revitalizing the intercity. And Wilson is an example. And that can be a great blueprint for other cities and municipalities all over the country.
Tom Taylor: It a way of bringing new businesses in but also a way of connecting existing businesses, so it could be that the health care hospital system in your town is the place that you start. Because you know that you start there, then you can get better healthcare and you connect up with hospital, and you begin to see how the snowball gets momentum and all of a sudden you got a 5G snowman in your town. Right, and that's why I want to move to your town, Craig, because you got great quality of life, right. You got low traffic, you got great health care, you got a good education, kids like living there, got good playgrounds, yeah, it's got the whole package.
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