The following opinion article was first published by the New Haven Business Journal. It was written by John Emra, the president of AT&T New England and president of AT&T Connecticut.


If you have turned on a TV, listened to the radio, or looked online anytime in the last 18 months then you have seen advertisements or stories about 5G.

But despite all the noise you probably still don’t really understand what all the hype is about, or why it is really important.

The 5G difference will be most immediately noticed in the palm of your hand. More devices can be connected at faster speeds and with a better response time because of this latest generation of wireless technology.

But beyond an individual cell phone, 5G creates implications and benefits for a near-limitless array of industries and community institutions, from business to education, health care, public safety and more.

Just as importantly, ultra-fast connectivity empowers the innovators, startups and entrepreneurs of today and tomorrow, enabling the technology that will drive research, development and growth well into the future.

Economic, Societal Impact

Recent research has shown that the economic and societal impact of 5G will be enjoyed far and wide.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, 5G will create 4.5 million jobs nationally and infuse $1.5 trillion into U.S. GDP in the next 10 years through infrastructure investments and by creating opportunities for innovation across the economic landscape.

Closer to home, industry group CTIA’s analysis has shown that 5G will spark more than 40,000 new jobs in Connecticut over the next decade.

5G will spark more than 40,000 new jobs in Connecticut over the next decade.

Many of the jobs and technologies influenced by 5G in the coming years will also look to tackle major societal issues. Think addressing climate change, improving health care, or closing the digital divide—wireless currently plays a major role in each of these.

But the ultra-fast, more reliable next-generation technology of 5G is a critical piece of their continued evolution.

For example, cutting-edge technology like augmented and virtual reality, faster video streaming, and data computing have fascinating and powerful applications for education at all levels. Think of what university students could develop and innovate with this technology at their fingertips.

Internet of Things

From there, the ability to learn and innovate with such leading-edge connectivity opens doors for innovators and entrepreneurs to create, build and grow right here in Connecticut.

For the environment, things like smart water sensors or drones, powered by 5G, would help the agriculture industry conserve resources and maximize crop output.

For healthcare, telehealth visits could be made more efficient, and remote surgeries and consultations could become a more regular reality with augmented and virtual reality.

The implications stretch much farther, into manufacturing, small business, entertainment, news media, government operations, and beyond.

Internet of Things solutions have already played a role in the COVID-19 vaccine effort, with AT&T technology supporting things like tracking vaccine locations, monitoring storage temperatures, connecting vaccine sites and more.

These are just a few examples in just a few industries.

The implications stretch much farther, into manufacturing, small business, entertainment, news media, government operations, and beyond.

Foundation

Wireless providers have been laying the foundation for 5G for years, upgrading networks as data consumption has skyrocketed.

In 2019, Americans used 4.4 million gigabytes of internet data every minute, a 41% increase from 2018. To provide reliable wireless service now, and lay the technological foundation for 5G, several types of technologies are used.

Networks are built and upgraded using both towers and small cells, which are antennae affixed to existing structures like light poles.

And as research shows, Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of upgrading the infrastructure.

Connectivity a Priority

A 2020 poll conducted in Connecticut asked likely voters for their attitudes about wireless connectivity, 5G, and their use of such technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those polled strongly believe quality wireless connectivity is a priority; and they support efforts by government officials and the telecom industry to enhance wireless networks.

If 5G is to be a success for as many people as possible, local and state policymakers should encourage and enable the deployment of the necessary infrastructure.

Connecticut has an opportunity to harness innovative technology and use it to make our state stronger than ever.

Strong public/private partnerships are the bedrock of successful networks.

That same research from the Boston Consulting Group that touted the economic benefits of 5G, also cautioned how a delay in 5G deployment could mean billions of dollars lost and our national technological advantage diminished.

Whether it’s in healthcare, education, manufacturing, or myriad other industries, Connecticut has an opportunity to harness innovative technology and use it to make our state stronger than ever and have the benefits of 5G surpass all the hype.