This article is the first in a four-part series that explores changes utilities can make to realize more effective 5G deployment.
For broadband consumers in a few major markets, 2020 was the year 5G technology finally arrived and began to deliver on its many promises. For most of us, however, the wait continues as the complex process of rolling out 5G service commences across the U.S. For those directly involved in the rollout – electric utilities, communications and broadband providers, municipalities, contractors, and engineering firms – a period of great challenge has just begun.
The rollout is intense not only because of competition among service providers, but because 5G requires a much denser infrastructure network to function properly. This requirement necessitates the placement of thousands of new small cell units throughout the landscape, attached to existing utility poles, streetlight poles, buildings, or in many cases, new structures. At its worst, this process can be a recipe for friction among the companies and institutions involved, even to the point of legal action.
To satisfy the needs of all involved, including consumers, successful deployment of 5G technology depends on meeting three essential criteria. It must be:
- Safe – Owners of existing infrastructure, such as electric power providers and municipal governments, must be certain any new equipment attached to their assets does not create a hazardous condition for the public or their employees.
- Swift – Consumers want improved services yesterday. Timely deployment is a key to remaining competitive for service providers. The FCC has also identified success in the race to 5G as a priority for the United States to remain competitive technologically with China.
- Effective – 5G has to be smooth and seamless to live up to its promise and to adequately support the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT).
This is a big job, and it simply cannot be accomplished by doing things the way they’ve always been done. A new way of thinking about stakeholder interactions is necessary for success.
4 Key Mindset Shifts
John Sciarabba, CEO of Alden Systems, identified four changes in approach that are crucial to a successful partnership among companies providing this exciting new technology:
1. Recognize the parties involved share a common objective. All the companies and governments working on the 5G rollout have a shared interest in providing the best possible service to their communities to help close the digital divide.
2. Respect the constraints and goals beyond the main objective. Each entity has its own role to play and each has its specific concerns. To avoid harmful breakdowns, the parties must respect one another’s interests.
3. Realize the need to be data driven. Accurate, up-to-date, comprehensive asset data is essential to swift deployment of 5G infrastructure. The large amount of data involved makes high-level joint use data management essential to the effort.
4. Shift from a project mindset to process mindset. Look at each job as part of a continuing process, instead of a project with a beginning and an end. This change in thinking allows for a more informed and efficient approach to the work at hand, and also establishes a blueprint for future work, giving companies the ability to scale.
Let’s take a closer look at the first of these points. Future articles in this series will explore the other points in detail.
A Shared Objective
“Everyone wants to serve our communities and help them prosper,” Sciarabba says. “It’s easy to get stuck in one perspective and think only about the people who are creating the change that feels like friction. We need everybody working together to help these new services get deployed, which will benefit us as the public.”
In terms of immediate, basic consumer benefits, 5G promises better, more reliable mobile broadband service that reduces interruptions, lags, glitches, and dead spots. Download and upload speeds will be much faster. Video playback will be smoother.
In terms of significant community benefits, the more robust and comprehensive the 5G rollout is, the greater the gains will be for people who rely on mobile devices for internet, as outlined in a report from the Brookings Institute. Since a greater percentage of minority consumers are in this group, better service for mobile customers means improved access to health care, education, employment, and other services for everyone in society.
5G will lay the groundwork for the expansion of the IoT, the network of sensors that enables objects to communicate and coordinate in ways that will improve home security and comfort, energy efficiency, public safety, traffic flow, and many other public and private functions. 5G is essential to creating smart cities and moving self-driving automobiles from something we only read about to something we actually own.
The stakes are high. Just as the timely, efficient deployment of 5G can reduce inequalities, a lurching, disjointed, inefficient rollout will only increase them.
We are on the verge of what could be a truly transformative moment for our society. These improvements stand to benefit everyone in society. It is in the public's best interest that the responsible parties work together to get it right.
Meeting the Challenges
We recognize the challenges aren’t small. If this effort is not well managed and coordinated properly, it will lead to many unnecessary (and costly) trips to the field by multiple parties to record data for the next potential job.
Traditional methods of data management and communication simply aren’t up to meeting current demands. Streamlined processes and more efficient data sharing will be required to meet the moment.
Fortunately, technological tools are available to ensure all stakeholders work better together, collect the relevant data, manage and track it, share it efficiently, update it easily, and access it repeatedly as deployment proceeds. Alden One®, the nation’s joint use management platform, is the answer.
Alden One makes it easy for asset owners and attachers to share the data they choose with joint use partners, and business process automation keeps work moving along smoothly, avoiding unintended and unnecessary delays.
Working together, we can ensure everyone benefits from 5G, which is an extremely exciting prospect. For information regarding how to make the challenges of deployment less daunting, click here to schedule a meeting or learn more at www.aldensys.com/aldenone