5G is perhaps the most political telecommunications upgrade in history, and with good reason. Using history as an example, the power that 4G brought to companies is now available to entire countries in real-time and at scale.
The British reported on suspicious activity in Huawei’s 5G infrastructure, a move that led the United States to ban Chinese companies from US telecom space. Apple fell out with Qualcomm and only recently mended the issue. 5G is a priority issue between countries and companies, and the issues will likely continue well into the future.
There will also be a huge amount of competition for the jobs that 5G will create. The software and infrastructure upgrades to install 5G across the US alone will cost somewhere in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Competition between companies will likely bid up that price even more. Companies will spend additional money trying to be the first to market.
All of this money has to move through the government somehow. As a result, you can bet that legislatures are lining up to be the ones to bring these opportunities to their states and districts.
The 4G LTE infrastructure currently has over 300,000 cell stations that will provide much of the hardware for the 5G network. By 2025, experts are predicting over $250 billion in annual service revenue from the 5G infrastructure. Local officials are already trying to shoulder their way into the administration of cell stations.
They are using any excuse they can to impose eminent domain, and some residents are actually beginning to see it their way. Even small cell deployments can potentially harm a community in many different ways, which gives them leverage for demanding money to keep the cells in the area.
Telecommunications companies have lobbyists working day and night in state legislatures that are hoping to restrict the local control of hardware. Because of these efforts, 13 states passed bills in favor of limiting municipal control, with many other states tabling resolutions in the same vein.
Residents in local areas will also have to consider whether they want 5G infrastructure in their neighborhoods or not. It remains to be seen how the network will interface with new frequency ranges and the physics of electromagnetism. Many people have reported shoulder and neck pain, headaches and many other types of deleterious physical effects from close proximity to telecom stations.
It may be that rich districts lobby to move infrastructure into poor neighborhoods and simply reap the benefits of the improved signal distancing. Although there are only a few months until the commercial 5G rollout, there is still plenty of time for political gerrymandering and moneymaking.
Who will win the 5G battle? This remains to be seen. However, one thing is certain, lawmakers have an incredible opportunity to impact this space.