Guest opinion: Small cell legislation paramount for Utah’s 5G future

Utah is a state that’s always looking forward. We have top-tier transportation that’s built for the future, an education system consistently ranked among the best in the nation, and we’ve nurtured a business-friendly atmosphere that produces regions like Silicon Slopes.

We in the Legislature try and stay out of the way of innovation. In fact, when we do get involved, it’s to make sure that entrepreneurs have open doors to walk through to do what they do best.

Senate Bill 189, the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act, which passed unanimously last legislative session, is a perfect example of the type of legislation that keeps Utah business at the cutting edge and cuts out the politics that would edge in.

The bill removes unnecessary red tape that will help businesses deploy next-generation wireless technology known as 5G.

To make that technology a reality, we must upgrade our communications infrastructure. This will be done through the robust deployment of small cells solutions, commonly known as “small cells”, which are small wireless nodes usually attached to existing right-of-way infrastructure — utility poles or streetlights. They work in concert with existing communications infrastructure to add the necessary coverage and capacity to support 5G. 

These small cells allow for less intrusive and more robust networks that lay the foundation for networks that can substantially change the way we live our lives. 

Over the next few years, wireless carriers will be upgrading their 4G/LTE systems to 5G, which promise speeds up to 100 times faster and the ability to handle 1000 times the capacity of existing networks. Such 5G networks will be what powers “Smart City” innovations like autonomous cars, smart energy grids, smart manufacturing solutions, and more. 

As you can imagine, 5G is going to be a major economic engine in the US. According to Accenture, 5G will be responsible for 3 million new jobs, $275 billion in investment, and add a whopping $500 billion to the US GDP. It’s a perfect match for Utah’s technology-focused efforts and start-up culture. The wireless industry in Utah already generates 29,000 jobs and $2 billion in economic activity.

The Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act is an important step to ensuring Utah stays at the forefront of innovation that is part of what makes our state such a great place to live and work.