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FCC Ruling Will Enable Blazingly Fast Digital Experiences

It’s rarer to find an Alakazam and Scyther within a two block radius than to find multiple tech sectors applauding the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) for any action they take.

But that’s just what happened this week when the FCC opened up a significant new spectrum for the next evolution of wireless data communication, 5G. Telcos and cable operators alike praised the move.

Why is 5G so significant? In the U.S. and in many parts of the world, users are connecting to the Internet at speeds that just meet the barest definition of broadband. Yet, we are on the precipice of an incredible bandwidth leap, and that is certainly most true in the U.S.

Every major shift in media consumption since the Digital era began in the late 90s has been predicated upon a shift in bandwidth. The shift from 4G to 5G will be a doozy, enabling download speeds up to 10x that of current 4G (which maxes out at 1Gig per second, but rarely achieves that speed).

At 4G speeds, a 4K movie would take an hour to download. At 5G speeds, it would be less than 10 minutes. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality content will be able to be streamed from the cloud instead of needing to be stored locally and provide photo realistic experiences.  Additionally, 5G will speed up the adoption of driver-less cars, improving safety and reducing collisions with faster data feedback.

In a sign that the worlds of cable and Telco are continuing to collide, and maybe just too coincidentally on the heels of the FCC announcement, Comcast announced the official formation of Comcast Mobile, a partnership where Comcast will act as an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) using Verizon wireless infrastructure. While Comcast will continue to upgrade data and video delivery across its Cable infrastructure, it clearly sees that a good portion of video consumption will flow wirelessly through 5G and does not want to get cut out of the revenue this will generate.

Subsequent to the FCC ruling, the White House announced the Advanced Wireless Initiative, a $400MM (USD) research project, led by the National Science Foundation to build four “city scale” testing platforms within the next 10 years. Much of this will be done, in partnership with Intel, to develop Internet of Things Municipal projects empowered by 5G.

In another ruling that didn’t catch the same attention as the spectrum announcement, but is almost as significant, the FCC blessed the death of the copper landline by allowing Telco providers to twilight the analog technology without fear of repercussion. Sometimes legacy systems do die.

Consumers should not expect to see 5G roll out tomorrow. It will likely begin to hit in mid-late 2017 and the roll-out will be measured. Yet, the step taken by the FCC is incredibly significant, and a sign that the U.S. wants to be a leader, not a follower as they were with 4G.