5G is the next generation of wireless connectivity. It may be able to achieve speeds that are as much as 100 times faster than 4G and will be able to handle 100 times the number of connected devices. Just as 4G ushered in the era of mobile internet, 5G will enable a new ecosystem of interconnected devices and user experiences like VR and AR.

Since 2017, mobile data traffic has increased 46% annually and with more connected devices incorporated into our daily lives, the rate of growth is only expected to increase. This growth has congested networks and slowed down performance. With higher speeds, lower latency and greater capacity, 5G will provide the mobile network that 21st century data use demands. 5G will also bring new capabilities to telemedicine, virtual education, telecommuting and many other experiences.

Technology is a prerequisite for modern life. Today’s mobile revolution has expanded critical connectivity capabilities to communities via their smartphones, which is particularly important for underserved populations that disproportionately rely on their smartphones for access to information and resources. Across the country, 37 percent of adults get online primarily on their smart phones. Expanding 5G will provide users with better access to apply for jobs, find information about health conditions, do homework and access government services. 

Read more on 5G’s impact on the digital divide from the Brookings Institute and the Abell Foundation.

In Maryland, 5G is expected to create more than 9,700 jobs, $850 million in network investment and $1.5 billion in GDP growth for the state over the next five years. Much like 4G ushered in a new era of mobile internet, it is also anticipated that 5G will unlock new potential in industries such as manufacturing, transit, medicine, technology and more. 

The consensus among the scientific and health communities is that there is no evidence of any adverse effects from exposure to radiofrequency (RF) emissions below FCC exposure limits. RF emissions safety has been studied for more than 60 years. The research is subject to constant review by government health agencies, and standard-setting organizations, like the FCC and FDA. And in December 2019, the FCC reaffirmed these safety standards on a unanimous and bipartisan basis.

RF energy from antennas used in cellular transmissions, including 5G small cells, result in exposure levels well below FCC safety limits. 

Read expert opinions on radiofrequency safety.

Public safety: 80% of 911 calls are made on a cell phone, making reliable service critical. 5G’s increased capacity and speed will assist first responders by providing access to real time information, improving safety in an emergency.

Healthcare: Enhanced connectivity will offer a host of innovative opportunities for healthcare providers. With 5G, patients will not only be able to better utilize telemedicine, connected devices and wearable sensors that monitor vitals can signal both patients and care providers in real time if preventive measures are needed; and remote surgery could bring top-tier care to patients regardless of their location. 

Education: Roughly three million children in the U.S. do not have internet access at home. That means schools face obstacles trying to provide remote learning to students. 5G will bring greater connectivity to those who rely on their mobile devices to access educational resources. 

The buildout of 5G networks is largely dependent on partnerships between the wireless industry and our federal, state, and local government leaders to prioritize next generation communications infrastructure. Thirty states, including neighboring Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia, have enacted small cell legislation designed to streamline the permitting process to deploy 5G infrastructure. 

However, Maryland has yet to adopt similar statewide legislation. Currently, implementation is dependent on navigating permitting and regulatory guidelines that vary from county to county. To remain competitive and incentivize private investment in essential wireless networks, it will be critical for Maryland to advance a statewide small cell bill.

The improved speed, latency and capacity of 5G will enable uses that have the potential to cut emissions, lower water consumption, reduce waste, and improve air and water quality. For instance, sensors in buildings and on streetlights could detect foot traffic to optimize efficiency and dynamic traffic lights could reduce congestion. Many see 5G technology as transformative as the automobile or electricity.