Bring the Benefits of Powerful New Wireless Networks to Virginia Consumers

Bring the Benefits of Powerful New Wireless Networks to Virginia Consumers

February 10, 2017

The General Assembly is considering two important pieces of legislation that are designed to transform telecommunications in Virginia for generations. Senate Bill 1282 provides the foundation for massive innovations in wireless networks across the state.

Future advancements in wireless connectivity can’t come fast enough for today’s tech savvy and data driven consumers. Fortunately, the wireless industry is working over-time to enhance its existing infrastructure and deliver the power of fifth generation (5G) networks as quickly as possible. 

There is a lot of buzz about 5G and what it will deliver to consumers. And for good reason. According to a recent report by Accenture, once deployed, 5G networks are expected to contribute $500 billion to the U.S. economy, add up to 3 million jobs, and enable communities across the country to offer smart city solutions that will generate significant energy and transportation benefits.

To make 5G a reality, wireless companies are expected to invest $275 billion over the next decade to build out their networks. That’s on top of the billions of dollars the industry has already spent expanding wireless coverage across the country. Those networks will run in part on small cells— wireless antennas the size of a pizza box—that will be mounted everywhere from utility poles to street lamps. Unlike traditional “macro” cell towers, which are large in size, small cells are designed to be “low and tight” and blend in to the existing environment making them less obtrusive. 

Currently, the wireless industry is facing a myriad of roadblocks when it comes to deploying small cells in communities throughout Virginia because many cities and towns approach small cells permitting like they would large, traditional towers. The lack of statutory certainty affects not just wireless service providers but municipalities as well. A streamlined process will allow wireless providers to leverage the technology they need to enhance the existing 4G LTE network and create the footprint for 5G, which is coming fast and will give municipalities certainty when processing applications.  

Virginia policymakers have a unique opportunity through this legislation to streamline the regulatory structure and make it less time consuming and costly for wireless providers to deploy small cells. The Virginia bills also promote a streamlined process for deploying new traditional towers, which will enable expanded coverage in rural areas. That means Virginia will become a more attractive place for the wireless industry to innovate and invest. And, the bill has been structured so that it won’t eliminate any local governments’ right to oversee the public rights-of-way. 

Everyone has a role at ensuring the commonwealth’s wireless future stays bright. The wireless industry can’t work in a vacuum and needs the support of state and local policymakers to help usher in the benefits of new networks in a timely, efficient and cost effective manner. Senate Bill 1282 has our industry’s strong support and we hope it has yours as well.   

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