Senator: Mississippi has huge opportunities with 5G tech

Published 10:10 am Friday, February 1, 2019

The fifth generation of high-speed wireless networks, commonly known as 5G, is expected to increase data speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s mobile technology. This improvement will not only make our phones and internet-connected products run faster, but also revolutionize the way information is shared between people, businesses, and devices.

In the United States, 5G networks are projected to result in the creation of more than 3 million new jobs, generate as much as $275 billion in new investments from the wireless industry, and add up to $500 billion to the U.S. economy over the next decade.

Given the enormous potential of this emerging technology and the importance of connectivity to rural Mississippians, 5G deployment and technology innovation will be the subject of my first hearing as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. I am hopeful 5G will bring opportunities to improve the lives of the citizens in our state.

Jobs for Mississippi

Many areas of Mississippi still lack broadband internet access and wireless cell phone coverage. This urban-rural divide exists across the country and puts those who live in less-populated areas at a disadvantage for economic opportunities. As the U.S. begins to deploy 5G networks, it will be more important to ensure a level playing field for rural communities.

With improved internet connections, many workers may prefer the quality of life we enjoy in Mississippi and choose to work remotely – away from congested metropolitan areas. This option could reduce the “brain drain,” which costs our state some of our most talented students after graduation. Better connectivity and data could also revolutionize agriculture and address other challenges to make living in rural areas even more attractive.

Modern farming operations increasingly seek higher levels of efficiency. Networked rainfall sensors, advanced GPS mapping technology, and other internet-connected equipment allow farmers to maximize crop yields using less fertilizer and water.

With nearly 37,000 farms covering more than 10 million acres and generating more than $7 billion in economic activity, Mississippi could reap major rewards from 5G-enabled networks. My “Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act,” which was signed into law last year, will help make these ambitions a reality by expanding broadband availability to more cropland and ranchland.

Improving Rural Health and Safety

Data delivered over wireless networks can also be a game-changer for emergency response and telehealth services, equipping first responders with life-saving information. As 5G tools improve bandwidth and reduce delays, new applications, like portable sensors, “wearables,” and unmanned systems, will become more commonplace. These tools will help save lives by reducing emergency response times, particularly when a patient is far away from a major hospital.

Thanks to the work of many talented individuals at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and the Raspet Flight Laboratory at Mississippi State University, these sci-fi predictions of the future are quickly becoming a reality.

These efforts coincide with the work of the UMMC Telehealth Center of Excellence, which has already been improving outcomes for patients by offering access to high-quality care across the state. 5G technology will help these organizations expand their services to more areas.

These are but a few examples of how 5G technology should benefit our state and nation. As the Commerce Committee considers ways to enhance 5G expansion in the United States, I am mindful of the many challenges facing the deployment of this new technology including regulatory hurdles, international competition, and data privacy and security concerns. I look forward to representing the interests of Mississippians as these important discussions continue.

Roger Wicker is one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senators. He can be reached at wicker.senate.gov