COLLEGE PARK, Md.–Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr discussed the role of workforce development in supporting 5G roll-outs and making federal regulations “5G-ready” to encourage private sector investments in the next generation of wireless technology.

Carr’s remarks came during a discussion with Jonathan Adelstein, president and CEO of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, at the Wireless Connect event at the University of Maryland. Carr said that while the industry is moving in the right direction in establishing more apprenticeships, small and medium companies in the space still struggle with getting qualified employees. While Carr has said that there’s no formal role for the FCC in this area, he has taken it on as an one in which he lends his presence and support to industry’s efforts.

“There are a lot of challenges with getting more broadband in more areas,” Carr said, making note of spectrum availability and easing network deployment regulations, both of which have been areas of focus or recent actions by the FCC. “At the end of the day … we right now don’t have the workforce in place that can fully deploy these networks.”

In previous remarks at a U.S Department of Labor workshop on apprenticeships and workforce development in the wireless industry, Carr said that as the FCC seeks to adopt policies that will boost private sector investment in 5G, the question arises of whether a skilled workforce exists to actually deploy advanced networks.

“We need to make sure that industry has access to the skilled workforce needed to get this transition to next-generation networks across the finish line,” Carr said at that event last November, which highlighted approximately 1,500 registered apprenticeships that have been created with the wireless industry. He added, “while there is no direct regulatory role for the FCC to play here, I think we need to focus more
attention on this issue and potential solutions, including the role of apprenticeship programs.”

In terms of the regulatory environment for network infrastructure, Carr spoke of needing regulatory environments that are “5G ready” and said that recent FCC changes to infrastructure regulations are in line with that goal.

“There is a global race that’s underway right now to lead the world in 5G.. The US — there is no doubt in my mind — led the world in the deployment of 4G,” Carr said. “5G … is the technology that’s finally going to take these things that seem to be future and cutting edge … and it’s going to make those things reality.”

Other countries around the world are “attempting to leapfrog us and take the lead in 5G,” Carr added, going on to say that billions of dollars in 5G investment “is going to flow to countries that get their regulatory structures 5G-ready.

“The country that gets their regulatory structures ready, that commits to win this race to 5G, is going to see the private sector capital flow to it first, that’s going to be necessary to deploy these networks,” Carr said.

“I think the biggest hurdle to getting there, to making sure we win this race to 5G, is updating our regulatory structures,” Carr said. “Right now our regulatory approach at the federal level in particular — and the state level as well — has assumed that every single antenna site, essentially, that’s being deployed, is a new 200-foot tower.”

He said that the FCC’s recent decision to exclude small cells from federal historic and environmental review as well as streamlining macro tower site deployments will be seen as “key moment in this race to 5G where this is going to be a big boost to getting us in the lead.”



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