© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

5G To Bring Opportunity And Potential Disparity

Antennae on a rooftop
Tony Weber
Creative Commons
5G Antennae on a Pittsburgh rooftop illustrate what could become common in Bloomington-Normal.

The mayor of Normal says 5G and other smart city technology developments will be the topic for the annual One Voice leadership trip to Washington, D.C.

This year the group leadership trip will focus on fact finding rather than specific grant requests to better target future trips and agency lobbying.

5G devices will be more expensive than regular cell technology and could widen the digital divide between those with the economic resources to take advantage of the better connectivity and those without.

Mayor Chris Koos said there is a challenge for rural areas as well, which will be very late to attract 5G infrastructure and investment from telecom companies because the population base and potential market is small.

He said it's unclear whether municipalities can address those problems.

"Maybe. It's hard to speculate on what bargaining power we would even have. We could quickly be pre-empted by the state or the federal government from even being involved in that decision, and that's the issue we are facing right now," said Koos.

5G requires more antennas than existing cellular infrastructure. Koos said on WGLT's Sound Ideas that the town also has a stake in making sure the extra small towers needed for 5G will not be unsightly.

"And municipalities are very concerned about what it's going to do to the streetscapes of their communities and want to be able to have some control over that because there are examples of very very thoughtful 5G rollout and there are some examples of some very horrible 5G rollouts," said Koos.

Koos said the town of Normal and City of Bloomington probably won't have to consider 5G issues for a couple years. The new system will go into big cities first.

Koos said in general 5G will help local firms reach the world and do business.

3G technology began deployment in the U.S. in 1998 with download speeds of 8 megabits per second (Mbps). 4G rollout started in 2008 with download speeds of 150 Mbps. 5G started in 2018 with download rates of 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second). Some analysts suggest 6G technology will be ready for the marketplace in 2030 with speeds of 1 Terabit per second.

As a point of comparison; 4G can download a movie in 20 seconds, 5G - 3 movies in one second, and 6G could allow a download of 300 movies in one second.

Listen to the entire interview with Chris Koos talking about council meeting agenda items, Presidential politics, and 5G technology.

  Editor's note: This story has been changed to refer to download speeds in megabits instead of megabytes.

People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.