by KARMEN RAJAMANI, Crown Castle, For the Sun Gazette
Increasingly, most people rely on their smartphones for daily communication and Internet access. Mobile-network operators report traffic grew 40 percent between 2021 and 2022.
Demand grows as we rely on mobile networks to do more and connect more devices – from mobile phones to fitness trackers to the IoT [Internet of Things] devices that help run our cities, and so much more.
Beyond connecting a world of smart technologies, wireless networks are also critical for the nearly 70 percent of adults who live in wireless-only households, and for those who rely on wireless Internet access to participate in the digital economy.
Added demand has dovetailed with the rollout of 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity, to create the need for more wireless infrastructure.
As the strain on communication networks increases, operators have to build more infrastructure – towers, small cells and fiber that all work together seamlessly to move data at the speed of light and deliver connectivity to business and communities.
The buildout of wireless networks, driven by private-sector investment, will serve as an important economic boost for communities large and small.
CTIA estimates that the buildout of 5G will generate over $22 billion in gross domestic product and 62,000 new jobs in the greater Arlington area in the next 10 years. 5G will transform major industries, supporting a new wave of innovation from transportation to public safety, health care and education.
Arlington is poised for unprecedented growth, with companies such as Amazon growing their footprint here. Elected leaders in the region have worked hand-in-hand with the business and nonprofit communities to ensure we can smartly embrace growth and allow for increased opportunity. However, our telecommunication policies have stagnated, and we risk lacking the digital infrastructure we need to meet our everyday needs and attract more investment.
In Arlington, like elsewhere across the country, network operators work with the county to permit their infrastructure. However, it typically takes over one year to process required permits in Arlington, whereas the standard timeframe is 30 to 60 days in many of our neighboring regions. The disparity is a disincentive to invest in this critical infrastructure in Arlington.
Ensuring communities have the mobile networks they need requires collaboration between the private sector and government. To maintain Arlington’s competitiveness and ensure benefits from improved connectivity, it is imperative the county facilitate the buildout of communication infrastructure in a timely and predictable fashion.
Now more than ever, Arlington needs a communications network capable of transmitting large amounts of data to all corners of the county.
Karmen Rajamani is vice president of Government Affairs at Crown Castle, the nation’s leading provider of shared communications infrastructure – cell towers, small cells, fiber – connecting people and businesses to essential data, technology and wireless service.