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FCC announces Salt Lake City will be 5G wireless test site

Posted at 3:31 PM, Sep 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 00:12:05-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Federal Communications Commission has announced that Salt Lake City and New York City will be test sites for new 5G wireless technology.

“These projects will test new advanced technologies and prototype networks like those that can support 5G technologies. We’re also establishing a process to ensure new innovators can have access to this testing resource while protecting current, licensed users. I thank all those who are leading these efforts on the ground and stand committed to continuing our efforts to empower innovators,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement released by the agency on Wednesday.

The FCC’s Innovation Zone will support POWDER (Platform for Open Wireless Data-driven Experimental Research) in several connected corridors of Salt Lake City. The University of Utah will oversee some of it. 5G typically refers to “fifth generation” mobile networks, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections.

The Utah State Legislature in 2018 passed a bill that allowed for 5G wireless in the state. It allowed infrastructure for it to “piggyback” on what’s currently in place, similar to how Google Fiber was able to set up in the city.

Salt Lake City acting Director of Economic Development Ben Kolendar said that infrastructure is separate from the POWDER testing bed that the FCC is referring to.

A grant the UofU received in 2018 from the National Science Foundation allowed for the installation of wireless network bases all throughout the college campus and downtown. Kolendar said the city is looking at placing bases on city fleet vehicles as part of POWDER.

He said the University of Utah is looking at how to move beyond 5G.

“Really what they’re looking at, is testing not only 5G applications– but thinking about 6G, 7G, 10G, way down the road,” he said. “It’s like describing the internet, before the internet. You don’t know all the different ways this technology can be used yet.”

The 5G testing won’t be open to consumers. However Kolendar said businesses will be able to utilize POWDER to test out new technology. Because of that, he said it could boost the local economy.

“Businesses are interested, just because of this technology, in coming to Salt Lake City because they’ll be able to test new technologies here in the city,” he said. He added that he’s already heard of companies interested in relocating to Salt Lake City because it’s becoming an Innovation Zone.

Kolendar said consumers will not see a difference during the testing. According to the FCC press release, any 5G or other wireless testing is not to interfere with current cell phone services.