Municipal leaders from across Louisiana recognize that Smart Cities, connected cars, 5G, superfast connectivity and new developments in the internet of Things are becoming crucial pieces of the economic puzzle. This vision of our future economy can become reality when public policy clears the way for private sector investment. Based on a recent report by Accenture, it is estimated that 5G services would bring $187 million in investment to Baton Rouge, over 2,100 jobs and create $347 million in GDP growth. In New Orleans, the same report estimates more than $320 million invested and approximately 3,600 jobs created as a result of 5G services.

Today, consumers aren’t satisfied with only one type of connection, and consumer demand for consistent and continuous connectivity that follows them wherever they go is growing at an incredible pace. In fact, according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Annual Wireless Industry Survey, in 2016 alone, more than 13.7 trillion megabytes of wireless data was used by consumers, and that number is expected to grow fivefold by 2021.

Across the nation, states and municipalities are driving policy changes to spur the economy and pave the way for our 5G future. In fact, legislation signed into law embracing small cell investment in 2017 has already passed in Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Louisiana’s policymakers can jump start our innovation evolution by crafting and passing policies that enable deployment of small cell technology.

Small cells are compact, unobtrusive cells that fit on traffic lights and utility poles, and they are helping wireless carriers to improve service by complementing more traditional cell towers to “densify” networks. This helps ensure a more seamless experience for consumers, and in order to continue to meet the rapidly growing demand for capacity, providers must be able to effectively deploy small cells. Fortunately, a strong foundation is in place, as communications providers have invested and continue to invest heavily in Louisiana and across the country.

In fact, a recent Accenture study projects that the communications industry will invest more than $275 billion in infrastructure in the next seven years, and small cell deployment will be a significant piece of that investment. Beyond the direct investment in communities, small cells can also make smart city applications more effective, leading to significant cost savings for communities, particularly related to traffic management and public safety. By enabling streamlined local permitting, permissible access to public rights of way and reasonable fee structures, elected leaders can encourage small cell deployment rather than hindering it. With a clear path to small cell deployment, communities across Louisiana can take a significant step forward to making our ultrafast future a reality.

Scott Mackey

economist

Montpelier, Vermont