The future is 5G, but getting there in Hawaii could be a bumpy road

The future is 5G, but getting there in Hawaii could be a bumpy road

The future is 5G, the fifth generation of wireless technology.

It can steer driver-less cars, and download movies in a flash.

But carriers like Verizon say service is slowing because of internet congestion — so they want to be able to mount small cells on light and traffic poles to speed up service (rather than the big cell towers we're used to).

"The carriers want this because the customers want this. It's the demand so customers want fast service and better service. 5G will provide better service," said Jesus Roman, vice president government affairs public policy and law for Verizon.

The city says it supports the move to go to 5G, but has several concerns about safety, regulations and worries about so-called "frankenpoles."

"Aesthetics are always important," said Ross Sasamura, director and chief engineer for the city's Department of Facility Maintenance. "Certainly we've had examples from the continental U.S. that have shown us a multitude of equipment installed and that's where the 'frankenpole' name comes from."

4G small cells typically consist of a 40-inch tall by 12-inch in diameter canister antenna with cables down the pole to one or two remote radio heads.

Verizon says dimensions for 5G are still being developed, but are anticipated to be significantly smaller and the radios would be integrated with the antennas.

"The frankenpole concept is something that we've tried very hard to address in terms of the dimensions," Roman said.

State Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate's Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology, said there's reason to be concerned, though.  "The wireless guys want to put it on every pole that they can possibly get their equipment on and do it for cheap and the city has to worry about safety," he said. "The city wants money for that opportunity."

The city wants to charge $2,500 to $4,000 per pole per year, but 5G advocates say $40 per pole per year is typical in other states.

"It's not just a matter of more money. It's all of the costs that goes into building the process that we need to have in place to protect the public from this new technology," said Sasamura.

This issue of 5G and access to federal property is also being debated in Congress.

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