5G Wireless Likely to Take Longer to Reach Rural Areas
LOUISA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Parts of the country are starting to see 5G wireless coverage, but technological limitations will mean rural areas might have to wait years for it to get to them.
Because of the higher frequencies it operates on, 5G currently only has a range of roughly a quarter of a mile from its access points. Louisa County I.T. Director Bob Hardy says that short range poses a major problem for infrastructure.
"If it's going a quarter mile from each access point, we're talking over 8,000, almost 8,500 access points to cover Louisa County," he said.
Professor Cong Shen at the University of Virginia School of Engineering agrees that it will take years for 5G to reach non-urban areas, but he believes companies will be motivated to work quickly.
"I'm actually optimistic that it won't take five years to get to the rural areas, mainly because on the U.S. side you might get a new 5G phone soon. And for you to have a 5G phone and not being able to use all the 5G features would be a big push for the operators to say, the majority of the devices on our network are 5G, let's roll out 5G everywhere,’" said Shen.
The biggest issue for rural residents is that telecommunications giants focusing on 5G might slow their efforts to expand rural broadband.
“If the companies like AT&T and Verizon are going to be spending their money on 5G, most likely that development's going to slow down for the rest of the world," Hardy said.
5G will require customers to have a phone capable of accessing the ultra-high frequency that the signal is carried on. While all four carriers currently offer 5G in limited areas, only three - Motorola, Samsung, and LG - currently offer that access.
Major U.S. cellphone providers say they hope to offer 5G coverage in 30 cities by the end of the year.