Last month, the GPS Innovation Alliance (GPSIA) and ACT | The App Association (App Association) had the honor of participating in a 5G Summit hosted by the White House. It was there that top leaders in government, including from the White House, Congress, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), outlined their vision for fostering 5G deployment.
Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios described the innovative real-time location services brought about by 4G and GPS and predicted that 5G will deliver the high-speed, low-latency, and high-capacity connectivity needed to unlock a new generation of applications, from advancements in precision agriculture to remote surgery and autonomous vehicles.
The summit was not just an opportunity to hear from government, but it also gave industry leaders the chance to share what the 5G revolution will mean for consumers and businesses and what ingredients are necessary to make this vision a reality. The deployment of 5G will boost the $950 billion app economy, which supports 4.7 million jobs across the country, in every congressional district. Whether you live in Iowa, Kansas, or California, the advent of 5G will enable many innovative user applications that will need high-speed broadband and GPS. Here are a few examples:
- Precision Agriculture: Today, high-precision GPS-enabled automated steering of tractors delivers accuracy to within a few centimeters. This accuracy reduces unnecessary waste of critical resources, including water, seed, and fertilizer. Similarly, a 60-minute drone flight used to survey crops or livestock can typically collect 3 gigabytes of raw data. Operating the drone safely in the National Airspace System and analyzing the large geographic information systems (GIS) data sets depend on GPS. GPS combined with high-speed connectivity, such as satellite-based broadband, licensed terrestrial service or low-band unlicensed airwaves (also called television white spaces), could enable the high-rate data transfer needed to better leverage centimeter-level accurate GPS position information in Precision Farming. This combination is precisely what allows App Association member QuantifiedAG to detect sick cattle through the use of sensors affixed to each cattle’s ear.
- Smart Cities: Local officials leverage a variety of data-hungry applications including traffic management and waste disposal. Even trash can become “smart”—with the addition of sensors, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and LTE connectivity—by relaying pickup route updates, which trash cans are full, and other useful information in real-time. Increasingly, cities are drawing on GPS with these applications to efficiently route vehicles, which in turn will save cities time and money, while increasing efficiency.
- Smart Grids: GPS and high-speed connectivity ensure the synchronization of smart grid infrastructure critical to communities nationwide. 5G will enhance this synchronization by making it faster and more fail-safe.
- Driverless Vehicles: 5G connectivity combined with GPS and other technologies will complement embedded sensors to enable vehicles to determine their precise location, identifying not just what lane a vehicle is in, but where in the lane it is located.
- Internet of Things (IoT): High-speed connectivity will enable communication between devices and objects; many of which will use GPS to determine precise location. From the location of healthcare supplies to tracking of packages, GPS will continue to take on increased importance.
- Public Safety: EMS ambulance providers use GPS in dispatch and monitoring of ambulances to respond to 911 calls. Faster connectivity via 5G will enable new and innovative applications, like 4K video, improved remote patient monitoring, and more – all of which will work in concert with GPS. In the context of 911, over nearly two decades, GPS has been a meaningful part of the solution for locating wireless calls made to 911. As 5G creates more deployment of infrastructure generally, the need for GPS-enabled 911 solutions will continue to grow. App Association member Dronesense leverages these innovative techniques to pilot its drones so as to enhance first responders’ situational awareness. This heightened, three-dimensional awareness better positions first responders to assess risks when responding to life-threatening events.
- Accessibility: New technologies have already brought untold benefits to people with conditions that make day-to-day activities challenging. As 5G is deployed, additional accessibility will be available to the blind and visually impaired, for example, as well as those with limited mobility, hearing impairments, and in virtually any other circumstance where high-speed connectivity and precision matter.
Ensuring that every American can take advantage of these innovative applications requires industry and government to work together. It will require a spectrum policy that recognizes the inherent differences in functionality and technical attributes between 5G communications networks and navigation services like GPS. Our economy, consumers, and businesses all benefit when we maintain the policy of abiding by internationally-accepted levels for interference protection of signal reception, thereby preserving a “quiet spectrum neighborhood” of compatible satellite services. In doing so, the United States will ensure that GPS signals remain continuously available, accurate, reliable, and resilient while simultaneously developing 5G technologies for compatible deployment.
At the App Association, we have also consistently urged the FCC to ensure that sufficient unlicensed spectrum is available for users in the lower bands, including the television band. This unused spectrum is abundant in rural areas and can reach entire farm plots, feedlots, and factory complexes because of its superior propagation characteristics. Smart spectrum policy stitches together the necessary licensed swaths for 5G and 4G with unlicensed to supercharge wireless connectivity and bridge the digital divide.
Security must also be a core component of any 5G policy. For years, communications networks have depended on GPS for synchronization, including global fiber networks and global wireless networks. Intentionally blocking, jamming, or otherwise interfering with any radio service can disrupt the GPS signal and communications networks, including 5G services. 5G’s need for low-latency and greater densification via more small cells means that GPS will play an even greater role in 5G deployment than it currently does. We, therefore, support efforts by the FCC and other government agencies to investigate and take the necessary enforcement action to preserve unhindered reception of GPS signals, and we welcome the opportunity to continue the GPS industry’s long tradition of working collaboratively with government agencies.
At GPSIA and the App Association, we are excited to work together to promote the deployment of 5G and further enhance GPS—one of the world’s most important enabling technologies—and to support technologies that together will improve the lives of people around the globe. Ultimately when 5G and GPS work together, consumers and businesses win, along with the U.S. economy, which preserves our leadership on the world stage.
About the authors
J. David Grossman is executive director of the GPS Innovation Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting, promoting and enhancing the use of GPS. Previously, Mr. Grossman spent nearly a decade in public service, including serving in leadership positions for Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.
Morgan Reed is president of ACT | The App Association, and a respected expert on the government impact on technology innovation specializing in issues impacting the app development and technology industry, especially with regards to privacy, intellectual property, competition and small business innovation.