FCC Names New York And Salt Lake City As “Innovation Zones” To Be Used For 5G Testing

Published on September 24, 2019

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced in September that it has named New York City and Salt Lake City as official “Innovation Zones.” The program will allow the two cities to conduct test runs on innovative communications technologies such as 5G. But don’t get your hopes up just yet if you live in either New York or Salt Lake—the testing programs are reserved for companies that hold special licensing through the FCC to conduct operations through these test networks. The arrival of 5G is, however, just around the corner. Companies like AT&T and Verizon have announced that they plan to have 5G up and running in parts of New York City and Salt Lake by the end of the year. For now, 5G capabilities are limited to companies and organizations that hold experimental licenses in the area.

“These projects will test new advanced technologies and prototype networks like those that can support 5G technologies,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in a statement published on September 16. “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,” he continued. Programs through universities like the University of Utah and several schools around New York such as Rutgers University, Columbia University, and New York University are part of the program and hold special experimental licenses to test the 5G network on certain innovations.

Most of these experiments are science related, and are supported by the National Science Foundation. If organizations or universities wish to conduct tests on the network they have to comply with the FCC guidelines and provide notice to the commission that the test are going to be conducted. While the experimental zones are done through a handful of universities in each respective city, other local organizations and tech companies are part of the program as well. Each city was chosen because it already had the infrastructure and programs available to create a wider 5G network that would allow blanket, city-wide testing for the network. In no time, however, major telecom companies could use the networks to launch 5G in the area.

When Will Consumers Have 5G In Their Pockets?

Companies like Verizon have already promised to launch in as many as 30 cities around the country by the end of the year, though it could be awhile before 5G is commonly used by consumers as many devices don’t allow connectivity to the network. Apple, for example, chose to forego 5G capabilities in its latest launch of the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The decision not to include 5G capabilities in the new iPhone have shown to stifle sales of the device, despite the fact that the phones are, overall, cheaper than the iPhone X models that were released in 2018. Many consumers are opting to wait for a 5G capable phone before they upgrade, even if it means waiting another year and potentially paying more for the device.

Samsung, on the other hand, has already released 5G capable devices, but with such a limited network capability in the United States right now the incentive to purchase a device based solely on its 5G capability is low. For now, consumers could be paying more for the device without being able to utilize its biggest benefit at all depending on where they may live.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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