U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “The 5G Workforce and Obstacles to Broadband Deployment,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. This hearing will examine the skills and training needed among the telecommunications workforce to deploy 5G networks, as well as ongoing efforts within the public and private sectors to address the 5G labor shortage. Witnesses will also discuss regulatory barriers that may impede U.S. leadership in next generation communications technology and efforts to close the digital divide.
- The Honorable Brendan Carr, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- Ms. Shirley Bloomfield, Chief Executive Officer, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association
- Mr. Harold Feld, Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge
- Mr. Jimmy Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, MillerCo, Inc.; Chairman, National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE)
- Ms. Lisa Youngers, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fiber Broadband Association
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
This hearing will take place in the Hart Senate Office Building 216. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
*Note: Witness list updated 1/21/22
Chairman Roger Wicker
5G is the fifth generation of wireless communications technology – as every member of the committee knows and as many more Americans are learning. Developing and deploying national 5G networks is critical for the future of the United States. 5G promises to create 3 million new jobs, generate $275 billion in new investment, and will spur up to $500 billion in economic growth. With exponentially faster connections, higher speeds, and significantly larger data capacities, 5G networks are expected to transform almost every industry and economic sector.
Last week, this committee heard from Administration officials who discussed ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced manufacturing, and other cutting-edge
innovations. Realizing the full economic and social potential of these technologies will depend in large part on the capabilities of the nation’s communications infrastructure.
As our country moves quickly toward a full-scale deployment of 5G, increasing commercial access to mid-band spectrum, and removing barriers to infrastructure investment will be essential to winning the global race in this technology.
To date, the Federal Communications Commission has taken meaningful steps to remove regulatory barriers to broadband infrastructure investment. For example, the Commission’s efforts to streamline the permitting process for small cell deployment and speed up pole attachment processes will help accelerate 5G build-out and close the digital divide.
Workforce readiness is a critical component to U.S. 5G leadership. The equipment installation for 5G will constitute a fundamental shift in network deployment from existing 4G networks. With the deployment of 4G, the wireless industry has been engaged in building and maintaining large cell towers to provide several miles of broadband coverage to certain geographic areas. On the other hand, 5G networks will require the installation of small radio equipment and antennas in such density and scale as to require a substantial increase in labor. Maintenance of this equipment and new technical standards for the implementation of 5G will add even more to the workforce demand.
According to reports, the United States faces a 5G labor shortage. Estimates suggest there are approximately 27,000 tower climbers prepared to install 5G equipment. However, it is projected that 20,000 more tower climbers are needed to accelerate the deployment of 5G in order to win the race and secure the first-mover advantage in the United States. Additional labor will also be needed to lay fiber to support wireless connections, install radios, and deploy other essential equipment.
To address 5G workforce needs, the Department of Labor is engaged in a joint effort with the telecommunications industry and other government agencies to provide training and improve technical skills among the telecommunications workforce. The Department of Labor’s Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship program, in conjunction with the Wireless Infrastructure Association, is a good example of efforts targeted at addressing this skills gap.
This committee is keenly interested in learning what additional measures federal, state, and local governments can take to train workers and ensure they have the specialized skills to meet 5G deployment demand.
I hope witnesses will discuss initiatives within the private sector to improve 5G workforce readiness, including efforts to provide on-the-job training to the current workforce; the development of partnerships with local educational institutions to create a pipeline for skilled labor; and discuss how meaningful career opportunities can be created for Americans in this important field.
Let me again thank our witnesses for joining us today.
I now recognize my good friend and the Ranking Member, Senator Cantwell.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Brandan CarrCommissionerFederal Communications Commission
Ms. Shirley BloomfieldChief Executive OfficerNTCA-The Rural Broadband Association
Mr. Harold FeldSenior Vice PresidentPublic Knowledge
Mr. Jimmy MillerPresident and Chief Executive OfficerMillerCo, Inc
Ms. Lisa YoungersPresident and Chief Executive OfficerFiber Broadband Association