Home5GWhat will 5G mean for wireless infrastructure, workforce?

What will 5G mean for wireless infrastructure, workforce?

Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein discusses tower trends and emerging workforce skills gap

DALLAS–As evidenced by a rebranding effort emphasizing the infrastructure layer,Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein, who held the same role at the renamed PCIA, stressed the foundational, albeit cyclical, nature of infrastructure investment and the attendant evolution of workforce needs.

In an exclusive interview with Industrial IoT 5G Insights, Adelstein discussed what to expect as 5G takes shape.

“5G is a little ways down the track…but already we’re seeing carriers invest,” he explained. “5G is much more efficient than 4G, but given the demands we’re seeing from consumers, it’s really going to be necessary to meet the skyrocketing demand. Along with that, there’s going to be a need for more capacity on macro towers, small cells on distributed antenna systems, all of that’s going to have to be u-graded to accommodate 5G.”

And because spectrum availability won’t support the increases in data demand, “We’re going to need more cell sites, a lot more cell sites. And those cell sites, in a 5G world, need to be connected to fiber. That’s why we’re seeing these investments, we’re seeing a lot of the attention, kind of counterintuitively, on the wireline system, but it’s preparing for a major wireless investment that’s coming soon.”

Factor in repacking the 600 MHz spectrum coming online following ongoing auction procedures, which will require new equipment on macro towers, as well as the need for more small cell and DAS installations, many involving CPRI and C-RAN, the workforce skills needed are also in flux.

“We are seeing a real skills gap growing in the wireless infrastructure industry where there aren’t enough people that are trained in radio frequency engineering and trained in the basics of radio frequency dynamics to understand when they’re out the field deploying these things what it means,” Adelstein said. “As we get more and more antennas closer to the end user, there’s more opportunities for harmful interference.”

He continued: “There’s also more need for training on the specifics of how do you deploy these networks. How do you get the cabling in place, how do you connect the antennas, how do you make sure they’re optimized? There’s a real shortage of people that know what they’re doing and we’re seeing a lot of rework getting done. There’s a need, I think, for massive change.”

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