Dean Brenner, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Technological Advisory Council, was asked by policymakers, U.S. government officials, and everyday friends why 5G was necessary in the early days of the standard. “Why do I need that? What’s that going to do? For me? I mean, I already have a phone, I already have pretty good connectivity,” he recalls them saying. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, Brenner said it revealed the importance of having the best connectivity and speeds and highlighted the role that 5G will play in accelerating edge computing.
Brenner made the remarks as he joined a panel of experts speaking at the TDK Ventures DX Week 2022 panel about edge computing and the newest developments in the field. Beyond demand for ever-faster internet speeds that were made more apparent during the pandemic when millions of people worked from home, streamed films and TV shows, or used the internet for school, Brenner argues that it will also boost the development of edge computing.
“And I think over the next five years, as 5G matures, as it, you know, enhances through the next several versions, I think edge computing is going to just go through the roof as an important application. Just because it works better and enables better connectivity.”
He notes that unlike previous telecommunications generations, 5G was built from the ground up for edge computing purposes with specific case uses from the beginning. There are already investments being made for 5G edge computing, Brenner says, noting Verizon’s funding of mobile edge computing, and partnerships between network operators and technology developers.
When fellow panelist Mike Vildibill brought up the idea of electronic communication between automobiles to convey beneficial information like “Hey, I’m in a hard stop,” to other drivers to allow them to better prepare their next move, Brenner concurred.
Brenner, the co-chair of the US Policy Task Force of the 5G Automotive Association, also sees the possibility of a business model that uses open access to provide connectivity to other users that opens up their access and creates an equivalent to “frequent flier miles” from their network operator.
“If my car has connectivity, but no one else does, like that doesn’t really do anything for me. But there’s this unbelievably tremendous network effect, where if we all have it, the value to each of us just goes through the roof.” Brenner parallels this potential business model to the traditional cable bundling format that was upended by streaming, but is now appearing to revert back to tiered bundling.
When asked if 5G would face troubles with access in low-population density and industrial areas that would impact its performance, Brenner maintains it would not. He says that the 5G millimeter wave is economical and usable for settings like factories, or can be provided on a fixed basis up to a gigabit-speed to rural libraries, hospitals, and schools.
Befitting his role as chairman of the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council to advise the FCC on 6G, Brenner evangelized about the potential for the upcoming 6G to be “the most challenging innovation that will disrupt the market in 10 years.” He holds that every country will want to be the first leader to 6G and want to make their investment worth at least 10 times the improvement in capacity, making it disruptive. He already sees automobiles, industrial players, and IoT joining 6G from the onset, unlike their late participation in 5G. Vertical markets like the metaverse and edge computing are “not going to take a vacation from 6G” either, he said.
And he expects investment to flow from the private sector through individual companies, groups of companies in the form of standards bodies, and venture capital groups like TDK Ventures and Intel Capital. In the public sector, he lists national regulators like the U.S.’s FCC, the UK’s Ofcom, and regional regulators like the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity in Asia, the Radio Spectrum Policy Group in Europe, and the International Telecommunication Union that will have to work together in parallel for 6G.
When asked if environmental sustainability is emerging as a major focus of 6G, Brenner said it is already cropping up as a major focus which will have to be integrated into the design of 6G and for wireless technology more broadly.
He also doesn’t expect regulators to set the standards as they largely did not pay attention to the standards for 3G, and only started to pay attention to 4G and 5G as observers. Like vertical industries, he predicts government regulators “will continue to be at the table observing, mostly getting ready.” Despite regulators being relatively hands-off, Brenner said that unlike previous generations, 5G made shortcuts for government adoption, which will expedite the acceptance.
Concluding one statement, Brenner said, “But we know there won’t be any 6G that isn’t disruptive, and will have to be disruptive.”
The DHS Science and Technology Directorate published a report in March to examine the impact of 5G networking technologies and the potential role that 6G may play in the future.
Brenner’s remarks were made as part of TDK Ventures’ DX (digital transformation) Week 2022. The event provides insights on digital technologies from over 30 authors, engineers, entrepreneurs and investors. The event started on April 18 and ran through April 22, 2022.