No one knows the full scope of what 5G will bring, but there's no better time than now to brace for, and embrace, the possibilities of 5G. Getty Images

Fifty years after Houston launched mankind to the moon, there's been a flurry of news about Houston launching 5G with claims of revolutionizing communication. However, some Houstonians are probably wondering — "why should I need faster internet to watch another YouTube video?" And, they're not alone. The truth is there are many questions unanswered around 5G — rightly so, because, similar to the moon-landing, its impact is more about what it will help create.

But, now is a good time to look ahead. As we ring in the New Year, I'd like to take a moment to review what 5G is, how the rollout is going, and importantly, why it matters to Houston and its future.

What's 5G again?

5G is the next generation of wireless technology after 4G (shocking, I know). Because 5G networks rely on much smaller and more closely-deployed antennae that can be fixed to existing physical structures (e.g. buildings, light poles) instead of traditional cell towers, signals can be carried faster and more reliably. It doesn't just mean faster streaming for your binge-worthy shows; it means better business opportunities. Nearly four in five (79 percent) Houston business executives agree that 5G will revolutionize their industry by offering new ways to provide products and services, according to Accenture's 2019 Technology Vision report.

Some of the winning characteristics of 5G include:

  • Speed: 5G is set to be much faster than previous generation networks, up to 100 times faster than existing 4G networks, offering speeds up to 10 gigabits per second.
  • Latency: We'll see much less delay or lag. To put it into perspective, 4G networks latency is typically around 40-50 milliseconds. With 5G, it should be one millisecond or less, going undetectable to the user.
  • Capacity: 5G has greater capacity, meaning networks will be able to cope better with many high-demand applications at once — from connected cars and augmented reality experiences and simultaneous HD video streaming.
  • Reliability: 5G is also expected to be ultra-reliable, allowing more critical use cases such as emergency responses and industrial applications.

How's it going?

2019 saw continued progress on 5G. All the four major U.S. mobile service providers have deployed 5G commercially in Houston, making it one of the leading U.S. cities when it comes to 5G deployment.

2020 will be a building block, and we're sure to see advancement across three key areas: networks, devices and experiences. These aspects are the three legs of the 5G stool and grow interdependently. For example, the network build-out will accelerate adoptions of devices and 5G-enabled experiences. In turn, demand for new, enhanced 5G-powered experiences will drive more network deployment and device purchases this year and beyond. There are also perceived barriers to adoption among business leaders, including the upfront investment, security, and employee buy-in, which will need to continue to be addressed.

Why should Houston care?

To begin, possibilities are countless for virtually all key Houston industries, including the energy sector, from transporting a technician to an oil rig via virtual reality or overseeing pipeline repairs remotely, to handling hazardous chemicals safely without direct human contact.

Another area 5G can be applied would be for smart vehicles, connected roads and other municipal infrastructure. It is estimated that smart city applications (which Houston is starting to make some real progress around) made possible by 5G networks could create three million new jobs and contribute $500 billion to U.S. GDP over the next seven years, while helping citizen lives be safer and more convenient.

Above all, as Houston continues to race toward building a world-class innovation ecosystem and a sustainable, thriving economy, we simply can't take our foot off the gas in the 5G race — much like the moon race. It's an imperative that the region continue to lead in 5G network adoption and that our local industries and businesses envision, plan and develop new ways of working.


When Henry Ford invented the automobile for the masses, he could not have foreseen how it would catalyze tourism, retail consumption, labor mobility or urbanization. Likewise, no one knows the full scope of what 5G will bring, but there's no better time than now to brace for, and embrace, the possibilities of 5G.

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Brian Richards is the Houston innovation hub director at Accenture and board member at Houston Exponential.

When it comes to 5G, Houston is setting itself up as a leader within the United States. Getty Images

Overheard: Ted Cruz, experts weigh in on why 5G is a game changer for Houston

Eavesdropping in Houston

Last year, Houstonians Clayton and Emily Harris became the first commercial 5G customers. Now, a full year later, the Houston has a major seat at the table that's discussing the advancement of 5G technology.

At a forum on Tuesday, October 1, hosted by CTIA and the Center for Houston's Future, experts discussed Houston's role in the conversation about 5G. Here are some overheards from the morning event.

“We cannot take our leadership in 4G for granted as we transition to 5G.”

— Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz's keynote address warns of the United States resting on its laurels in the race to 5G. While the country had the edge on foreign competition for 4G, that doesn't mean 5G will have the same result, he says. In fact, Cruz cites multiple studies that show China and South Korea lead the race in 5G. Deloitte's research found that China has outspent the U.S. by $24 billion and has built 350,000 new sites, while the U.S. has built fewer than 30,000. The study also showed China is prepared to invest $400 billion. This information aside, Cruz tells the crowd that America has the ability to win the race to 5G.

“I think it’s a wonderful story to see how Texas has been leading the way.” 

— Brendan Carr, FCC commissioner. Carr references the Harris family, as well as other Texas cities he's visited that have been working hard to advance 5G. For Carr, expanding and implementing 5G is a huge opportunity for job creation. "The U.S. isn't the only country in the world that wants these jobs," he says to the crowd. "They're not the only country that wants to see the half a trillion dollars in economic growth that's going to come from this next-generation technology."

“I’ll admit, I’m an optimist, but there are significant challenges to making this 5G future a reality.”

— Jesse Bounds, director of innovation for the city of Houston. Bounds cited a few obstacles to overcome. There's a need for massive investment in infrastructure to blanket cities in 5G, and telecom companies are expected to spend $8 billion over the next five years to build this infrastructure, and cities too will need to invest in smart city technology. Consumers will need to pay more for data, and US consumers pay some of the highest rates in the world already. Not to mention the fact that a third of Americans don't have access to home internet. "As we build the infrastructure of the future, we must do so in a way that closes the digital divide so that those Americans can enjoy the same level of opportunity and prosperity that we do," Bounds says.

"Houston’s 5G network performance is 17 times better than the 4G. That’s today, in the very early days of 5G.”

— Paul Challoner, vice president of network product solutions at Ericsson. Challoner tells the crowd that of course this affects speed of data transferring and that is a huge pro for the technology, but there are other important perks for 5G advancement. The tech also affects device density, meaning that, a very large city like Houston, might have issues in dense areas. 5G also improves connectivity in crucial situations, like in the case of a surgeon using a device during surgery. Lastly, Challoner mentioned 5G is the most advanced technology when it comes to cybersecurity.

"One area that I’m most excited about is all the things that we don't talk about. All the applications that haven't yet been imagined, that are being dreamt up by software developers in their dorm rooms."

— Mishka Dehghan, vice president of 5G development at Sprint. Dehghan points out that 10 years ago, no one could have imagined ride sharing, now that is a huge industry with developing technology thanks to mobile data usage. With with the onset of 5G, she says she can't wait to see what technology is created in the next 10 years.

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Comcast donates tech, funds to support diversity-focused nonprofit

gift of tech

A Houston organization focused on helping low-income communities by providing access to education, training, and employment has received a new donation.

Comcast’s Internet Essentials program announced the a donation of a $30,000 financial grant and 1,000 laptops to SERJobs. The gift is part of a new partnership with SERJobs that's aimed at educating and equipping adults with technical skills, including training on Microsoft Office and professional development.

“SERJobs is excited to celebrate 10 years of Comcast's Internet Essentials program,” says Sheroo Mukhtiar, CEO, SERJobs, in a news release. “The Workforce Development Rally highlights the importance of digital literacy in our increasingly virtual world—especially as technology and the needs of our economy evolve. We are grateful to Comcast for their ongoing partnership and support of SERJobs’ and our members.”

For 10 years Comcast's Internet Essentials program has connected more than 10 million people to the Internet at home — most for the first time. This particular donation is a part of Project UP, Comcast’s comprehensive initiative to advance digital equity.

“Ten years is a remarkable milestone, signifying an extraordinary amount of work and collaboration with our incredible community partners across Houston,” says Toni Beck, vice president of external affairs at Comcast Houston, in the release.

“Together, we have connected hundreds of thousands of people to the power of the Internet at home, and to the endless opportunity, education, growth, and discovery it provides," she continues. "Our work is not done, and we are excited to partner with SERJobs to ensure the next generation of leaders in Houston are equipped with the technical training they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.”

It's not the first time the tech company has supported Houston's low-income families. This summer, Comcast's Internet Essentials program and Region 4 Education Service Center partnered with the Texas Education Agency's Connect Texas Program to make sure Texas students have access to internet services.

Additionally, Comcast set up an internet voucher program with the City of Houston last December, and earlier this year, the company announced 50 Houston-area community centers will have free Wi-Fi connections for three years. Earlier this year, the company also dedicated $1 million to small businesses struggling due to the pandemic that are owned by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

President Joe Biden appoints Houston green space guru to lofty national post

new gig

Aprominent and nationally acclaimed Houston parks presence has just received a hefty national appointment. President Joe Biden has named Beth White, Houston Parks Board president and CEO, the chair of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the organization announced.

The NCPC, established by Congress in 1924, is the federal government’s central planning agency for the National Capital Region. The commission provides overall guidance related to federal land and buildings in the region. Functions include reviewing the design of federal and local projects, overseeing long-range planning for future development, and monitoring capital investment by federal agencies.

Fittingly, White was initially appointed to NCPC as the at-large presidential commissioner in January 2012, per a press release. She was reappointed for another six-year term in 2016. Most recently, White served as the commission’s vice-chair.

“I’m honored to chair the National Capital Planning Commission and work with my fellow commissioners to build and sustain a livable, resilient capital region and advance the Biden Administration’s critical priorities around sustainability, equity, and innovation,” White said in a statement.

Before joining Houston Parks Board in 2016, White served as the director of the Chicago Region Office of The Trust for Public Land, where she spearheaded development of The 606 public park and was instrumental in establishing Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge.

Renowned in the Windy City, she also was managing director of communications and policy for the Chicago Housing Authority; chief of staff for the Chicago Transit Authority’s Chicago Transit Board; and assistant commissioner for the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development. She was the founding executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, and currently serves on the Advisory Board for Urban Land Institute Houston.

The graduate of Northwestern and Loyola universities most recently received the Houston Business Journal’s 2021 Most Admired CEO award, per her bio.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.