Project Management

5G Hits Speed-Bump

From the Emerging Technologies Blog
UPDATED MAY 2020 - This blog will appear monthly from now on. Today, all organizations depend on technological innovation in order to sustain their existence. Analysis of emerging technologies and identification of those technologies with the greatest potential is essential to being prepared for upcoming projects. The objective of this blog is to establish future oriented technology analysis and insights. This blog was established to provide program and project managers with information about these emerging technologies. These emerging technologies have far reaching repercussions for program and project managers. This blog will jump-start the learning process and allow program and project managers to become proactive.

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5G growth hits the brakes

Technology advancement is in continuous motion these days.  One of the technologies currently in motion is 5G.  5G stands to create new opportunities for organizations to interact differently across their stakeholder communities.  MarketWatch recently reported that the global 5G Infrastructure Market back in 2016 had a value of $0.56 billion – that is not much at all.  Currently it is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just over 51% through 2025.  That means it is currently projected to reach an incredible $22.93 billion USD by 2025.  Once again, that is a very aggressive growth projection given a significant problem that is currently being experienced!

 INSIGHT:  In a recent poll, a mere 13.6 percent of respondents believed 5G was the technology innovation that would have the greatest impact in the next 3 to 5 years!

In January 2020, the U.S. Senate held a hearing with authorities in 5G.  Once again, a common issue in emerging technology came up and was discussed.  The shortage of properly skilled workers is, and will, inhibit the progress of changing / installing the infrastructure needed to support 5G. Fiber technicians, trench technicians, tower technicians and many more job titles were discussed.  One metric that was given was the current 'tower climber' workforce is around 21,000.  They estimate another 20,000 tower climbers are needed to support the transition to 5G.

During their discussion they stated that some training programs are in place and others are in the pipeline while additional programs are under consideration.  However, some programs are having trouble attracting people to enroll and take the courses! Once completed, the individuals are tested and if they pass, they are certified to perform a certain role, it's functions and job tasks. Where will all those workers come from given the U.S. has the lowest unemployment rate in about 50 years?  How will we get the training delivered and get them certified to perform this work? How long will this take? How much will this delay 5G?

Note:  One individual that testified stated, additional skills are necessary for these individuals even once they graduate and received the certification (card).

This problem is so profound, companies are beginning to go back into the high schools to recruit, offer scholarships and even working - apprenticeships to try and overcome the problem. The availability of properly skilled workers is a common and growing issue in all emerging technologies. There is no easy, quick reactive answer.  Some large organizations are beginning to examine creating their own college/university as a benefit they offer to attract workers right out of high school and to provide reskilling of their existing workers.  

Additional information about the Talent issue - LINK:

Posted on: February 12, 2020 08:57 PM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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This fits with the warnings we've ignored for the past decade and more; that while we send students to high-priced diploma mills and burden them with student loans they can't repay, there is a critical shortage of skilled labor. The markets may correct this mistake in our education system, but if so then we can expect to pay even more for our plumbers and, apparently, our 5G.

This same issue is a problem for critical infrastructure projects. There is not a quick answer to this problem!

Dear Kevin
Interesting is your perspective on the topic: "5G Hits Speed-Bump"

Thanks for sharing

How has the US resolved the issue of people shortages so far? (lack of talent)

Is this why the fifth generation of the mobile internet is "bathing" in the USA?

Can the USA stop the wind with its hands? (Of course I mean China)

@ Luis

1. The U.S.has NO answer to the talent shortage! At this time some companies are moving robots in to fill some jobs and where they replace workers they provide reskilling. That is far from a real answer.

2. The people shortage is hitting 5G and so many more industries.

3. China has MANY things working in it favor. Right now the virus has slowed things down, but they are likely to accelerate their advancement once it subsides. I was SHOCKED to see how much learn-at-home programs are in use there. They have adopted life long learning and the rest of the world needs to catch up fast!

Hi Kevin,

It was a very interesting article.

In Japan, labor shortages due to the aging of the birthrate and declining birthrate.
The situation is serious if we include the factor that training has not caught up.

Not sure how China adopts life-long learning with their internet firewalls.

Dear Kevin
Thanks for your comments to what I wrote

When Americans define something as national design they are able to go to the moon

I remember it was the Americans who invented T.W.I. (teaching / learning method that is used in some companies and / or organizations worldwide)


Impressive that many high tech industry still depends on low tech workforce.

Will 5G be the last major step?

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