Why does 5G matter for Seattle?

By: Maggie Wilson Posted: 05/31/2019

Five key takeaways from our Business Issues Forum on this new technology


At the May Business Issues Forum, Seattle Metro Chamber members learned more about 5G wireless networks, the significance of the technology from a regional perspective, and the deployment process for this technology in Seattle. Read on for insights from our expert panel.

What is 5G?

5G is fifth-generation wireless technology. Moderator Beth Cooley, senior director of state legislative affairs for CTIA, an advocacy group for the wireless industry, asked for a show of hands that revealed most attendees had multiple wireless products in their homes – illustrating that many members will likely see this technology in both their work and personal lives.

What’s new about 5G?

As PCMag reports, “5G brings three new aspects to the table:

  1. Greater speed (to move more data)
  2. Lower latency (to be more responsive), and
  3. The ability to connect a lot more devices at once (for sensors and smart devices).”

Why does 5G matter for our economy and communities?  

Cooley noted that 5G will serve “mission-critical” communications well. For example, faster wireless connectivity could save lives by improving emergency response time. A 60-second difference is extremely meaningful in life-saving measures and to fire responses, she noted.

5G and the creation of smart communities is also exciting for economic development regionally. There are 3 million new jobs projected across the United States related to 5G deployment, she said, citing an Accenture Strategy report – and 6,700 projected new jobs for Seattle. 

In addition to job creation, 5G brings the potential to improve aspects of our quality of life, such as commuting, through new types of sensors in bridges and roads that could more quickly alert public works and transportation staff to issues. The New York Times reports that 5G technology also has applications for a wide range of industries, including industrial robots, telemedicine, video games, sports and shopping.

Ken Lyons, senior vice president of jurisdiction relations with Wireless Policy Group, shared his excitement at the prospect of transportation agencies implementing 5G. Lyons talked about the rise of the app-based economy, and how that economy required 4G. 5G will likely reinvent communications and communications platforms in ways we haven’t thought of yet, Lyons said. But, leadership needs to recognize and take advantage of the opportunity that 5G presents, he said.

What’s needed for successful deployment in Seattle?

Speakers noted the importance of speedy implementation and reducing processing times for 5G small cell deployment. Panelist Kim Allen, senior vice president of land use entitlements and strategic planning for Wireless Policy Group, talked about how helpful it is to create design standards, describing standardizing design as one way to reduce processing times by eliminating a recurring full-blown aesthetic review. 

How are communities in our region already engaging with this technology?

Panelist Kathy Putt, government affairs manager for Crown Castle, heralded the City of Bellevue’s collaborative work to add 5G infrastructure. Bringing everyone to the table in the planning process resulted in quick joint approval, because every voice was heard during development. Kim Allen spotlighted the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce’s involvement in advocating for 5G – and how important it was that the Chamber emphasized the significance of 5G to keeping the city competitive for residents and business.

Putt encouraged Seattle to follow Bellevue’s lead. She cautioned that delay could result in uneven availability of this technology. For example, residents and employees in Bellevue may have access to 5G and then come to Seattle and not have access.


The Chamber's Business Issues Forum is the place to learn about and discuss emerging policy issues that matter to your business and the community. A benefit available only to members, meetings include informational briefings from guest speakers and structured discussion with fellow members.