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CEO message: Arizona shifts gears with 5G

Driving up to the Arizona Biltmore, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect. All I knew was I was supposed to get a glimpse of Sprint’s rollout of its new 5G network in Arizona. Cutting edge up close? You don’t have to ask me twice.

After parking and walking inside, I spotted what looked like a team of ninjas coming at me. Looking closer at the five, I noticed their black shirts all featured the Sprint logo. I was in the right place.

After exchanging pleasantries, an SUV — black, of course — pulled up. This was my ride to our future.

Let me pause here to connect a few of the dots for some of you. 5G is a term referring to the 5th generation mobile network. Most smartphone users now live in a 4G world. Much of the buzz on 5G is about the ramped-up speeds for downloading.

But its value for Arizona goes much deeper. Our state was a leader in setting policy that allows us now to be a leader in rolling out 5G. The catalyst actually came two years ago when the Legislature passed and Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2365, which made it easier to add capacity to existing wireless networks and improve our infrastructure. This made it possible for companies like Sprint and Council members such as AT&T and Vonage to include 5G as part of their plans for Arizona sooner rather than later.

And it’s what led to my sitting behind the SUV’s driver as another member of the Sprint team gave me an overview of the carrier’s capabilities with 5G and plans for Arizona. The person at the wheel ultimately drove us to the nearby Camelback Colonnade shopping center. Pulling into a parking space, they began demonstrating their system’s speed by downloading the same movie on the same types of smartphones except one was 5G and the other 4G.

With the guy in the front seat holding a timer, the downloads began — as did the hiccups in the execution. Actually, they told me, the fault was with the user, not the technology. (Hey, this stuff is new after all!) But once they were back on track, the 5G quickly finished downloading the movie while 4G kept chugging along.

Once the demo was done, we headed back to the Biltmore and they dropped me off. A fairly speedy experience all the way around.

So, can I hardly wait to set up my own 5G plan? To be honest, I’m not the sort who can’t wait to download movies. But the advantage that 5G will have going forward is all about connectivity and the Internet of Things. Cities will get smarter. Linking an ever-increasing number of devices — trillions globally, by some estimates — is going to require more network capability, which 5G provides.

By being a leader in setting policy here in Arizona, we’ve become a leader in rolling out the new standard for wireless. For example, Verizon just announced that it is making 5G available in downtown Phoenix and on Arizona State University’s main campus in Tempe. And Sprint obviously is about to serve the masses, too.

Get ready. We’re about to take the ride of our lives.


Steven G. Zylstra, President + CEO, Arizona Technology Council  

Zylstra is a champion of the value technology can provide in raising social and economic standards, and was named “Leader of the Year, Technology” by the Arizona Capitol Times and “Most Admired Leader” by the Phoenix Business Journal. Besides serving as chairman emeritus of the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), he also is a member of numerous councils, committees and boards.

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