How Crypto-Economics Might Accelerate 5G Rollouts

tl;dr: Given the cost and challenges of 5G rollout, could crypto-economics be used to defray costs and benefits among more users, thereby possibly accelerating the pace? No idea, but here’s an exploration of it.

There was an interesting article in the WSJ a few weeks back about the challenges associated with rolling out 5G wireless services across the US.

There’s a tremendous amount of infrastructure that needs to be laid down and nearly 800,000 cell sites (in the US alone) to make it practical.

As you dig into 5G, and I have barely scratched the surface, I think it is natural to think about the pros/cons of Net Neutrality.

What’s more, there are those who think the US’ national approach to 5G is actually a mistake, focusing on high-band spectrum instead of mid-range spectrum. Of note, Fred Wilson is one of them.

I am nowhere near an expert on 5G technology or the infrastructure required to support it.

However, I did explore the idea that micro-transactions for services on these advanced networks, supported by blockchain tech, might be an approach that we will see.

But as I thought about all of the infrastructure required, regardless of whether the spectrum strategy is the right one (someone else can tackle that), it seemed to me that the wires and endpoints in a given area could be viewed, potentially as a community-owned asset.

Imagine if a homeowners’ association wanted to have 5G in their neighborhood.

They could sell utility tokens that give every person who is a registered homeowner the right to access 5G services in their area. Basically a DAO.

They could also sell “guest passes.” That way, they could pre-fund some of the costs associated with obtaining the services and possibly leapfrog other areas where pre-existing demand cannot be measured.

What’s more, in a type of OpenGarden meets 5G meets ‘crypto in a box”, individuals could buy or lease 5G mini-towers to put on their roofs/balconies and then get compensated with tokens as others leverage the 5G signal coming from it (much like OpenGarden allows you to resell the wi-fi from your home).

It’s not lost on me that all of this will not happen tomorrow or even the day after that. This could be years in the future. The supporting tech is nowhere near ready.

But, the key point is that it is here and in existence today.

The 5G roll-out is a beast, from what I can gather, and it’s imperative for the US to not cede leadership on the tech.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see crypto-business models emerge to help accelerate it.

How Crypto-Economics Might Accelerate 5G Rollouts was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.