How 5G Will Affect American Jobs: Predictions and Implications

Russell Kidson
Mar 4, 2023

How 5G Will Affect American Jobs: Predictions and Implications

Apple recently announced their latest iPhone models in mid-October, which are the first smartphones designed to operate on 5G networks. This new advancement in cellular connectivity holds great potential, promising to provide fast internet access to anyone, anywhere, without the need for Wi-Fi.

The impact of 5G technology is vast and far-reaching. According to Will Knight of MIT Technology Review, 5G is expected to significantly impact industries such as manufacturing, robotics, and self-driving cars.

In exploring the potential implications of 5G on the future of work, various reports from think tanks and insights from industry experts suggest that it could lead to job growth and better employment opportunities.

How 5G Will Affect American Jobs: Predictions and Implications

An introduction to 5G

In essence, 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks that promises to provide internet access at speeds comparable to Wi-Fi. This revolutionary technology enables ubiquitous communication through a suite of enabling technologies. Cellular service providers have been upgrading their infrastructure since 2019, including antennas, cell towers, and frequency ranges, to expand and enhance their networks. Current 5G offerings are about 20% faster than 4G LTE connection speeds and offer significantly lower latency.

Given that a significant portion of rural Americans do not have access to the internet, and only 65% of Americans' home internet is fast enough for video conferencing, the widespread adoption of 5G represents a significant change in connectivity for most people in the US.

However, it is important to keep in mind that some journalists caution people to temper their expectations about the capabilities of 5G. Brian X. Chen, for instance, warns that despite the hype around 5G, its current technical limitations mean that most Americans will not experience blazing-fast speeds anytime soon.

Predictions and Implications of 5G on the Future of American Labor

What does 5G mean for work?

The Progressive Policy Institute has recently published a report outlining their forecasts for how 5G technology will affect labor in the United States over the next 15 years. PPI predicts that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile will be moving towards nationwide 5G networks by the end of 2020. They suggest that the current trend towards remote work has further underscored the need for expanded internet access, including the implementation of 5G technology.

Increased availability of jobs

According to CNBC, 5G technology is seen as a catalyst for the next industrial revolution, while Bloomberg's Nico Grant suggests that it will significantly advance the Internet of Things (IoT). One of the most immediate impacts of 5G will be the proliferation of smart factories, which are expected to be more automated and efficient. At present, factory machines rely on slow, low-bandwidth, and high-latency disparate networks to transmit and receive data. 5G is expected to replace these outdated technologies, making it more cost-effective to purchase and install robots. 

This shift towards automation is likely to result in smarter factories with more streamlined processes. For instance, Ericsson's new factory in Lewisville, Texas, has already been transformed by 5G technology. Augmented reality is used by remote support personnel to assist on-site workers, while automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and drones are guided around the facility by remote pilots. While many fear that automation will lead to job losses and reduced salaries, the relationship between automation and employment is not always straightforward. Although automation may replace some jobs, it also creates new ones.

According to PPI, the technological advancements enabled by 5G are expected to lead to a net gain in employment rather than a loss. They predict that, 15 years after the introduction of 5G in 2019, 5G and related technologies will have created 4.6 million more jobs than the economy would have generated otherwise. As evidence, PPI points out that companies had already created 106,000 jobs as of April/May 2020 while building out 5G. PPI also predicts that 5G will significantly boost employment in various sectors, including agriculture, construction, utilities, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, educational services, healthcare and social assistance, and government.

However, it's worth noting that while increasing automation is expected to have a positive effect on overall job growth, it may also exacerbate existing disparities between high-growth urban areas and struggling rural areas, as well as between high-wage workers and others, according to McKinsey.

Higher-paying work

In addition to predicting a net gain in employment, PPI also expects the jobs created by 5G to be higher-paying than the ones that will be lost to automation. According to the authors, '5G job creation is a countervailing force to job destruction from automation and globalization, and critically important in the post-COVID world.'

Colleen Berube, Chief Information Officer at Zendesk, noted that her company is actively pursuing automation in all aspects of their operations. She expects that automating repetitive tasks will free up more time for employees to focus on higher-level work such as analysis, strategic thinking, and creativity.

As 5G becomes more widely adopted, engineers and software developers are expected to be in high demand to drive its implementation. Job postings across the country in late April showed that around 0.6% included the term '5G.' Job titles in these postings included 'Engineer, Principal 5G Systems,' 'Wireless Core Engineer,' and '5G Wireless SME/Senior Systems Engineer Level 6.'

Predictions and Implications of 5G on the Future of American Labor

Prepare for 5G

Although 5G technology is expected to create higher-quality jobs for workers of all skill levels, it is still important to keep one's technical skills up to date. When asked about the impact of 5G and automation on hiring decisions, Colleen Berube of Zendesk stated that her company looks for candidates with both domain expertise and technical proficiency. 

Similarly, Charles Southwick of Pure Storage emphasized the importance of hard skills as well as 'hybrid capabilities,' such as a hardware engineer who can also write software. It is also essential to remain cognitively flexible and stay up to date on new technologies. 'We've enhanced how we think about hiring to also include soft skills,' Berube said. Zendesk is looking for workers who are comfortable with change and are resourceful problem-solvers.


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  1. Kazabooboo said on March 4, 2023 at 11:29 pm

    Russell writes:
    “Apple recently announced their latest iPhone models in mid-October, which are the first smartphones designed to operate on 5G networks.”

    Hello? Earth to Russell! Did you actually read the article you linked to?

    Your link refers ONLY to the iPhone SE4. In actual fact, Apple has supported 5G since the iPhone 12. My 13 Pro Max, purchased in Nov 2021, works quite nicely with 5G.

    Google is your friend….

  2. boris said on March 4, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    What is going on with this website? Are all articles written by ChatGPT? This article is outdated by 3 years at least.

    1. Your English Teacher said on March 4, 2023 at 2:58 pm

      It’s spelled “Internet”, not “internet”. The word is a proper noun, and therefore, should be capitalized.

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