Senators fret over lack of 5G manpower

A group of senators on Wednesday fretted over the U.S.’s ability to recruit tens of thousands more people to help build the next generation of wireless technology, a massive undertaking that will require significant manpower if the country wants to lead the so-called race to 5G.

The Senate Commerce Committee convened a hearing to discuss their 5G concerns on the second day of the upper chamber’s impeachment trial of President Trump, an attempt to prove that lawmakers can multitask even as Congress debates whether to remove the president.

Seven members of the committee questioned the witnesses — including Brendan Carr, a Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, and telecom industry representatives — about the “5G labor shortage.”

According to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), some projections estimate the U.S. needs 20,000 more people to help “accelerate the deployment of 5G in order to win the race and secure the first-move advantage in the United States.” Right now, there are about 27,000 workers prepared to install 5G equipment.

“Additional labor will also be needed to lay fiber, to support wireless connections, install radios and deploy other essential equipment,” Wicker said.

The next generation of wireless networks, known as 5G, is expected to upend and potentially revolutionize modern technology, promising lightning-fast speeds and an array of internet-connected devices.

But the work behind building the flashy technology is often taxing and difficult, requiring people to scale extraordinary heights and oftentimes travel away from their families, witnesses told the committee.

“We’ve got to make hard work cool again,” said Jimmy Miller, the president and CEO of MillerCo, a small telecom services company based in Wicker’s home state of Mississippi. “We’ve got to get the word out that this is a career, it exists, it is real.”