Report: 5G Rollout Will Generate Job Growth in Detroit and Ann Arbor

National research has found that the 5G revolution will create 4.6 million jobs through 2034 as part of a new wave of mobility and innovation. Detroit and Ann Arbor were listed as top areas expected to see 5G job growth.
smart factory
Due to the availability of both digital and skilled labor jobs, 5G is expected to bring job growth to southeast Michigan as Internet of Things gains traction. // Stock photo

National research has found that the 5G revolution will create 4.6 million jobs through 2034 as part of a new wave of mobility and innovation. Detroit and Ann Arbor were listed as top areas expected to see 5G job growth.

The National Spectrum Consortium and the Progressive Policy Institute, which unveiled the research, found the build out of 5G — the 5th generation cellular network — along with engineering activities has created 106,000 jobs as of April/May.

“5G, with its low latency and high throughput, is transforming the world we live in with enormous implications for both technology development and job creation,” says Salvador D’Itri, chair of the National Spectrum Consortium.

“From a technology perspective, 5G is where the network meets the cloud and is changing industry after industry. From an economic perspective, 5G will create 4.6 million 5G-related jobs through 2034 and has already created more than 100,000 new jobs. That’s why it’s so important for the U.S. to remain the global leader on 5G, helping to unleash a new wave of job creation in our nation.”

The study found that the new wave will create cognitive and cognitive-physical skilled jobs across the economy, including those in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, utilities, transportation and warehousing, education, health care, and government, including defense. Previous waves of wireless-driven job growth were more likely to be centered on digital industries such as entertainment and social networks.

“The 5G revolution will benefit a far wider set of Americans and regions than previous waves of mobility did,” says Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. “This new wave will create both ‘cognitive’ and ‘cognitive-physical’ skilled jobs, which will be located in nearly every industry and in every corner of our nation. Given the incredible opportunity before us, the federal government should continue to make major investments in 5G and provide job training so that workers can take advantage of these emerging opportunities.”

The research identifies three waves of wireless-driven job growth in the U.S.

Wave One, “The Rise of Wireless,” covers the period from 1990-2007 as mobile carriers were building out the original wireless networks and cell phones became a necessity. It generated about 200,000 jobs in the wireless industry.

Wave Two, “The App Economy,” covers the period from 2007-2019, which was rooted in the application of wireless to mobile apps via smartphones. The app economy created more than 2.2 million jobs, and its main job growth focus was in digital industries such as entertainment, finance, communication, and social networks.

Wave Three, “The 5G Revolution,” began in 2019 as mobile carriers expanded their initial 5G networks. The wave is being generated by the application of wireless technology to challenges in the physical industries listed above.

Unless previous waves, wave three is rooted in the physical world and creates mixed cognitive-physical skilled jobs, many of which fall into installation and maintenance. While app economy jobs were focused on software development, and most workers in the field needed a college education, wave three jobs will grow in dozens of sectors and will offer white- and blue-collar positions.

While the first and second waves of wireless jobs were concentrated in digital cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston, wave three jobs will benefit areas that have more of a balance between digital and physical industries. Along with Detroit and Ann Arbor, 5G job growth is expected in Albany, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Colorado Springs, Harrisburg, Huntsville, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Lincoln, and Jacksonville.

The study also looked at short-term job impact. It found that current 5G build-out and engineering had created 106,000 jobs as of April/May of this year. The study indexed where the jobs were located across the country. The top 15 states were Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Colorado, Missouri, Massachusetts, Alabama, and Ohio.

Policy recommendations listed in the paper include:

  • More spectrum will be needed for broadband and related applications. The U.S. would benefit from a long-range national spectrum plan to provide certainty to 5G stakeholders in the public and private sectors and encourage long-term investment.
  • The U.S. needs a plan for the adoption of 5G across government, both civilian and defense. The public sector should lead.
  • Congress should be willing to invest in the development of 5G and successor technologies to keep up with global competition.
  • The U.S. should invest in job training in STEM fields and encourage work in engineering and math.

The Progressive Policy Institute is based in Washington, D.C., and National Spectrum Consortium is based in South Carolina.