2020 is coming to an end, and the race to build 5G out across America is officially underway. Relatively speaking, the United States has been fairly slow to jump on the 5G wagon (China rolled it out nationwide in November 2019). Now that cellular carriers are beginning to roll out these new networks across the US, it begs the trillion-dollar question: how can every American get the same access to 5G service? After all, our country’s population is vastly spread between both urban and rural areas. This marks a ton of ground to cover, and to call this task expensive would be the understatement of the century. However, according to the USPS Office of the Inspector General, this is exactly where the Postal Service’s abundance of real estate across the country can help.
Post Offices Mark the Perfect Positions to Give Every American Access to 5G Networks
In mid-September, the Office of the Inspector General (or OIG, for short) published a report titled Next Generation Connectivity: Postal Service Roles in 5G and Broadband Development. In the report, the OIG writes, “there may be an opportunity to leverage the Postal Service’s network of over 31,000 facilities nationwide” so that every American can access 5G.
The report’s main point is: all of these post offices are already positioned to best provide universal service to the American people, and the real estate is being underutilized. If cellular companies simply installed towers on the rooftops of all of these locations, they could easily roll out 5G networks across urban and rural areas to ensure that every American receives access to the same levels of connectivity. Of course, these companies would have to lease the rooftop space directly from the Postal Service to do so.
In addition to placing 5G towers on post office rooftops across the nation, the OIG offered the following proposals for other ways that USPS can help deploy 5G across the country:
- Running fiber backhaul through post offices and into 5G cell towers
- Offering free public Wi-Fi services in post offices in rural areas
- Hosting edge computing data centers inside post offices
- Supporting public safety communications via post offices
- Having postal workers collect data on broadband availability
Want to read more? Check out the full 24-page report here.
Helping Bring 5G to the Mainstream Would Generate More Revenue and Cement USPS as an Essential Institution
Helping roll out 5G to the nation may serve a dual purpose for the Postal Service. Due to pre-funding legislation that Congress enacted in 2006, USPS is currently losing billions of dollars every year. As a result, the organization is in dire financial straits. Leasing out rooftop space to cell phone carriers may be a surefire way for USPS to generate additional revenue without incurring any extra overhead.
The OIG’s report highlights that 62 post office locations currently lease rooftop space to cellular companies for 5G network towers. This generates roughly $1.4 million in annual revenue for USPS, which averages out to roughly $22,580 in revenue per location. Thus, if all 31,000 post office locations entered into similar agreements, the estimations would work out to $700 million in revenue per year.
Most importantly, helping bring 5G to the masses perfectly aligns with the Postal Service’s centuries-long mission of binding the nation together. Doing so would cement USPS as an essential service for countless generations of Americans to come, and would be a perfect combination of history and progress. After all, connecting the American people has been the Postal Service’s main goal ever since Benjamin Franklin became our nation’s first Postmaster General in 1775. If he were alive today to see this potential 5G plan in action, there’s no doubt he would approve.