Post offices could be the new edge of 5G networks – report
A new report by the inspector general of the US Postal Service lays out a detailed and compelling proposal for how the 228-year-old government agency could play a major role in the deployment of 5G.
The US Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) “concluded that there may be an opportunity to leverage the Postal Service’s network of over 31,000 facilities nationwide,” the agency wrote.
Across its 24-page report, the OIG offers a number of proposals, including:
- Putting 5G cell towers on top of post offices nationwide
- 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
“As policymakers turn their attention to funding and promoting the deployment of 5G and broadband infrastructure, they can consider ways to cost-effectively leverage the Postal Service’s nationwide network,” wrote the OIG. “By playing a broader role in 5G and broadband deployment, the Postal Service would further its foundational mission to bind the nation together.”
Importantly, the report notes that a handful of post offices across the country are already engaged in the rollout of 5G. According to the report, 62 postal facilities lease space to cell tower companies, bringing $1.4 million in annual revenue. “There may be opportunities to expand these agreements to support rising demand for 5G antenna deployment,” the report speculates.
That’s particularly intriguing in rural areas, where lawmakers have bemoaned the digital divide amid a pandemic forcing workers and students to stay home.
“OIG analysis found that there are 2,364 USPS facilities located within census blocks that are unserved or underserved in terms of broadband connectivity,” according to the report.
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