The new normal is still developing. We do not yet know exactly what the post-pandemic economy will look like. But this much is clear: A significant part of it will remain virtual even after brick-and-mortar businesses re-open, making a reliable network capable of transmitting large amounts of data quickly top priority. Salt Lake City’s 5G POWDER project is next-generation wireless research happening now in a city-scale living lab.  Our Technology & Innovation Advisor Clark Cahoon shares his thoughts on how Salt Lake City will thrive with this new advantage. Read on and as always, we’d love to hear your feedback.

The Covid-19 outbreak has dealt a significant blow to the U.S. And while Salt Lake City is poised better than most to recover more quickly, we can’t overlook the significant potential for innovation.

New business ideas and opportunities have come out of the crisis. Online-to-offline commerce (O2O) is on the rise, the demand for 5G has increased, as well as demand for online education.

Access to high speed bandwidth and cloud service is nothing new for the Beehive State. A recent study that looked at U.S. Census Bureau data on internet subscriptions to determine “Internet Deserts” ranked Utah No. 2 for the most connected state in the U.S. And while Utah has been ranked consistently in the top 10 in the country for speed, has us ranked 12th for having access to speeds over 25 Mbps.


The commitment to high speed and connectivity is a long-term endeavor for Utah. The University of Utah was home to one of the original backbones of the internet via the ARPANET project which spawned a legacy of digital entrepreneurs to inspire today’s Silicon Slopes.

5G Now in Salt Lake City

University of Utah’s legacy continues with the Platform for Open Wireless Data-driven Experimental Research (POWDER) — a partnership between the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and the Utah Education and Telehealth Network. The program is deploying experimental, next-generation 5G wireless networking throughout the city, bringing opportunity – as witnessed with 4G, first mover advantage reaps the benefits, spawning new apps, innovative products and services, and promising new markets.

In September 2019, the Federal Communications Commission released a statement revealing their two new 5G Innovation Zones: Salt Lake City and New York City.  The University of Utah and Rice University were selected and now participating in research surrounding the implementation of 5G networks.

What was essentially a competition between universities and cities all over the country, Salt Lake City’s University of Utah was chosen out of the field. The project is based on a grant from the National Science Foundation for Powder Wireless, a Utah based company.

It is just another great example of how Salt Lake City is really getting brought into the international spotlight regarding tech innovations. Our tech industry is well positioned to recover, our healthcare innovation industry is seeing promising growth, and it’s all backed by the government. Being approved for this project alongside New York City will just further push Salt Lake into the eyes of the national and international tech industries.


While Salt Lake City already participates in technological experimentation programs alongside POWDER, the approval of Innovation Zones allows SLC, the U and Powder to expand its testing areas and the amount of research performed. In this case, POWDER’s testing areas are already located around the U. Right near the Life Sciences corridor.


During the testing period, the new technologies won’t impact the average consumer. Businesses will have the option to select to participate in the Innovation Zone testing periods. Subsequent phases are mapped out here.

POWDER is a great example of how the tech sector can be an active partner in growing our city. As we expand our tech industry, we can bring innovative businesses to our city that are serious about helping find solutions to recover and thrive in a post COVID economy.