Ajit Pai recalls a cold February day, standing in a field at the Wind River reservation in central Wyoming with Arapaho Indian leaders, hearing how they used a Connecting America grant to link schools and homes to gigabit fiber Internet.

It was one of many technology transformations the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission witnessed in visits to 49 states.

“Those trips redouble my motivation to do everything we can to close the digital divide because I want to make sure every American can participate in the digital economy,” said Pai in an online talk at NVIDIA’s GTC event.

Technologies like 5G and AI promise to keep that economy vibrant across factories, hospitals, warehouses and farm fields.

“I visited a corn farmer in Idaho who wants his combine to upload data to the cloud as it goes through the field to determine what water and pesticide to apply … AI will be transformative,” Pai said.

“AI is definitely the next industrial revolution, and America can help lead it,” said Soma Velayutham, NVIDIA’s general manager for AI in telecoms and 5G and host of the online talk with Pai.

AI a Fundamental Part of 5G

Shining a light on machine learning and 5G, the FCC has hosted forums on AI and open radio-access networks that included participants from AT&T, Dell, IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Nokia, NVIDIA, Oracle, Qualcomm and Verizon.

“It was striking to see how many people think AI will be a fundamental part of 5G, making it a much smarter network with optimizations using powerful AI algorithms to look at spectrum allocations, consumer use cases and how networks can address them,” Pai said.

For example, devices can use machine learning to avoid interference and optimize use of unlicensed spectrum the FCC is opening up for Wi-Fi at 6 GHz. “Someone could hire a million people to work that out, but it’s much more powerful to use AI,” he said.

“AI is really good at resource optimization,” said Velayutham. “AI can efficiently manage 5G network resources, optimizing the way we use and monetize spectrum,” he added.

AI Saves Spectrum, 5G Delivers Cool Services

Telecom researchers in Asia, Europe and the U.S. are using NVIDIA technologies to build software-defined radio access networks that can modulate more services into less spectrum, enabling new graphics and AI services.

In the U.K. telecom provider BT is working with an NVIDIA partner on edge computing applications such as streaming over 5G coverage of sporting events with CloudXR, a mix of virtual and augmented reality.

In closing, Pai addressed developers in the GTC audience, thanking them and “all the innovators for doing this work. You have a friend at the FCC who recognizes your innovation and wants to be a partner with it,” he said.

To hear more about how AI will transform industries at the edge of the network, watch a portion of the GTC keynote below by NVIDIA’s  CEO, Jensen Huang.

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