China, US, and 5G: Who Will Get There First?

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The United States is tied for first with China in global 5G readiness, according to a new report from global telecommunications research firm Analysys Mason. Making an influx of spectrum available to America’s wireless industry over the next five years will help secure America’s 5G leadership, add $391 billionto the U.S. economy and create 1.8 million new jobs according to separate research, conducted by Analysis Group. These findings are included in a new CTIA paper outlining the wireless industry’s recommendations for the National Spectrum Strategy being developed by the Trump Administration.

“The U.S. has made impressive strides in the 5G race thanks to the commitment of the Administration, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to smart policies that unlocked the power of free-market competition,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA President and CEO. “With their leadership, and significant industry investment, the first large-scale 5G deployments are happening now, in communities across America. A National Spectrum Strategy that gives the wireless industry more room to innovate will ensure we win the global 5G race and create a long-term spectrum stimulus that will grow our economy and create millions of new jobs.”

“We can’t be complacent as the 5G race has really just begun. We must redouble our efforts to combat the 5G ambitions and investments by China and others,” said Attwell Baker.

To prevail in the global race, the U.S. will need to continue to combat and address the coordinated investment strategy of China and other leading 5G nations.

5G Readiness Ranking
For the second year in a row, Analysys Mason’s study ranked countries on their 5G readiness. The findings show the United States moving from third place in 2018 to a first place tie with ChinaSouth KoreaJapan and the United Kingdom follow, in that order. The improvement in the U.S. ranking is attributed to significant investment by America’s wireless industry in 5G networks as well as government action to reform infrastructure policies and make more spectrum available to wireless operators.

Key findings Include:

  • The U.S. scored the highest across all countries surveyed in Analysys Mason’s report on industry 5G commitment. By the end of 2019, America will have almost double the number of its next highest rival.
  • The U.S. leads in the availability of high- and low-band spectrum for 5G but is behind in the availability of mid-band spectrum. Mid-band spectrum is critical to 5G due to its combination of high capacity and ability to cover large geographic areas. Other countries plan to make over four times more licensed mid-band spectrum available than the United States by 2020.
  • U.S. policymakers at the federal and state levels have been instrumental in easing barriers to small-cell deployment that have helped pave the way for U.S. to lead in commercial 5G deployments.

“Our report discusses the significant developments taking place globally towards 5G launch, and overall we have found that the determined moves by U.S. operators to launch 5G services, combined with reforms that have been made in the U.S. to make it easier to deploy mobile infrastructure, have given the U.S. a leading position in this year’s rankings,” said Janette Stewart, Principal in Analysys Mason.

While the U.S. has significantly improved its position in the 5G race, a number of challenges remain that must be addressed in order to overcome China longer term. Foremost amongst them is China retains a significant infrastructure advantage. A recent study showed China with more than 14 wireless cell sites per 10,000 people, compared to 4.7 in the United States, and more than five sites per every 10 square miles, compared to 0.4 in the U.S.

As noted above, China and other countries also possess significant advantages in the availability of mid-band spectrum for 5G. While the U.S. leads in planned commercial deployments in 2019, China’s wireless operators are conducting hundreds of large-scale 5G trials across the country and have announced plans for ‘pre-commercial’ 5G deployments within 2019, underscoring the need for policymakers to foster greater investment and deployment in the U.S.

Recommendations for a National Spectrum Strategy to Secure 5G Leadership
The Trump administration is currently engaged in developing a new National Spectrum Strategy that gives industry “more freedom to innovate” and “reach the full potential that 5G offers.” To inform that discussion, CTIA released recommendations for the National Spectrum Strategy, based on proven free-market principles, that includes the following key steps:

  1. Create a five-year schedule of auctions that puts more high-, mid- and low-band spectrum in the hands of America’s wireless industry. Freeing up a pipeline of spectrum over the next five years will create 1.8 million jobs and grow America’s economy by $391 billion, according to recent studies by Analysis Group.
  2. Recommit federal spectrum policy to proven free-market approaches that harness competition to enhance America’s economy and national security. This approach helped the U.S. win the race to 4G and is the reason the first large-scale 5G deployments are happening in cities and towns across the country. Today, America leads all nations in commercial 5G deployments.
  3. Modernize government policies and procedures to ensure optimal use of spectrum. Smart spectrum policies generate billions of dollars for government agencies, helping them deploy modern, efficient wireless systems and technologies.

“The success of 5G in the United States requires the reallocation of low-, medium- and high-band spectrum to achieve both coverage and capacity,” said David Sosa, Principal, Analysis Group.  “We believe that the commercial release of spectrum to U.S. wireless providers will spur GDP and job growth across all communities and enable the innovations and industries of the future.”

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