I had a front row seat as the CTO of Nokia Networks when the 4G revolution unfolded. As many nations struggled to justify the deployment of yet another mobile network, the United States acted swiftly to take the lead. Motivated operators, hungry customers, innovative application designers, clever device manufacturers, and well-informed regulators worked hand-in-hand to create a new trillion-dollar market and an ecosystem that remains the envy of the world. Residing in Europe at the time, I helped to enable American 4G innovation even as I observed firsthand Europe’s stagnation around the lead it had developed in 3G, leading to slow 4G deployment and massive lost economic opportunity.
While the US got 4G right, China has taken the lead in 5G. Companies there are deploying 5G rapidly to develop a large internal market and expand their home-grown technology beyond their own borders. Their pace has only increased during the pandemic. China is now firing on all cylinders while the US is stuck in internal struggles. US operators face heavy regulatory obstacles, while China has used it government’s might to clear red-tape for a national 5G project that it deems a top priority. By the end of 2019, China had more than 150,000 5G base stations (in contrast, the US had about 10,000), and by end of this year China will have more than 150 million 5G users. For years now, China has focused on rapidly deploying mid-band spectrum allowing all three of its large carriers to deliver 5G, while the US remains bogged down with only gradual progress. Given the financial might of the Chinese state, its close relationship with both vendors and operators, and its ability to act with little restraint, it is no surprise that many consider the 5G race to be over. Fortunately, 5G is not a sprint and there is still a good chance the US can win if we act swiftly and smartly—which is what the FCC under Chairman Pai is doing; most recently with its 5-0 decision in favor of the “Ligado” L-Band proposal.
Read the full article at Real Clear Markets.