China has narrow lead over US in 5G race

China has a narrow lead in the race to be a 5G leader, according to new research, which again suggests Europe is behind the US and Asia in development.

Analysys Mason looked at ten countries with regards to their 5G readiness and determined that government support and industry momentum had nudged China ahead of South Korea, the US and Japan.

South Korea has the world’s most advanced 4G networks, while the US’ wireless industry is world-leading, contributing to its third place in the rankings.

Global race

“Our research shows China with a slight lead in 5G readiness, with South Korea and the US close behind,” said David Abecassis at Analysys Mason. “The USled the world in 4G, and the US wireless industry is leading global 5G research and development with aggressive commercial 5G deployment plans that will benefit U.S. consumers.”

Separate research from Recon Analytics estimated that this 4G leadership contributed more than $100 billion to US GDP and increased jobs within the wireless industry by 84 per cent. Conversely, Europe and Japan’s failure to maintain leadership led to a contraction in their respective mobile sectors.

It is this economic impact that helps explain why the race to be the leader in 5G is so intense. The UK has ambitions to be a 5G leader through its research and startup communities, but another report from CCS insight has suggested Europe is at risk of falling behind because of market fragmentation, increasingly strict regulation and a focus on 4G.

“When countries lose global leadership in a generation of wireless, jobs are shed and technology innovation gets exported overseas,” said Roger Entner, Founder, Recon Analytics.

Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm was blocked by the US government amid fears that it would allow Huawei, and therefore China, to take the lead with 5G. This was deemed a national security risk as well as an undesirable economic factor.

CTIA, the US wireless industry body, says the country can leapfrog China and keep its position as an industry leader.

“The United States will not get a second chance to win the global 5G race,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA President and CEO. “I’m confident that America can win and reap the significant economic benefits of 5G wireless due to our world-leading commercial investments.

“Today’s research highlights the importance of policymaker action in 2018 to reform local zoning rules and unlock access to mid-band spectrum as part of a broader spectrum pipeline plan. I’m optimistic we will leapfrog China because key leaders in the Administration, on Capitol Hill, and at the FCC are focused on the reforms needed to win the race.”

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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.