US set to lose out to China in 5G race

The US, Japan and South Korea are falling behind China in the race for 5G leadership, according to a new report from Deloitte.

Although the first 5G networks offering Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband are set to go live in the US later in 2018, the sheer amount of capital invested in Chinese network infrastructure means there is a real chance it could establish leadership.

It is estimated by Recon Analytics that the US’s 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.

Race to 5G

But not all is lost for the US. It retains significant advantages in technology and research and in the absence of government subsidies that would distort the market, Deloitte has urged policy makers to adopt a light touch approach that encourages investment and removes barriers that increase the cost and length of deployment.

For example, some cities still treat small cell planning applications in the same way they do sites. Given that 5G networks will rely on dense deployments of microinfrastructure, this approach is simply impractical. Local authorities can also promote the availability of power and backhaul, as well as improve access to public assets.

US operators could also consider partnerships with industries that stand to benefit from the advent of 5G: “Carriers could negotiate a contract with health care or automotive providers to fund edge computing services that allow for lower latency and higher reliability.

“Carriers could also negotiate solutions that help share data from the billions of devices from various companies and sectors that reside on their network to strengthen the investment case for 5G. Such agreements, negotiated at low cost, can continue to create triple-win scenarios for carriers, consumers, and the growing landscape of industries that use communications infrastructure to further revenue growth and profitability.”

Europe is further behind in the race due to fragmentation and challenging market conditions. The first commercial UK 5G services are expected to go live in 2020, with the government hoping its startup community and research capabilities will earn it a leading role in development.

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.