- The U.S. has moved into a tie with China as the most 5G-ready country, according to a new report from Analysys Mason released by CTIA. That’s an improvement over last year’s ranking, which ranked the U.S. third, behind China and South Korea.
- The report found that the U.S. leads the way on for availability of high- and low-band spectrum for 5G, but not for mid-band spectrum. Other countries plan to open up four times as much mid-band spectrum, which combines a high capacity and an ability to cover larger areas.
- A separate report, also released by CTIA, found that making more spectrum available over the next five years could add $391 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.8 million jobs. "We can't be complacent as the 5G race has really just begun," CTIA president and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement. "We must redouble our efforts to combat the 5G ambitions and investments by China and others."
As companies like Sprint and Verizon start rolling out mobile 5G networks in select cities potentially as early as this month, CTIA finds that the U.S. will lead the rest of the world with 92 commercial deployments by the end of 2019. The U.S. got especially high marks in the Analysys Mason report for policies from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to remove roadblocks to infrastructure installation, although overall small cell installation still trails China. CTIA, which represents the wireless industry, says the findings should spur more action to free up mid-band spectrum, which other countries have prioritized.
The report comes as the Trump administration is working on a national spectrum strategy, which will set overarching rules and make it easier for private companies to develop 5G (some Trump advisors previously floated the idea of nationalizing the mobile network). The report came with policy recommendations for the administration, including urging the government to create a five-year schedule of spectrum auctions and to modernize policies that will allow private companies to take full advantage of any available spectrum. The group also calls for “proven free market approaches” that give companies more space.
Competition with China has been a motivator for the government’s work on spectrum policy, with executives and politicians alike warning that the U.S. does not want to fall behind in the 5G race. At a recent U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing, chairman Roger Wicker, R-MS, warned that falling behind “would not only materially delay benefits for the American people, it would forever reduce the economic and societal gains that come from leading the world in technology.”
Given that 5G will not just support a more robust mobile data network, but is also expected to form the backbone for smart city technology like smart grids and connected vehicles, there is tremendous incentive for U.S. cities to take full advantage of 5G as soon as possible.