Smart federal, state, and regulatory policies, coupled with significant industry investment, have pushed the United States into the top spot for global 5G readiness, alongside China, according to a new report from research firm Analysys Mason.
The U.S. climbed the ranks from third place in the firm’s 2018 analysis, to tie rival China for first, with both countries followed by South Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom (in that order) in the race to 5G.
In order to maintain its leadership position and overtake China in the longer term, the U.S. must still address infrastructure challenges and continue to make spectrum available, according to industry group CTIA.
In terms of industry 5G commitment, the U.S. scored highest across all countries surveyed in the report.
Both AT&T and Verizon have already launched commercial 5G networks in select parts of certain cities, and commercial 5G launches from Sprint and T-Mobile are forthcoming. U.S. Cellular has also announced plans for a 5G network.
Infrastructure policy reform at both the state and federal levels has eased barriers to small cell deployments, which is key for the network densification needed for 5G services, helping the U.S. to lead in commercial 5G deployments, Analysys Mason found.
“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 at Analysys Mason.
The U.S. has made or is in the process of making large swaths of low- and high-band spectrum available, with the FCC currently conducting its second millimeter wave spectrum auction for licenses in the 24 GHz band. As of Wednesday afternoon (April 3) proceeds in that auction were nearing $1.8 billion after 42 rounds of bidding. Earlier this year the agency concluded its 28 GHz auction and has plans for a third high-band 5G auction later this year.
While the U.S. leads in availability of high- and low-band spectrum, it lags behind other countries on mid-band spectrum, which is important for 5G because signals can propagate over larger areas but still provides high capacity.
Other countries plan to make more than four times more licensed mid-band spectrum available than the U.S. by 2020, according to the research firm.
Infrastructure poses another issue when compared to China, which has a significant advantage. According to CTIA, China has more than 14 cell sites per 10,000 people, compared to 4.7 in the U.S. It also has more than five wireless cell sites per every 10 square miles, compared to 0.4 in the U.S.
“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 Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA President and CEO, in a statement.
National Spectrum Strategy
CTIA this week provided recommendations for a National Spectrum Strategy, currently being developed by the Trump administration, to secure the nation’s leadership in 5G.
The Analysys Mason findings were included in the CTIA paper, along with separate research from Analysis Group that showed making more spectrum available to the wireless industry over the next five years, would add $391 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.8 million new jobs.
CTIA’s recommendations focused on the following three steps:
- Open up access to more high-, mid-, and low-band spectrum for the wireless industry by creating five-year schedule of spectrum auctions.
- Commit to free-market approaches for federal spectrum policy to enhance the country’s economy and national security. (CTIA noted that this approach helped the U.S. win the race to 4G and is why America leads all countries in commercial 5G deployments).
- Modernize government policies and procures to ensure optimal use of spectrum.
“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, in a statement. “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.”
To get more information on CTIA’s National Spectrum Strategy recommendations, go here.