The "race to 5G" is ultimately much more about the downstream economic benefits that 5G will bring than it is a question of which country will be first to deploy any new variant of the technology. Just as online services like Uber or others could not be easily foreseen when the first modern smartphones launched on LTE, so, too, will new heretofore unimagined uses for 5G affect us all, and our economy. Those technologies so accelerated by 5G, in turn, will eventually affect every part of the economy; manufacturing, autonomous services, and other areas are foretold, but the vein of such effects has only started to be mined.
At risk, however, is an economy that falls behind in advancements of efficiency and growth, should nearly universal 5G connectivity be inhibited. This concern goes far beyond hand-wringing over the loss of major infrastructure vendors (already roughly a decade old) and will ultimately touch on the ability of U.S. companies to win via American strengths (vibrant competition and innovation), and not the values of others (centrally controlled industrial policy). To "win," the U.S. must double down on basic and applied research in universities and government labs to create the kindling that allows entirely new companies and industries to emerge and flourish.
As for the U.S. and the current 5G Competitiveness of Nations, we need to allow market participants to contest aggressively head-to-head while recognizing the economies of scale necessary to fulfill the promise of 5G; loosen regulations that delay deployments and make them far more expensive in the U.S. than elsewhere; accelerate the repurposing of spectrum to uses, like 5G, where it will bring the greatest good to the economy; and otherwise get out of the way and let U.S. companies contend with rivals both foreign and domestic. This is how we all will win.
International Policy Director at Stanford Cyber Policy Center; Member of European Parliament 2009-2019
The U.S. and EU telecoms industries would lose economically. Automobile and IoT would also be affected.
Notwithstanding the economic impact, the main question here is one of trust, security and geopolitics.
COO at Ford Autonomous Vehicles, LLC
The negatives would be if there are two different standards because China was the first mover. If there is one global standard, then it really doesn't matter who wins the race.
Ultimately, China moving fast to win the race will only help push U.S. and European businesses.
Director, Broadband and Spectrum Policy at Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
In one sense of the "race," it is important we are early with broad and deep enough 5G networks that allow for new innovative applications to be built here in the United States. We have to get the platform out there that can support the real cutting-edge applications like augmented reality, sophisticated manufacturing tools, and whatever else we can't yet imagine.
In another, more narrow, sense it, the competition with China and Chinese companies really matters for the companies that compete in wireless equipment, components, and intellectual property rights. It would be one thing if Chinese companies competed fairly, but unfair policies risk long-term innovation of wireless technology.
Senior Vice President, Public Policy at Samsung Electronics America
5G is a generational leap forward in mobile communications: faster, more responsive, and able to connect far more endpoints, including not only smartphones but cars, robots, buildings, sensors, machines and more.
5G will be a transformative new communications platform. Just as 4G led to unforeseen, economically impactful innovations such as social networking, mobile payment and ride-sharing, 5G will enable innovators to create revolutionary new services around telepresence, augmented reality, industrial and commercial IoT, connected transportation, and other promising growth areas. What is at stake in the race to 5G is for countries that are fastest to achieve widespread 5G deployment to become the home for the next tech giants.
See who's who in Protocol's Braintrust (updated Feb. 19, 2020).
Kevin McAllister (
@k__mcallister) is an associate editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.