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February 22, 2019

In the Global 5G Race, America’s Free Market Leads the Way .

In the Global 5G Race, America’s Free Market Leads the Way


CTIA EVP Brad Gillen
Brad Gillen
Executive Vice President

Mobile World Congress Barcelona is days away and it’s already generating a lot of discussion on where we are in the global race to 5G.

It’s an important discussion, after all, America won the race to 4G – a win that created jobs, grew our economy by $100 billion and secured a decade of technological leadership.

5G promises to have an even greater impact. It will transform the way we live and work. From driverless cars, to remote healthcare, AR/VR, artificial intelligence and more, the industries of the future will be built on 5G wireless, and for America’s long-term economic competitiveness, we all want that innovation, entrepreneurialism and investment to happen here.

Twelve months ago, the outlook for America’s continued wireless leadership was uncertain. China was conducting hundreds of 5G trials, South Korea used the Olympics as a showcase for its 5G plans, and scores of other countries – recognizing the economic benefits of wireless leadership – were working hard to free up spectrum to speed their 5G rollouts.

Here in America?

This time last year no spectrum auctions were scheduled, infrastructure deployments were governed by thirty-year old rules designed for 200-foot cell towers, and no commercial 5G deployments were announced.

What a difference a year makes.

The first large-scale commercial 5G deployments are happening here, in America, way ahead of schedule – and way ahead of any other country.

Built from the ground-up with the most advanced security and resiliency features of any wireless network ever, in 2018 operators turned on 5G in more than a dozen cities including Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis and Los Angeles. And this year, carriers are planning more than fifty new deployments, all across the country.

No other country is as far along in bringing 5G to market and while the race isn’t over yet, long-term projections are starting to suggest that the US is in prime position to maintain its wireless leadership. Earlier this week, for instance, Cisco’s annual Visual Networking Index report projected that by 2022, a higher percentage of mobile data connections in the US will run on 5G networks than any other region.

What changed?

Instead of trying to ‘out-China, China’, as some proponents of a nationalized ‘wholesale’ network monopoly suggested, we reaffirmed our faith in that most American of principles – competition in a free and open market.

Thanks to the support of Administration and Congress, and the quick action and visionary leadership of the Federal Communications Commission to free up spectrum and modernize infrastructure siting rules, we empowered America’s wireless carriers to do what they do best – challenge each other to be the first to build the world’s biggest, broadest and most secure networks.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

Today, the global race to 5G has taken a back seat to the race here at home as America’s competitive wireless carriers strive to one-up each other. They’re pouring money into building these networks as fast as they can. In fact, Accenture estimates that, taken together, the industry will invest $275 billion and create 3 million new jobs as each carrier tries to out-build, out-market and out-perform the other. And every day brings a new announcement, from dozens more 5G cities, to the first 5G phones. All happening in the U.S. first.

The race to lead the world in 5G is still going, but we’ve come a long way in just 12 months. A continued commitment to free market solutions, such as putting more spectrum – and particularly mid-band spectrum – in the hands of America’s wireless carriers, and a renewed focus on eliminating barriers to deployment will secure our long-term 5G leadership.

As White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said, we will win the 5G race “through the free enterprise, free market economy.”

He’s right. And it’s that approach that motivated America’s wireless carriers to invest $200 billion to build today’s networks. That commitment that made our wireless industry equivalent in size to a G20 economy. And that American faith in competition that will ensure we continue to be the world’s technology leader.

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