November 1, 2019
China Plays Catch Up as the U.S. Launches the 5G Economy .
I am posting this from my 5G phone.
Not a prototype or marketing beta test. I bought the phone on a carrier’s website. In D.C., I am actually lucky enough to have multiple carriers to choose from to deliver 5G. None of this was possible last year, and more Americans gain access every day.
5G is a remarkable jump. I can attest to that. But the speeds we’re seeing now are actually just a small taste of the full power of this platform.
We all saw 4G create new experiences and new industries over the past ten years. 5G will be even more transformative over the next decade. These networks will be the foundation of a new 5G economy, powered by the industries and the innovations of the future.
Look past the early networks and phones and you’ll see the early signs of this platform—from the first 5G hospital in Chicago, to the first 5G-enabled factories, smart cities, entertainment companies, and schools. We’re now seeing venture capital funds formed to invest in the coming wave of 5G start-ups and Fortune 500 companies rapidly developing their own 5G strategies.
The United States has a clear advantage in this new economy as the 5G first mover with highly motivated and well-financed operators delivering 5G networks now. We also benefit from a proven playbook: we led the world in 4G thanks to competition, innovation, and investment.
That’s important to remember as China starts to play catch up. You may see headlines this weekend suggesting that China is leaping ahead with thousands of new 5G cell sites across dozens of cities.
That may seem impressive, but the fact is those numbers don’t actually amount to much. While we turn the United States into a 5G-powered innovation hub, they are trying to get where we already are, and scrambling to do what we have done in the U.S. for a generation.
Now, a few years ago, I was one of the first to bring attention to the efforts of other countries, led by China, seeking to use 5G leadership as an opportunity to grab innovation leadership from the United States. Other countries were ahead in updating policies to promote next-generation investment and making available the spectrum needed.
We responded with conviction. With $27 billion invested last year by the U.S. wireless industry, we leapfrogged the world by launching 5G commercially before anyone else with network gear from a trusted secure supply chain. We are poised to drive 3 million new American jobs in this effort.
The best part is we have multiple carriers competing with each other to be the leader. This internal competitive dynamic is our core differentiator and something China’s state-owned carriers just cannot replicate. It is our not-so-secret weapon that should be celebrated. Competition benefits consumers.
But operators cannot do it alone, and that is why the U.S. government’s role doesn’t get enough credit or focus. The Administration understands the potential 5G has for reshaping our economy. The Hill has been a remarkable champion—on a bipartisan basis—of the importance of getting the policies right to incent investment and innovation.
And the key actor in this has been the FCC under Chairman Pai’s leadership. The agency has successfully taken on the challenges of 5G one-by-one with the 5G Fast Plan. Last year, the FCC reformed federal and local siting policies to ensure new next-generation cell sites can be built in a timely manner. This year, the FCC will release more spectrum to our industry than it has in the 30 years prior with 3 key high-band auctions. And, the FCC has scheduled its first mid-band spectrum auction for next year and has other vital mid-band spectrum bands nearing final review in recognition that is the key missing piece in our national strategy.
Do we have more work to do? Of course. We need to keep deploying. We need to deliver the mid-band spectrum we have spent the better part of two years talking about, and we need to do so as quickly as possible. And we need cities to follow the federal guidelines on how to site 5G. Given the progress we have made in the past 18 months, I’m confident we will successfully address each of these challenges.
So don’t be fooled. The billions of people in China mean they are always going to have more, but a singular focus on size masks what is really going on. We convincingly led in 4G even though China has lots more sites and subscribers.
The question we should all ask in a few years is will we have a robust 5G platform in the U.S. to secure our leadership in the next wave of innovation across AI, robotics and all the industries of tomorrow? Will we have the ability to unleash the same American ingenuity with 5G that created the sharing economy and so much more in 4G?
On our current course, that answer is definitively yes. Projection after projection has the U.S. far ahead on 5G per capita penetration for years to come as 5G will permeate every aspect of American society. We need to execute on our plan, and I’m confident we will by keeping our foot on the gas, focusing on delivering this great platform to as many Americans as possible, and not overreacting to another country’s tactics or gimmicks.