Building the US 5G Wireless Economy

By MARK HARMSWORTH  | 
Sep 17, 2020
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A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group published by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) highlights the need for continued private investment and a light regulatory touch from the public agencies overseeing 5G wireless spectrum allocation.

Specifically, the report recommends five key success factors for lawmakers rather than just focusing on the count of towers deployed and subscribers.

Spectrum Availability. Spectrum is the foundation of mobile wireless service, and particularly for 5G networks, providers need a mix of low, mid, and high-band spectrum. The study finds that the US has made significant amounts of low- and high-band spectrum available, but lags in crucial mid-band spectrum.

Networks. Widespread network deployment is critical to laying the foundations of a 5G economy and achieving high levels of wireless penetration—the number of active 5G subscribers per capita. The study finds that US telecom companies have invested seven times more than Chinese companies and that from 2020 to 2025, US operators are expected to invest over $250 billion to build 5G networks, more than any other country.

Innovation Ecosystem. Strong R&D investment and IP protection will help spur the development of innovative new 5G services as well as cross-industry collaboration. The study finds that US technology and telecom companies spend significantly more on R&D, as a percentage of sales, than other global competitors.

Business Climate. Capital expenditures and investment and an openness to risk-taking, combined with business-friendly policies, will create an environment conducive to wireless innovation and entrepreneurship.

Talent. A workforce with digital and technical skills will provide countries the expertise to build state-of-the-art wireless networks and develop new 5G applications.

Industry groups have been especially focused on network expansion during the COVID-19 lockdowns, improving both wired and wireless connectivity. Wireless is especially important for rural communities who often don’t have good, wired options and rely on point to point wireless or Internet Service Provider wireless connectivity.

Good internet connectivity will be critical to the success of the likely working style changes in a post COVID-19 world, and continued investment in the U.S. wireless network is welcome.