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Why China Is Winning the Race to 5G

5G networks have the strength and sophistication to power looming technological advances, like self-driving cars, virtual reality, and robotics.

About 10 times faster than its 4G predecessor, 5G is capable of downloading a 3D movie to phone in 30 seconds. On 4G, the same download will take six minutes.

Although most consumers are solely familiar with 4G and 5G concerning their smartphones, the power of 5G extends well beyond phones.

With additional speed and capacity, in addition to virtually zero lag time between device and server, 5G has ample potential in general, especially as the number of connected devices continues to increase.

At the moment, 5G is entering a gradual replacement process. It’s unable to take over entirely since it requires super-high-frequency airwaves and additional infrastructure.

The Trump Administration shows interest in a government-funded 5G public utility. Still, inaction from the U.S. and other countries is enabling China to lead the pack among nations with interest in 5G.

China’s Emerging 5G Ascent

A combination of government support and industry momentum is pushing China to the lead of the 5G race, at least currently. 5G technology requires significant government and private sector investment, simultaneously, for considerable expansion, which China is beginning to accomplish.

Per CTIA analysis, Beijing has plans to deploy 5G by 2020 on a large commercial scale, with China’s top carriers working with the government to help ensure this timeline goes to plan.

The Chinese government is already distributing a good amount of necessary radio frequencies for 5G in preparation for their 2020 aim.

Whereas the relationship between government and industry in the U.S. can vary wildly, China has a more uniform government-industry link that relies on extensive coordination, especially in the telecom industry.

Especially following the Pyongyang Olympics, South Korea is making strides in 5G, and some consider them to be second in the 5G race, between China and the United States. South Korea’s largest telecom firm, KT Corp, used Pyongyang as a showcase for the world’s first 5G tablet.

The Future of 5G in the United States

The United States has the resources to emerge as the leader in 5G. Despite the potential, the country needs to make adjustments for that to happen.

The U.S. lacks clarity regarding the allocation of radio frequencies, comparative to China and South Korea. It’s on U.S. lawmakers to enact legislation to permit an infrastructure overhaul that includes more clarity on radio frequency allocation.

The CTIA, a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the United States, is lobbying for 5G reforms.

Some 5G lobbyists view Trump’s blocking of Broadcom’s $117 billion bid for Qualcomm due to national security concerns as a positive for 5G’s future. There were fears that such a massive takeover would lead to stagnation in 5G development.

The possible speeds alone, with 5G offering speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second, show 5G’s massive potential without technical jargon.

It’s apparent that high-frequency signals are emerging as the standard, though 5G will require a broad spectrum of unused frequencies that are free from signals that compete, which prompts clarity regarding U.S. radio frequency allocation.

Predicting who will be leading the 5G race in 2020 is contingent upon several questions.

Will the U.S. clarify their laws regarding radio frequency allocation? Will China continue to show cohesive collaboration between government and industry? Will South Korea emerge as the dark house, considering their showcasing of numerous 5G products already?

Either way, it’s a positive that many countries are showing considerable interest in 5G.

Consumers should be patient meanwhile while staying well aware that speed and connectivity are bound to increase in the coming years regardless of which country is leading the pack.

Photo by Li Yang

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