US must respond to increasing 5G global competition

US must respond to increasing 5G global competition
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Commercial 5G wireless technology is on the verge of changing our world. Like the interstate highway system, national power grid or space program, 5G (short for “Fifth Generation” cellular) represents a historic opportunity. Far more than just better mobile phone service, this 21st century communications infrastructure will operate up to 10 times faster than today’s networks.

5G will transform cities, health care, entertainment, transportation, manufacturing, communications and much more by smartly connecting billions of people and a world of machines, devices and data. There will be widespread ramifications throughout the economy, affecting critical fields such as health care, transportation, telecommunications, agriculture, government, manufacturing, all internet applications and many more.

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I know this as a vice president in Intel Corporation’s Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group and general manager of its Next Generation and Standards. Intel is positioned at the forefront of conversations about 5G, providing essential technological inputs and leveraging global partnerships to push testing and implementation of standards-based technologies.

 

However, will U.S. policymakers open the regulatory and technological doors necessary to realize this potential?

Many other countries — including China, the European Union, Japan and South Korea — have started to unleash 5G’s full power. A recent study by Deloitte states that “China and other countries may be creating a 5G tsunami, making it near impossible to catch up.” Most critically, these nations are taking steps to open up bigger slices of the “mid-band” spectrum to 5G. Doing so enables both the speed and range needed for networks based on this fast-emerging, next-generation technology.

To stay competitive, it’s crucial that America do the same. Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a vital step to advance 5G closer to its full technical and commercial potential when it greenlighted a proposal to explore reallocating part of the “mid-band” spectrum for new commercial and terrestrial use, including 5G. That’s a good start.

However, to truly enable the transformative potential of 5G, the FCC must expeditiously establish the rules to open new bandwidth for 5G use in this crucial spectrum. This is a make-or-break moment for America.

Current 5G pilots in Dallas, Miami, Sacramento and other cities have shown glimpses of 5G’s potential: smart cities, vehicles and homes; better traffic and energy management; and new forms of interactive entertainment, such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

Failure to act quickly and decisively to open mid-band spectrum could slam the door on widespread 5G deployments with potentially devastating consequences for American leadership and the economy. 

First, the U.S. stands to lose millions of new 5G-related jobs in communities across the country, as well hundreds of billions of dollars in potential economic gains. Research shows America’s world leadership in 4G LTE boosted the nation’s GDP by an estimated $100 billion and drove an 84 percent increase in wireless-related employment. The impact of 5G is expected to be three to five times greater than 4G over the next 10 years.

Next, failure to open necessary regulatory doors means forfeiting hope of establishing the United States as a global 5G leader. Why is that important? As we saw with 4G LTE, leadership confers a huge worldwide, first-to-market advantage, acting as a magnet for investment, research and development, innovation — and excitement. Many other countries have opened spectrum for 5G. America must act to ensure that we realize all the benefits and advantages of 5G.

Finally, denying or delaying 5G will harm development that comprises the biggest growth engine in the United States and world economies. Without the possibilities enabled by 4G, companies and technologies such as Uber and Waze never could have been launched. With the rollout of 5G, who knows what companies and technologies may come about in fields such as next-generation computer networks, artificial intelligence, data analytics, robotics and consumer use. This could lead to the creation of millions of American jobs.

Our nation has a once-in-a-generation opportunity. But American companies that are manufacturing 4G equipment and technologies require an attractive regulatory environment as an incentive to make the significant, sometimes risky, investments needed to upgrade our underlying communications infrastructure.  

Quick, decisive and commonsense action by the FCC to open mid-band spectrum for 5G can position the U.S. as a global 5G leader. We then will be poised to claim the far-reaching business and societal benefits — in jobs and economic investment and growth. We strongly urge policymakers to move quickly to ensure America can realize these benefits.

Asha Keddy is vice president in the Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group and general manager of Next Generation and Standards at Intel Corporation.