On a daily basis, I receive articles, editorials, stories, op-eds, etc. about the various nation states and their “state” of technology. This is not always about wireless, but wireless does figures into most, if not all, of the discussions.
One thing that has become apparent is that most of these nations, particularly China, Korea, Japan and many others around the world, are moving much faster on the technology train than the United States, and Europe. I will come back to this shortly.
But, first, let us take artificial intelligence (AI) as an example. A recent post from ABI Research it was stated that China’s AI startups raised nearly $5 billion in venture capital funding during 2017. During that same period, the U.S. raised roughly, $4.4 billion. As is with 5G, as well as other technologies, there is a perception that the two countries are in a cutthroat race to be the leader in the various technologies.
Circling back as to why it seems so many countries are pedaling much faster than the U.S, the answer is somewhat obvious. It has to do with governmental support of the private development sector. This is not an aha moment. Pundits and thought leaders have been pointing this out for some time.
In a recent missive, I had mentioned that the Chinese minister, Wei Leping, is already looking forward to 6G (yes, 6G). In that same vein, the Chinese government is also focusing on AI developments in order to make sure its country emerges as the world’s leading AI hub in the years to come.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. The same situation occurs in computing, physics, medicine and more.
China, and many other countries are not hung up in the public vs. private sector separation. In fact, China, Korea and others actively and regularly collaborate with private companies to leverage what they both do best. The United States is weak in that area. Philosophies as to why aside, it simply is.
Another example is in the 5G space. China is looking at mega-mergers as a way to smooth the way for fast 5G deployments. China Unicom and China Telecom, two of the country’s top operators are discussing aligning forces to speed up 5G investment and outpace the rate of development of the rest of the world. There is no guarantee that will happen, but the chances are much better there because of the lack of the antitrust muck and mire that occurs here (T-Mobile and Sprint, AT&T and Time Warner, etc.) when mega-corporations go on the hunt for partnerships.
Such a merger would play right into the government’s ambitions for 5G. It would make both the investment in, and deployment of, 5G much smoother.
The U.S. business ecosystem has worked well as long as we were the technology leader. Competition, level playing fields, and all that may be the right way, if the playing field is level, worldwide. However, it is not. Social states can do whatever they want with infrastructures, private and governmental. When there are no lines of demarcation between the entities, the impediments of free economies do not play into their grand schemes.
Add to that the current quagmire of bans, tariffs and other stifling moves from the current administration and other nations just get that much more determined to go it alone.
That will not work out in the United States’ best interest. As this nation continues to put up walls to technological cooperation, other nations start to look elsewhere for partners and technology. It does not really matter whether countries such as China are banned from supplying telecoms equipment. This is a world playground, both economically and technologically. In the end, such antics will likely backfire on the United States by, for example, having an effect on prices and supply that will permeate all the way through to the infrastructure itself.
Moreover, it is not just about wireless. Automobiles are another segment that will suffer, technologically, from worldly skirmishes. That is just mentioned here, circuitously to belabor the point.
One of the biggest challenges to the advancement of technology here is the FCC. Do not get me wrong, they are a critically important and functional entity that has to exist. However, like most governmental sectors, it is slow, cumbersome and mired in congressional politics. As a key enabler of technological advancement, it needs to be streamlined, removed as a political football and given anonymity to do what is necessary in the spectrum domain.
This is a complicated world. The United States is no longer the controlling partner in a game of world technological dominance. We are good, no doubt, but others are becoming just as good. I have said this before and I’ll say it again. There is no winner or loser in global technology – just partnerships. The path to success in 5G for the United States is to join the dance.