Ever since the Trump Administration has taken the big stick to China, I have been commenting on how this approach would do nothing but put the U.S. behind in the deployment of 5G. I have pointed to various conditions supporting this in past missives.
Now comes a report from GSMA, which shows this to be accurate despite the fact that China has all but had their American market shut down. According to the report, there these are the two major metrics that put China at the head of the market.
One is operator investment. We all know that Chinese companies are supported by the government. This is an expected metric. Now, especially with the U.S/China tech war, China is moving ahead, full steam, to deploy 5G with significant infrastructure investment. They are tight-lipped about this but we all know it is part of their DNA. The GSMA report puts it at $180 billion by 2025 but one of my sources says it will, likely, be higher – perhaps in excess of $400 billion. In the end, it puts 5G development, and deployment, on the fast track. On a tangential note, this development pace does not seem to be hindered by COVID-19 virus.
Next comes spectrum. Unlike the U.S. where spectrum battles are part of our DNA, China will release spectrum to benefit next-generation networks with little fanfare or worry about whining from incumbents. Here in the U.S., while some progress has been made, one only need to look to the recent C-Band debacle. There is chaos in the CBRS spectrum as well.
And, that is just some of it. Just recently, another battle erupted. This time between the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and the CTIA. The NCTA thinks the entire 1.2 gigahertz of spectrum (5.925-7.125 GHz) should be freed for unlicensed use. Note that the proponents of this position are also the Radio Local Area Network (RLAN) group and include Apple, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Marvell Semiconductor, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Ruckus Networks and are the emerging next-generation wireless players. Undoubtedly, there will be more of these issues before this is all over.
China is also pushing mmWave. Not particularly for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), but for the myriad of new 5G data use cases, including Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC), unlicensed, and enhanced Machine-Type Communication (eMTC). Granted some of this exists in existing 4G networks but 5G mmWave promises to expand the roles of these, greatly and China realizes that.
Plus, the mmWave bands between 24 GHz and 86 GHz were recently identified for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT). They include the 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-43.5 GHz, 45.5-47 GHz, 47.2-48.3 GHz, and 66-71 GHz, bands. Approximately 85 percent of this spectrum is globally harmonized so China’s development in these band can be used by many other nations. The U.S. is lagging in progress in these bands.
Obviously, our political infrastructure and theirs is dichotomously different. Having gotten sideways with China, without a contingency was not the best choice.
Going forward, the major advantage that China has is that its equipment is only banned in the U.S. and Australia. Other nations range from no limits whatsoever (Saudi Arabia) to various types of limits in 5G systems (Germany, the U.K. France and others). However, China’s lead in 5G has a scaling factor in that the more it sells, the more money it has for 5G research. This is a definite issue in the U.S. because we really do not share much of our advanced technology. This is even more true with the ban on the U.S. selling components to China (of course, this administration makes exceptions as it sees fit).
There are so many more examples of how China is pulling ahead in 5G (AI is another sector). I am talking around COVID-19 because that crisis will be resolved in the coming months and while it will change several landscapes permanently, wireless will not see much of an effect. In China it is already over.
I stand pretty firm on how poorly this administration, and Congress, in general, understands all of this. I really do not think they comprehend the magnitude of how this is shaking out in the global wireless ecosystem, as well as the economic landscape.
There are just better ways to do this, than the U.S. taking this America uber alles (above all) attitude. I saw this in Vietnam. It did not work then; it will not work now.