It has been a while since I hammered on the ridiculous 5G “race hype” mentality. Actually, it seems that it had, pretty much, faded into oblivion within our media (sites like Fierce and RCR are now backpedaling) once all the carriers had deployed their early 5G networks and vendors started offering devices.
Seems the White House missed that bus, however, and our illustrious leader (and much of Washington) thinks it is still 2018. A couple of months ago President Trump stated, “The race to 5G is on, and America must win.” Oyyy…but then, we have come to know that he speaks before he thinks.
I have not been the only one who has consistently pooh-poohed the race mentality over the last year. To be fair, occasionally, some other media outlets, analyst organizations, or well-positioned industry principals would suggest, most gently, that it might not really be a race. However, by and large, everybody bought into it. Occasionally someone would speak out with a stronger tongue but they were few and far in-between.
Now comes a report from the Brookings Institute Visiting Fellow Tom Wheeler, who penned, “Characterizing 5G as a contest demeans its great technological progress and the policy challenges that progress presents. Consideration of 5G is far more serious than the so-called 5G ‘race’ concocted by those seeking to advantage themselves in the business or political market – especially the political market.”
In the report, Wheeler argues that “winning” 5G is not so much a race than it is a process involving several components. “5G should be more than a political talking point. The new network represents the need for a meaningful policy strategy. What is missing in today’s 5G policy discussion is a focused identification of deliverables that go deeper and are more meaningful than the ill-defined ‘winning’ of a so-called ‘5G race.’”
Hear, hear. Eloquently put and right on the money! He pulled no punches. Thanks, Tom! If one is patient enough, and is knowledgeable from whence they speak, eventually they will be acknowledged. I am, by no means, a Tom Wheeler. However, I have been in, and around tech, and particularly wireless, most of my life. I feel like I have decent handle on the industry. Further on, I pen a bit about why hype is not doing us any favors in the wireless ecosystem.
One of my pet peeves is that organizations in the industry should know better. They have a fiduciary responsibility to tell it like it is. CTIA (who, for months had the race as their landing page infographic), and our industry media sites, should not embarrass themselves by following, in lock step, the hype.
Other non-wireless media outlets (PC Magazine, Wired, Network World, Tech Republic) — that lead off with stories about what to buy on Amazon Prime day, or how to keep your fellow coworker from ruining your day, or run surveys on choosing the best gaming headsets — do not have credibility in the wireless space. Similarly, business-based media entities (the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today) that are more concerned about flyover reporting should also stay away from trying to be credible in a space they do not own.
The sad fact is that American businesses have come to rely on hype as a primary marketing tool. That is fine when it comes to the Amazon Echo, or drones, or 768K TVs, automobiles, nutritional supplements and the millions of other marketable products. However, for this next generation of wireless, it has cost more than it has gained – and it is starting to show. Perhaps that is one reason Wheeler finally got into the fray.
Even after his missive around 5G hype, I am willing to bet a month’s pay that hyping 5G is not over. I think the wireless industry may be coming around to realizing that. However, I doubt that PC Mag or the New York Times is finished using the word “hype.” Maybe now Washington and the industry will start listening to me (and Tom Wheeler).
End note: two days after I penned this, WISPA used the race to 5G wording in a press release – my pay is safe!