Who’s Winning the Race to 5G?

While the pace of today’s enterprise innovation is enough to leave any organization out of breath, network providers are racing to deploy the next transformative technology: 5G.

In fact, tomorrow South Korea becomes the first nation to officially roll out commercial 5G systems after successful 5G tests involving autonomous vehicles, virtual reality games, and, believe it or not, simulated tiger roars that successfully scared away boars during last year’s Winter Olympics.

However, the battle for global network supremacy is far from over—this is just the start of what promises to be years-long competition for businesses and wireless carriers all over the world. With that being said, let’s look at who 5G’s most serious influences are as everything currently stands.

The State of 5G in the US

As one of the world’s most advanced nations, the US wireless technology industry already supports almost five million employees and contributes roughly $475 billion every year to the American economy. But 5G could cause those numbers to skyrocket to entirely new levels.

If deployed successfully, mobile network operator investments totaling more than $275 billion could result in an even more massive payoff. Experts believe 5G has the potential to create up to three million new jobs—in addition to adding $500 billion to US economic growth.

When these investments are combined with favorable network operator infrastructure policies passed in recent years, this next-gen technology has the potential to give one out of every 100 Americans a new, 5G-enabled job. However, there is still much work to be done before the US can be considered the global leader in this category.

While the nation’s networks score highly with regards to low- and high-band G efforts, there has been a lack of attention paid to mid-band spectrums. As competing countries expand their own 5G initiatives to seek enterprise advantages, future investment and exploration in these technologies will become increasingly necessary.

Pay Attention to Asia’s 5G Initiatives

While the US receives lots of attention for its mobile technologies, Asia is quickly leading the way where 5G is concerned. In fact, four of the world’s five most 5G-ready nations reside in this region: China, South Korea, Japan, and India.

Thanks to proactive government policies and the ever-increasing momentum of technology in China, the nation has become a major 5G influencer. After successful tests in more than a dozen major cities last year, its carriers have promised to create fully operation commercial networks by 2020.

Since 2015, China has doubled down on 5G—the country has outspent the US by $24 billion to construct more than 350,000 new, 5G-compatible cell towers. For comparison’s sake, the US has built roughly 30,000 in that same amount of time.

Meanwhile, Japan’s NTT Docomo expects to match China’s commitment by rolling out commercially available 5G wireless networks by 2020. And, unlike the US, Japan leads the world in mid-band spectrum availability—creating more opportunities for enterprises to transmit data and implement new technologies.

Europe’s Entry into 5G

In Europe, governments are joining forces with network operators to establish 5G testing regimes that not only upgrade connectivity but do so while protecting systems in a way that doesn’t exclude foreign vendors like Huawei.

This initiative is a direct response to US pressure to ban technology providers on the grounds of national security. Wireless carriers in this region believe these bans are not only unsubstantiated, but could negatively impact the supply of 5G-enabled equipment, increases costs for the industry and consumers, handicap existing networks, and even delay the rollout of future 5G services by several years—jeopardizing up to $500 billion in investments Europe expects to make by 2025.

After a closed-door discussion about these risks at Mobile World Congress 2019, European telecom CEOs may even assemble a “task force” of network operators to identify ways to enhance existing 5G testing for individual service providers, third-party labs, and partners of 3GPP (the global standardization body of 5G technologies).

Future 5G Success Needs Three Things

While each region is exploring 5G-enabled enterprise technologies in different ways, technologically advanced nations racing to the 5G leadership finish line believe three factors are critical to success going forward.

1. More Spectrum, Please

Spectrum is the core that powers any mobile network. While 4G relies primarily on low-band frequencies to provide consumer connectivity, 5G demands mid- and high-band coverage to offer short-range data bandwidth and transmission capabilities.

As 5G grows more ubiquitous, the demand for mobile data will only increase. If providers hope to fulfill promises of 100 times faster speeds for 100 times more devices at a more responsive rate, they will need the spectrum and infrastructure to accommodate these next-gen needs.

2. Modern Rules Require Modern Infrastructure

Speaking of infrastructure, 5G doesn’t just need the towers we’ve grown to know and love—it requires enhanced capacity that only small cells can provide. To provide the proper network density and assist existing towers with new capabilities, network operators will need to install more than 800,000 global small cells by 2026.

In addition to these pizza box-sized small cells, experts also believe that more base stations are sorely needed to satisfy 5G technology demands. In fact, 5G will require up to four times as many base stations to successfully beam signals than the current LTE generation does.

3. Permanent Regulations

At the end of the day, 5G can only be as successful as government allows. Policies that prioritize innovation, technology, and enterprise growth must not only be promoted, but more importantly enacted to win the 5G race.

By putting legislation in place that streamlines infrastructure planning, mobile network siting, and operator licensing processes, a nation can dramatically accelerate the deployment of its 5G-enabled technology initiatives.

So, what does the future of 5G and enterprise mobility look like today? Tangoe’s Enterprise Technology Management experts can help you uncover opportunities to prepare for 5G success and transform your enterprise into a global technology leader.

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