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Race for 5G Intensifies as U.S. Matches Stride With China

Supriyo Bose
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Per the latest report by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents the U.S. wireless communications industry, both the United States and China are currently on equal footing for 5G readiness. This represents a marked improvement from the last year when the United States was trailing way behind China and South Korea.

This was made possible through continued investments from the industry and a prod from the top policymakers to update networks faster. With a holistic top-down approach, the United States was able to expedite the process to set up the required infrastructure and back it up with testing and launching of early networks in key locations.

What’s the Fuss About 5G?

5G is billed as the technology of the future with faster download speed and seamless transfer of data. Leveraging state-of-the-art communication network architectures, 5G is touted to be the primary catalyst for next-generation IoT services. These include connected cars coupled with augmented reality and virtual reality platform, smart cities and connected devices that revolutionize key industry verticals.

Moreover, 5G is likely to augment the scalability, security and universal mobility of the telecommunications industry, which is expected to propel the wide proliferation of IoT. The telecom firms are facilitating its customers to move away from an economy-of-scale network operating model to demand-driven operations and seamlessly migrate to 5G by offering easy programmability and flexible automation. Rollouts of next-generation 5G networks are anticipated to improve market conditions significantly in 2019 and beyond.

Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO and president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association observed, "5G is the platform for tomorrow's economy. It's going to transform everything from education to AI to medicine, and the industry is so competitive because of that." According to data from research firm IHS Markit, 5G is expected to result in $12.3 trillion of global economic output by 2035. Hence, it is obvious that both the United States and China would like to gain a greater pie in this market to have a political, economical and technological advantage.

How Will 5G Change Our Daily Lives?

5G is likely to form the basis of numerous intelligent technologies that will redefine our daily lives. A few of these developments are:

•    Smart Homes: Smart Homes help remote monitoring and management of Internet-connected appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating. This provides homeowners security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency by allowing them to control smart devices through a smartphone app or other networked device on a real-time basis. As the entire process require large bandwidth hitherto unavailable in existing 4G networks, 5G has emerged as the perfect option to achieve the desired results with its super fast data transfer speed.

•    Self-Driving Cars: The growing autonomous vehicle fleet is a testament to the fact that driverless vehicles are getting closer to being a common feature on public roads. This requires seamless data connectivity and AI to control vehicle speed according to road traffic and sensitive areas to prevent any road casualties.

•    Smart Cities: Improving the quality of life for residents of the city, reducing environmental impact and increasing operational efficiency are three prime factors that have led to the evolution of Smart Cities. The essence of a Smart City is connectivity, where embedded telecom infrastructure works as a mesh in which data flows seamlessly and enables tasks with the least human intervention in the smartest possible way.

•    Smart Farming: The farming industry is using remote sensors and drones as key tools to test and collate data for the latest farming technologies. Drones with 5G capabilities have been used to boost potato production in the Netherlands through precision agriculture tests. 5G sensors, artificial intelligence and cloud computing methods are also being adopted in Japan to monitor water temperature and salt concentration in oyster farms. (Read More: 5G Likely to Spearhead Innovations in Global Farming Industry)

How are Telecom Firms Pitching in?

As the 5G race appears to head for a photo finish, leading telecom firms across the country are working tirelessly to contribute in their own possible ways to make sure that the United States does not cede its leadership position. Verizon Communications Inc. VZ aims to launch the 5G Ultra Wideband network in Chicago and Minneapolis on Apr 11, while gearing up to increase the tally of 5G Ultra Wideband mobility cities to 30 in 2019.

Sprint Corporation S is planning to launch commercial 5G services spanning more than 1,000 square miles across nine U.S. cities in May. In addition to 5G deployments in select markets, Sprint is field-testing standards-based 5G services in Los Angeles with Nokia Corporation NOK and in Atlanta with Ericsson ERIC.

AT&T Inc. T has introduced mobile 5G networks in parts of 12 cities and is further planning to bring mobile 5G in certain areas of seven more cities in the first half of 2019. In order to have a seamless transition among Wi-Fi, LTE and 5G services, AT&T intends to deploy a standards-based nationwide mobile 5G network in early 2020.

Road Ahead

As the battle for 5G supremacy intensifies, various countries are increasingly devising newer avenues to outsmart rivals. These include out-of-the-box ideas for innovative product concepts to redefining strategies within a framework in accordance with the changing demands of customers. It remains to be seen which country achieves the coveted technological dominance in this race.

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