Thursday, April 25, 2019

"How the U.S. Can Prepare to Live in China’s 5G World"

From IEEE Spectrum, April 23:

China’s first-mover advantage in deploying 5G networks capable of transforming national economies has major implications for the United States
If you believe the triumphalist messaging from U.S. president Donald Trump’s White House and from the U.S. telecommunications industry, the United States is racing neck and neck with China in a global competition to roll out speedy 5G mobile networks. But the U.S. military’s premier advisory board of academic researchers and private sector technologists has warned that China’s front-runner position means it will likely win much of the world’s business in deploying 5G infrastructure and services. With that in mind, it has advised that the United States would be wise to adopt a strategy akin to “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Unlike earlier generations of mobile networks based on voice and texting services, 5G networks could deliver connection speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second and enable smartphone owners to download high-definition movies in less than a second. Data transmissions with less than a millisecond of delay would also set the stage for new services that allow self-driving cars to make AI-powered decisions through near-instantaneous communication with cloud computing servers. The country that rolls out the first national 5G network could also dominate internationally by selling 5G equipment and services to other countries that have lagged behind.

“That country is currently not likely to be the United States,” said an April 2019 report issued by the U.S. Defense Innovation Board, a group of scientists and Silicon Valley leaders serving as advisers to the Pentagon.

The group describes China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States as the leading contenders in developing and deploying 5G networks, with European countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and France forming a “second tier.” But China, they say, will likely enjoy a “first-mover advantage.”

That much seems clear despite plenty of hype and confusion in dueling claims about who was first to deploy 5G and what that means. Recent headlines have focused on deployments of non-standalone 5G—enhanced mobile broadband that piggybacks off of the existing 4G LTE networks and could enable a tenfold increase in download speeds for mobile devices. Major telecoms in the United States and elsewhere have begun deploying these non-standalone 5G services, which are more evolutionary than revolutionary—a fact that the Pentagon advisory board’s report emphasized by calling out 5G marketing claims:
Despite messaging from various marketing initiatives in the United States, very little U.S. territory has seen deployment of 5G infrastructure that can deliver 1 Gbps or even 100 megabit per second service at the edges of coverage. Whereas LTE deployment resulted in 10x end user speed improvement across large parts of the United States, carriers to date have not demonstrated deployment capability that would deliver high speeds to large parts of the U.S. population.
China’s first-mover advantage will come into play with the upcoming phase of 5G network deployment, according to a 2018 report by the Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy headquartered in New York City. It’s part of China’s plan to establish commercial standalone 5G networks by 2020, which is at least several years ahead of the United States and other competing nations that have set 2025 as their target date.

That 5G rollout, which will require hefty investments in new infrastructure such as antennas and base stations, will enable some of the truly exciting applications and services that require near-instantaneous communications among possibly billions of new sensors and devices connected through the Internet of Things.

China has already made US $180 billion in capital expenditures for 5G deployment over the past five years, installing about 350,000 5G-operable base stations, which is nearly 10 times the number currently deployed in the United States. Beyond China’s shores, Chinese telecom giant Huawei has also shipped 70,000 base stations and signed 40 contracts to sell 5G equipment in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa....

We looked at the Defense Innovation Board report in April 9's "Whoa: The U.S. Defense Innovation Board Says China May Be Uncatchable In The Race To Tech Dominance