CTIA CEO Meredith Attwell Baker urged US legislators to act quickly to address issues including a lack of mid-band spectrum to ensure the country is a 5G leader.

The head of the US telecom industry association said policymakers should develop a broader spectrum pipeline in 2018 and reform local zoning rules to ensure the nation beats China and South Korea to the punch in terms of deploying the next-generation technology.

Commenting on the results of CTIA-commissioned research by Analysys Mason, which placed the US narrowly behind those countries in terms of readiness to deploy 5G, Attwell Baker cautioned: “The United States will not get a second chance to win the global 5G race.”

The Analysys Mason study determined China to be most prepared for 5G due to a combination of industry momentum and government support. Specifically, Analysys Mason noted all of China’s major wireless operators have carried out 5G trials and set commercial launch dates, while the government freed up both mid- and high-band spectrum for their use.

While US operators have made similar commitments to commercial launch dates, Analysys Mason ranked the US sixth out of ten countries in terms of mid-band spectrum availability, and joined Russia and Canada as the only countries without public plans to allocate those airwaves to operators on an exclusive basis by the close of 2020.

Why it matters
At stake are a slew of economic benefits which go to global wireless leaders.

A separate study commissioned by CTIA and conducted by Recon Analytics concluded the US’ global leadership in the transition from 3G to 4G resulted in a $100 billion boost to GDP by 2016; an 84 per cent increase in wireless-related jobs between 2011 and 2014; and a $125 billion boost in revenue to US corporations.

Recon Analytics founder Roger Entner warned in a statement the US stands to lose out on those benefits if it lags on 5G: “When countries lose global leadership in a generation of wireless, jobs are shed and technology innovation gets exported overseas…These are the serious stakes that face American policymakers in the escalating global race to 5G.”

But Dimitris Mavrakis, research director at ABI Research, recently told Mobile World Live an operator’s leadership in its home country may not necessarily translate to a first mover advantage on the global stage. Mavrakis agreed China is viewed as a 5G leader but noted this “will not likely create competitive pressure for other mobile service providers abroad.”