5G: So Where's the US?
LONDON -- The 5G Huddle -- "Where is the US?" The question came from the floor of The 5G Huddle in London. Certainly Americans were conspicuous by their absence at an event that brought together participants from China, South Korea, Japan, India and much of Europe to discuss future 5G standards, frequency needs and possible usages.
"I don't think there is a unified [global] vision and they [the Americans] are reluctant to engage in the radio wireless infrastructure element," said Thibaut Kleiner, an advisor in the Cabinet of European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes.
"There is research ongoing in the US -- we need to ensure they liaise with 5G vision," added Kleiner.
The structure of research in the US, combined with the global strength of the American computing industry, however, means the US is likely to play a different role to that of Asian or European countries in developing 5G systems and infrastructure. "Research in the US is mainly in universities ... in the area of millimeter wave propagation and modeling, and there is some in Intel, but there is not a counterpart to us in the US," said Dr Werner Mohr, chair of the 5GPPP.
Notably, "there is less (US) government intervention on spectrum. In Asia (governments) are really pushing it -- South Korea is investing US$1.5 billion as a single country," said Mohr.
This means US companies may miss out relative to other countries on developing patents relating to the air interface. However, 5G is set to be a broad church that will have to embrace new approaches to designing networks if it is to deliver operational cost savings and support new usages.
"5G is not only about radio access part -- it consists of core network and management and support systems," said Jan Färjh, vice president, head of standardization and industry, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC).
And core networks are where US companies currently have an edge. "The US will come in on maybe not so much on radio side." Instead it is likely to play to its strengths "on the core networks and cloud networks, SDN," says Mohr.
Regardless of geographical strengths, the potential shifts in business models that 5G needs to underpin will require greater exchange with other industries on standards.
"If we look at ETSI and 3GPP the population has increased; 3GPP numbers 400 companies but they are telco companies. It's more of the same; we are lacking the energy (industry) and vehicle manufacturers; we have to be much more welcoming," said Adrian Scrase, CTO of European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) .
— Joanne Taaffe, special to Light Reading