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open4g
open4g
3/8/2019 | 12:50:04 PM
The 5G War that Isn't
The 5G War that Isn't... or 'the Trumped up War on China'.

Being a citizen of the USA and industry analyst that worked on the early stages of MIMO OFDMA based mobile networks (WiFi, WiMAX, 4G/4G-Advanced, 5G), I witnessed the demise of Motorola, Nortel and all other attempts of US suppliers of mobile network equipment at the hands of Nokia Networks and Ericsson several years ago.  I also saw the rise of Huawei from a small, mainland Chinese supplier doing about $5 billion in annual sales, most of which was network routers, to the leading supplier of 4G and likely 5G networks.  

The '5G war with China' would be amusing if it were not a part of a much more systemic, long-lasting problem for those living in the USA.  The US made no concerted effort to mainline 4G-5G+ development similar to China.  The result is that we cannot begin wars in markets we do not compete.

The UK has pursued the use of higher frequency bands, shared access licensing, and other precepts for what is part of building out of 5G networks.  While the USA has opened up massive amounts of spectra, we did so without as thoughtful of deliberation of how that can play out to develop a competitive marketplace.  As a result, we have a top-sided duopoly that has a greater interest in paying out of dividends to lazy money interests than it does the building of networks, particularly in rural and low-priced tiers of operation.  The evolution into 5G is one of extending the universality of the mobile platform, not any single application area. -Advanced does most of what is claimed as 5G until the markets and applications environment evolves over a period of years to require unique capabilities.

The US Government is Frustrated by Historical Ineptitude

Having placed all the eggs into the hands of a few companies with profit-taking motivations, the long-term strategic process was left up to the short-term (5-years) aims of the first line consumers of technology, the infrastructure-based operators.  Operators depend on the ability to chose their vendors from among the best-of-breed and most cost-effective to suit their near and long-term needs. 

The Chinese government made wireless technology development among its top five priorities.  With only a few exceptions, this did not take the form of subsidies of ZTE, Huawei and other commercial companies.  That is because the homeland Chinese market has provided a springboard for sales growth that has far outstripped any other country.  Combined with producing more engineers, mathematicians, programmers, and graduates in other fields needed for development, Chinese suppliers benefitted from cheap labor.  

The time for the USA to have bemoaned the rise of Chinese dominance in 4G-5G was about twenty years ago.  

The Trump Administration is Crying over Spilled Milk

Frustrated with the outcome of decades of neglect, the attempt to strike out at the leading Chinese suppliers will backfire. What the US needs are similar thoughtful measures to promote development.  However, that does not equate to the US gaining dominance in the 5G supply ecosystem.  There is no 'make America Great Again' when there was never a period over the past 20 years when American companies supplied more than 25% of the network equipment.  Over the past decade plus, the US has not supplied more than 5% of the equipment used in mobile networks, including sales of Cisco and others. 

Phony Baloney 

The reaction to the US fear campaign is that it further pits America's allies against areas of cooperation that have promise.  There is no valid rationale for the claims that banning Huawei from supplying our allies will result in gains in 5G market leadership.  It is so absurd that it is likely to lead to a backlash.