U.S. 5G Rollout is Letting Innovators Down

U.S. 5G Rollout is Letting Innovators Down


In an excellent recent commentary Harvard Professor Graham Allison and Eric Schmidt, ex CEO of Google sounded the alarm about the disappointing rollout of 5G service here in the US.*

The race is on to improve mobile computing and invent new applications that have yet to be thought of for autonomous vehicles, biotechnology to fight disease, etc. and all of this hinges on a true 5G network. The US has made it clear that this is not a priority and thus, is trailing far behind much of the world with China in the clear lead. 

China has invested $50 billion to construct an elaborate 5G network and has planned another $100 billion to go towards fortifying the network over the next few years. As a point of comparison, the US is investing a mere $1.5 billion leading up to 2026. The result of a lack of galvanization around this priority has left the US with a 5G network that is slower than its predecessor, 4G.  The largest of our urban centers — New York City, Boston and Chicago — feature 5G speeds that are hovering around 10% slower than 4G (AT&T) and often, even around 20% (Verizon).

With AT&T and Verizon advertisements sharing that they have the fastest and most reliable 5G networks on the planet, consumers are being misled to believe that the American network is somehow superior. Our mobile speeds on the alleged 5G network is roughly 75 megabits per second, whereas China tops 300 megabits per second and South Korea takes the gold with 400 mbps. And we aren’t just trailing behind these two countries — for much of the developed world, one can access faster, more reliable 5G service outside of the US.

Mobile internet speed is clearly linked with economic and national security implications. These super computers we carry around in our pockets are the very connection we have with much of the world. As we use our mobile devices more and more, it becomes clear that this connection is what enables us to invent, grow, lead and define the future. What will become of ‘US’ if we cannot participate in this race?

At the micro level, like many US manufacturing software companies, we have been patiently awaiting the 5G roll-out to provide additional web-based services to support our client’s base Industry 4.0 initiatives. We are hoping to provide real-time video-based process measurement and optimization services to complement our existing digital standard work platforms for production support, knowledge retention and operator training.

It looks like we, and many other vendors, will have to wait a while longer to make our plans a reality. In the meantime, our competition in countries further along the 5G technology curve will be hard at work creating, testing, and implementing new product offerings and services.

This is an unfortunate disservice to American manufacturers, their supply chain, and indeed the entire economy. Hopefully this is an issue that regulators and internet service providers acknowledge and can work together to address in the near future.

* Read the full commentary at https://on.wsj.com/3MQgg3k