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article imageWhy it matters who gets 5G first: Q&A Special

By Tim Sandle     Aug 5, 2018 in Technology
The first country to transition to 5G will determine who has the lead in development and IT. Deploying 5G technology will likely cost upward of $200 billion a year for the next five to 10 years.
Given this price tag, build-out may not proceed fast enough for the U.S. to compete with other early-adopting countries, notably China, Japan and Turkey , each of which planning to launch 5G by 2020.
5G is more than a simple upgrade of speed and capacity, 5G is going to revolutionize everything. It’s no longer going to force a compromise on performance and power efficiency, and it has far-reaching effects that stretch to smart cities, municipalities and the sphere of government.
Kevin McMahon, director of emerging technology at digital tech consulting firm, SPR, discusses with Digital Journal how the first country to adopt 5G will have the upper hand in technology and innovation, as well as what can be expected from the resulting industry disruption.
DJ: Are there any specific benefits for businesses?
Kevin McMahon: 5G’s features may enable a number of new business opportunities. While there is particular focus on what is being done in the IoT space, the improvements in speed and power consumption will allow wireless carriers to become immediate players in the home broadband market, which has typically been dominated by cable providers.
DJ: Will 5G help propel the ‘smart city’ concept?
McMahon: A key component of the smart cities vision is collecting data from IoT devices, which are just starting to capitalize on the improvements rolled out by 4G LTE providers, such as Verizon. It is expected that the improvements offered by 5G will help accelerate the roll out of smart city features and initiatives.
DJ: Which country is likely to be the first to establish 5G?
McMahon: We will likely see 5G deployed widely first in Asia sometime in 2019 though the US shouldn’t be far behind. Carriers in the U.S. are already starting market trials and working through implementation challenges, but rolling out coverage nationwide will require more cellular infrastructure and coordination with local governments. Cooperation at the local level is required for all zoning and permitting requirements needed for the increased number of sites. In markets like China or South Korea where the carriers and government do not face the same frictions in the U.S., they have an advantage when it comes to rolling out their infrastructure.
DJ: What advantages will this deliver, in relation to other countries?
McMahon: It’s tough to say at the macro-level. Indirect promise of increased economic activity and job growth have been linked with smart cities but there isn’t an obvious first mover advantage. I believe the saying “pioneers take the arrows, settlers take the land” may apply to 5G rollouts and smart cities.
DJ: If the U.S. wishes to be the first adopter of 5G, what does it need to do?
McMahon: This is more on the carriers and less so on the government. There are fundamental issues that need to be addressed in the implementation of the networks, as well as investments made in upgrading infrastructure. The architecture of the 5G networks requires a shift in how networks are deployed, and how local zoning will gain the necessary permits.
DJ: How much will deploying 5G technology cost?
McMahon: Estimates vary, but a recent study by Accenture pegged the investment required by U.S. network providers to be around $275 billion.
DJ: How can benefits be realized through these costs?
McMahon: The traditional benefits reaped off network infrastructure investments are increased consumption and an increase in devices connected to the carrier’s networks. Additionally, 5G networks may offer the opportunities for the carriers to expand their service offerings to businesses and add additional revenue streams.
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