Problems and Prospects for 5G Deployment in the United States

In recent weeks several major developments affecting the roll out of 5G systems in the United States highlight the promise and the difficulties for near-term deployment of this transformative technology. British intelligence issued a report signaling its deep suspicions about the security of Huawei’s 5G system, which reinforces the view in the U.S. that the Chinese company should not play a role in providing equipment for commercial wireless systems. The White House later issued a strong statement that any commercial 5G system would be the province of the principle, private sector wireless carriers now operating in the U.S. Finally, Apple settled its disputes with the leading 5G technology innovator, Qualcomm, which was necessary if Apple is going to succeed in offering competitive 5G-capable mobile devices by 2020.  Apple’s reliance on other semiconductor firms, notably Intel and its own research units, had not kept pace with Qualcomm and threatened to put the iPhone juggernaut in danger of a significant technology deficit with rivals.

Although these developments show the path for the 5G future in the U.S.—a private sector system primarily using domestic and legacy European technology—they do not erase some serious problems with the rapid construction of the new wireless networks, nor do they suggest an economically compelling alternative in the rest of the world to the increasingly sophistical and state-supported competitor, Huawei.

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