Tech’s once-a-decade race for mobility superiority has been renewed as 5G begins to take shape. And similarly to 4G in 2003 and 3G at the turn of the century, the stakes are nothing short of dominance in multiple billion-dollar markets. And as of last week, China seems to be pulling forward to lead the race.
A merger between two of China’s top three carriers is under consideration (China United Network Communications Group Co. and China Telecommunication Corp.) — which would make it easier to spend on gear for the next generation of mobile technology, speeding the technology’s development in China.
According to Bloomberg, China has a narrow lead over South Korea, followed by the U.S. and Japan when it comes to deployment readiness. Here’s how the major players in the global 5G race stack up against each other:
- China – Leading the pack in 5G readiness due to proactive government policies and industry momentum. China started trials in 13 major cities this year in an effort to push 5G deployment and success. The country targets commercial application by 2020, but has yet to allot 5G commercial licenses or spectrum, clouding the timeline for investments and rollout schedules. Additionally, according to Nomura Asset Management analyst Bing Duan, the price tag for the country could be as much as 1.4 trillion yuan (USD $200 billion) over five to seven years on 5G — which is 70 percent more than it spend on 4G services.
- South Korea – Competitively seeking to be the world’s first nation to offer commercial 5G services, South Korea has a target deployment date of March 2019. It first texted 5G technology during the Winter Olympics back in February with self-driving cars, virtual reality games and a motion-detection system to ward off menacing wild boars in the area. Additionally, the country brought in $3.3 billion from a sale of wireless spectrum set aside for 5G in June.
- U.S. – Operators in the U.S. are also vying to be among the first to turn 5G tests into commercial offerings, with the four major operators all planning to start services between late 2018 and mid-2019.
- Japan – NTT Docomo Inc., the wireless carrier unit of Japan’s former telephone monopoly, said it expects to introduce commercial 5G in 2020. NTT Docomo’s largest rival KDDI Corp. is also planning to launch the same year.
- India – The third-largest Asian nation plans to roll out commercial 5G services by 2022 with some pilot projects starting as early as 2020. India’s telecom regulator last month suggested floor prices for auctioning airwaves dedicated for 5G and hasn’t set a timeline for a sale.
- U.K. – The government wants to cover a majority of the population with 5G by 2027. BT Group Plc aims to be the first carrier to roll out consumer-facing 5G around August 2019. Britain sold some 5G-ready spectrum in an April auction that raised 1.36 billion pounds ($1.74 billion) — more than expected — and has plans to sell other spectrum next year.
- Russia – the Communications Ministry wants to start 5G networks in the country’s eight largest cities in 2020, meaning the necessary spectrum could be awarded sometime next year.
- France – The government aims to allocate frequencies and have at least a major city 5G-enabled by 2020. At the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, France will aim to showcase a mature 5G network.