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Survey: USA Trails China, Korea, in 5G 'Readiness'

China is the leader in overall 5G "readiness," according to a new report from telecom research firm Analysys Mason and commissioned by CTIA, the wireless association, with South Korea in second and the U.S. in third, followed by Japan.

Promoting 5G is a priority for the current FCC and Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration, including efforts to ease tower siting, boost investment and free up spectrum.

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The report concludes that China's lead is a combination of proactive government policies and "industry momentum," which the current Administration is looking to emulate.

The report is arguably the ideal combination of spur and carrot for U.S. deployment, with the U.S. ranking high--the carrot, since a low ranking might reflect poorly on industry, but China and Korea ahead--the spurs to the FCC and NTIA efforts. It also provides impetus for CTIA efforts to free up more midband spectrum, finding the U.S. will be sixth in mid-band availability by the end of 2018.

“The United States will not get a second chance to win the global 5G race,” said CTIA president Meredith Attwell Baker, former administrator of NTIA. “I’m confident that America can win and reap the significant economic benefits of 5G wireless due to our world-leading commercial investments. Today’s research highlights the importance of policymaker action in 2018 to reform local zoning rules and unlock access to mid-band spectrum as part of a broader spectrum pipeline plan. I’m optimistic we will leapfrog China because key leaders in the Administration, on Capitol Hill, and at the FCC are focused on the reforms needed to win the race.”

According to CTIA, these are the report's main takeaways:

"All major Chinese providers have committed to specific launch dates and the government has committed to at least 100 MHz of mid-band spectrum and 2,000 MHz of high-band spectrum for each wireless provider.

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"Countries around the world are moving quickly to make spectrum available for 5G. This year alone, the U.K., Spain, and Italy are all holding 5G spectrum auctions.

"At the end of 2018, the U.S. will rank sixth out of the 10 countries in mid-band (3–24GHz) spectrum availability, a critical band for 5G. The U.S. joins Russia and Canada as the only countries currently without announced plans to allocate mid-band spectrum on an exclusive basis to mobile by the end of 2020.

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"Countries like the U.K. and regions like the European Union are taking significant steps to modernize infrastructure rules to facilitate the deployment of 5G networks."

The report is based on a Mason comparison of "5G spectrum and infrastructure policies proposed in markets worldwide to advance 5G technology and facilitate successful network deployment," from which it drew readiness comparisons between markets.