Given the US economy’s veritable dependence on the internet, the country needs faster internet networks. When it comes to the pace of mobile downloads, the US ranks 40th, globally. In terms of mean mobile upload speeds, the US ranks 94th globally, having tumbled by 21 ranking spots since 2018.
To put that in greater perspective, “we’re nestled between Spain and Saudi Arabia when it comes to download speeds, and between Angola and Poland for mean upload speeds,” writes Vox.
As 5G gains widespread adoption and evolves into the global gold-standard, the US will presumably, albeit perhaps lethargically, get into the game.
In theory, 5G is so fast that you could download an entire series of a TV show in seconds. Imagine how that kind of speed could power productivity and ignite business growth.
To make 5G feasible, current US infrastructure will require general upgrades, and telecommunications companies will need to shell out for additional cell antennas. Given the vast geographic size of the US, and the substantial bills that telecom companies are due to contend with, the US may actually fall further behind other developed countries when it comes to internet speed, rather than keeping pace.
The success of implementing 5G hinges on more spectrum (radio frequencies), consistent small-cell regulations across state lines, and stronger legal regulation concerning service providers.
5G networks rely on low-band, high-band and mid-band spectrum working together. Although the FCC has increased the amount of spectrum available on the market, the demand exceeds the supply. Much of the mid-band spectrum in the US supports satellites, fixed wireless systems and government organizations, and would therefore require clearing prior to use in commercial ventures.
Small-cells, which look like hand-radios, are being deployed at a dizzying pace throughout the country. Twenty-seven states have passed bills permitting expedited implementation. Nonetheless, the distribution has not been the smoothest of processes, and legal wrinkles will need to be ironed out 5G can really take shape.
The Brookings Institution reports that it’s still the age of the wild west for the telecommunications industry in the United States. Pricing structures are haphazard and inconsistent across companies, and companies themselves often prefer to offer 5G in wealthier regions, where company earnings quickly outpace initial investment costs. The incentive to serve poorer regions is limited, highlighting the need for federal and/or state intervention.
Despite potential challenges, telecommunications carriers that switch to 5G will likely come to dominate marketplace. The faster that you can serve the data, the greater the customer appeal.
For more on the future of 5G, visit CNET.com.