The U.S. Secures 5G Superiority, at Least in Short-Term


The race for the leading role in the fifth generation (5G) connectivity has already started and while the United States, China, South Korea, and Japan are the four countries in the lead, it is the United States who will win the 5G race in the short term, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.

The United States has a unique 5G starting position due to its market size, the financial health of its Mobile Service Providers (MSPs), and the forward-looking moves of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). “The United States has a stronghold because its carriers have an enhanced fiscal position – they will spend approximately US$40 billion on network infrastructure alone during 2019,” says Emanuel Kolta, Research Analyst at ABI Research. The four top MSPs will start their 5G service at the end of H1 2019, however, operators are using different methods. While Verizon is focusing on 5G home broadband first, AT&T already started selling its 5G hotspot which is sharing throughput over Wi-Fi; T-Mobile is focusing on nationwide coverage in low-band, and Sprint is focusing on 2.5 GHz and the upgradeable Massive MIMO antennas.

While wireless home broadband and the provision of enhanced mobile broadband will be the core proposition in early U.S. 5G deployments, it is ultra-reliable low-latency communication and enhanced machine-type communication that will gain importance in the longer term. During 2019, ABI Research expects that MSPs will first deploy 5G in megacities, dense urban areas, live sharing locations (e.g., stadiums and concert venues), urban commuter routes, spectrum exhaust areas, as well as company and university campuses.

5G-capable phones will be more widespread from 2020, once all the major players have launched 5G on their flagship models. Apple, the U.S. market leader, won’t make its 5G iPhone commercially available until 2020. However, Samsung, the second biggest player, is expected to have a 5G model in its Galaxy 10 range, with a launch date likely to be Q1 2019. Smaller device manufacturers like LG, Motorola, OnePlus, and HTC can increase their market share and have a bigger proportion of the 3 million 5G-capable devices shipped in 2019.  

U.S. MSPs and internet firms have spent an outstanding amount of resources on 5G related spectrums, deployments, and tests in the past years, which has brought the United States to the forefront of 5G developments. ABI Research expects that the combination of these early investments, the size of the U.S. market, and the customer’s high willingness to pay will all provide a unique environment to U.S.-based firms to flourish. The fact that South Korean and U.S.-based operators will provide 5G connectivity to local businesses first, holds an extraordinary opportunity, at least in short-term. “However, the long-term outcome of the 5G race is still uncertain. Even Chinese investments and spectrum allocations are late, the scale of the upcoming 5G deployments is simply unprecedented,” Kolta concluded.