If you’ve been abreast of the whole 5G hype, you’d know that the proposal of a nationalized 5G wireless network has stimulated lot of controversy, forming a wave of reaction across most agencies and the political spectrum. This could be because 5G network is becoming such a haloed technology in the industry with a lot of hopes and expectations of it. For starters, 5G or fifth generation network is the next G of mobility which would use high frequency airwaves in distributing wireless data, and could allow ridiculously faster speeds of up to 20Gbps in comparison to the current 4G network that has a maximum bandwidth of 1Gbps. It will also very likely be the amped up backbone to the Internet of Things (IoT) and all that IoT realm will bring to the table. Not only would it offer faster speeds and greater capacity than previous generations, but also accommodate newer, more evolved and advanced technologies, such as self-driving cars, virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, and of course, the Internet of Things. So, where is 5G on the map? Well, network carriers, such as AT&T and Verizon, have plans to roll out 5G service in limited markets this year.
“Oh, That’s all cool and dandy, and I can’t wait to be at the nucleus of the experience that 5G will shoulder.. but what is the ‘Nationalization of 5G’ that is being talked about?” The national security officials are more than musing on the plan to nationalize the United States’ 5G wireless network - especially in an effort to guard against competitive nations such as China and Russia to prevent (ahem) cybersecurity threats from such countries. The National Security Commission reasoning is that having the United States government own the network would allow the nation to get its network built sooner than other global powers will, and resultantly, hold a potential to dominate the market. Currently, China already has the ability to order the rollout large enough to create economies of Scale. China’s telecom giant Huawei is already making great strides towards the 5G network and China has also secured a dominant position from the manufacturing and the operation pov of the 5G network infrastructure. And the United States is not fetching far in the race and if that does not change in time, China could very well win politically, economically and militarily.
Another concern is the issue of our good ol’ national topic of cybersecurity - and whether the private network companies are capable of creating networks that can keep the hackers in check. Now, these are all very legit concerns; however, the nationalization of the 5G wireless network would still be a very unprecedented move. The National Security Council argues that America needs a centralized nationwide 5G network and that the best option would be for the US government to pay for and build the network, and then rent it out to national and local network carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.
While even the embers of the current administration have come out to oppose any suggestions of the 5G nationalization plan, including the FCC Chair Ajit Pai, a Republican who was appointed by the president to head the commission, the talks are still hot in the oven and making waves. After the plunge the industry has taken in ‘principle’ by wiping off Net Neutrality from the slate, the market is best positioned, than the government, to drive innovation, build the network and the investment. The government should focus on pushing spectrum into the marketplace and setting the rules and regulations, and take initiatives that would encourage the private sector to also take a bigger part in developing and deploying the 5G network infrastructure. The government would be stepping on the toes of public and private companies that specialize in offering such solutions and infrastructure, and it’s best that it works hard in doing what a government does - regulating. Both AT&T and Verizon have plans to roll out 5G service in limited markets this year and it’s not hard to surmise why they’re not particularly entertained by the idea of the government stepping in. The idea has been dubbed as ‘nonsensical’ by many and fails to recognize the current marketplace in a statement.
Taking a step beyond the politics and the private sector resistance, there also are many other complications to a nationalized 5G network. A) the inadequacy of spectrum for wireless communications available for the US government to purchase. In the year of 2017, T-Mobile and Dish Network swiped off the bulk of the broadcast spectrum for sale, and I think I’ve seen enough of John Legere’s rave about it on his Slow Cooker Sundays. B), a nationalized 5G project would be incredibly expensive for the US government to fund when the private sector is estimated to invest a whopping 275 billion dollars into 5G.
Given all these challenges, the nationalized 5G proposal appears to be dead on arrival. Everyone is getting a chance to weigh in on the proposal and the fact that both Pai and Clyburn, as well as telecom lobbyists are all pretty against the idea, let’s hope that the government will continue doing what it (supposedly) does best, and the 5G will be spearheaded on the private sector.