CSIS Geopolitical Futures Video


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We need to look at the 5G race in several phases:

1. Technology development phase - China won. The 5G standards have largely set and Huawei/ZTE and other companies have most patents and their technologies lead the competitors.

2. 5G deployment phase - If we're talking about China vs. US, then leads by wide margin, in terms of speed and availability. There is no chance that the US will ever catch up with China, judging by the comparison in 5G. If you're talking about preventing Huawei/ZTE from world domination in 5G deployment, then the US has made some dent after two years' intimidation/coercion. But that's fat from the US winning the 5G race in this phase. Huawei/ZTE will still be deployed in many, many countries in the world.

3. 5G application phase - This is actually one of the biggest worries of the US originally. The fear is that unlike 4G stage, which the US believes it had won and created many hugely successful companies and large economic value, if China leads in 5G deployment, it may create new business models and innovative companies to the beat the US. This phase is going to be long term, say 10 years, but China is positioned to lead in a number of potentially related applications such as in smart city, drones, autonomous driving, industrial IoT. But I'd agree it's premature to declare winner for this phase. This would be where the biggest economic impact will be.


Specifically on deployment, a STANDALONE 5G network with sufficient low-band, mid-band and high-band capacity and coverage is key.

By the end of the year, it looks like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen will be entirely covered by such standalone 5G networks.
That accounts for over 65 million people covered by 180,000 5G cells.
At the end of the year, there are supposed to be another 420,000+ 5G cells deployed elsewhere in China.

In comparison, the USA only has 400,000 cells in total.
And it doesn't look like there will be a decent 5G standalone network with sufficient coverage and capacity for at least 3 more years.

So with that sort of lead, it would be incredible if China didn't race ahead on the 5G application side, even in the face of US opposition.

Remember that Chinese companies are already larger and more advanced than their US counterparts in a whole host of relevant industries such as ecommerce, mobile payments, fintech, ride-sharing, telemedicine, robotics adoption, AI deployment, manufacturing etc etc

On a side note, all those countries in Europe and Asia who are ripping out Chinese telecoms equipment will be spending time and money on that task, rather than trying to deploy their own 5G standalone networks at low cost.

One might think it's a devious method for the US to delay the deployment of standalone 5G networks in Europe and Asia, so that US companies won't see strong local competitors emerge.
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