Next generation connectivity, 5G in particular, represent a tremendous economic opportunity. Deploying 5G at scale, and seeing it leveraged for productivity gains throughout the economy, should be a national imperative. There are several technological components to 5G, but the key architectural shift requires far more cell sites, meaning an expensive infrastructure deployment that requires a rethinking of local permitting policies and federal regulations.
The Chinese are extending their influence in standards organizations and international bodies like the International Telecommunications Union. They are also engaged in intensive research and development, and already making key contributions to essential 5G patents. While they may not be the first to use 5G, many expect they will aggressively deploy a final specification at tremendous scale. The U.S. government should focus on improving the investment conditions for deploying 5G through reforms to siting and permitting policies and make more spectrum available on a flexible licensed, unlicensed, and shared basis.
The United States should continue to rely on its competitive private sector to deploy 5G networks and not further consider a government-built network. Any policy focused on specific Chinese vendors must be considered as a component of a broader, nuanced strategy to guide China to a rule-of-law, market-driven expectation on trade and protection of intellectual property. Presumptive blocking of specific firms is likely not the best route.