New Report Proposes National Strategy for U.S. to Outflank China in the Global 5G Race by Focusing on Network Virtualization

April 27, 2020

WASHINGTON—Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has seized a commanding share of the global market for 5G networking equipment. But a new report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy, argues that the battle for leadership in next-generation wireless networking is not yet lost for the United States. The report calls on the U.S. government to implement a national 5G strategy that would leverage the core strengths of U.S. industry to effectively outflank Huawei by focusing on network virtualization.

“Huawei has made impressive advances in the global market for 5G networking equipment. But with the right national strategy, U.S. industry can still vault ahead,” said Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy at ITIF, who authored the new report. “There’s more than one way to engineer a 5G network. You don’t have to rely on Huawei hardware. You can instead virtualize networks by using general-purpose hardware with open interfaces and more sophisticated software—that strategy would play to U.S. strengths.”

The report argues that any 5G strategy should aim to support continued wireless innovation beyond the next few years, helping to ensure that the development of future wireless technology is not ceded to geopolitical rivals.

ITIF recommends that the White House, Congress, and federal agencies:

  • Create a national strategy that accelerates deployment of 5G, through streamlined wireless siting and more commercial mid-band spectrum.
  • Encourage development and adoption of applications that take advantage of 5G breakthroughs through support for digital transformation R&D, smart-city test beds, smart manufacturing and agriculture, and government-agency adoption of 5G applications.
  • Ban equipment deemed a security risk through clearly stated policy and transparent risk analysis, and work with like-minded allies to ensure there is a large-enough market for trusted wireless equipment suppliers to compete.
  • Support expanded wireless R&D, fair processes in international standard-setting organizations, interoperability, and strong IP rights for wireless innovators.
  • Appropriate funds for pilot programs to identify challenges in transitioning wireless network functions toward software running on generic hardware infrastructure at scale.

“The degree to which 5G is anticipated to be integrated within production processes across the U.S. economy highlights both its importance and the risks inherent in relying on untrusted suppliers—or leaving equipment production up to a globalized market—without some further strategy in place,” adds Brake. “A national 5G strategy that invests in research, supports fair standard bodies, accelerates deployment, and facilitates the transition to virtualized equipment should be a priority for policymakers in the next decade, as this is an important opportunity for economic growth and dynamism throughout a number of sectors of the economy.”

Read the report.