A visitor walks past a 5G sign during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: REUTERS
A visitor walks past a 5G sign during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: REUTERS

Washington — The US and China are in a virtual deadlock in the race for 5G, or fifth-generation wireless networks, which are expected to unlock new services, an industry survey showed on Tuesday.

The report shows the U S has closed the gap with China in “readiness” for the ultrafast wireless systems and has more 5G deployments planned in 2019 than any other country.

The study for the wireless industry group CTIA, which was conducted by the research firm Analysys Mason, showed the US has moved ahead of South Korea in 5G readiness over the past year to a virtual tie with China, as a result of considerable investment in 5G systems.

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CTIA president Meredith Attwell Baker said in a statement that the US has made “impressive strides” in preparing for the new technology but more is needed to maintain leadership.

“We can’t be complacent as the 5G race has really just begun,” she said. “We must redouble our efforts to combat the 5G ambitions and investments by China and others.”

Analysts expect 5G networks to play a crucial role in delivering data for autonomous vehicles, remote medicine and other services with heavy data usage.

US officials have sought to block Chinese firms such as Huawei from deploying 5G systems on national security grounds, raising concern that this will slow the rollout of high-speed networks. Officials have also floated a government-backed 5G network which could be more secure against foreign espionage, an idea roundly opposed by the telecoms industry.

The report said the US leads with 92 commercial 5G deployments planned for 2019 but noted that China’s wireless operators are conducting “hundreds of large-scale 5G trials across the country”.

“China retains a significant infrastructure advantage,” the report said. “A recent study showed China with more than 14 wireless cell sites per 10,000 people, compared to 4.7 in the US.”

The report said to maintain growth in 5G, the US needs to do more to allocate wireless spectrum, in some cases reassigning bands now used for other purposes.

According to the survey, South Korea ranked third in 5G readiness, followed by Japan, Britain and Italy.