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China beating US in race for 5G wireless, economic gains, says report

The US has been outspent by $24 billion since 2015.

Posters about 5G technology by China Mobile on the 2nd World
Posters about 5G technology by China Mobile are seen at the 2nd World Intelligence Congress.
Getty Images/Zhang Peng

China is pulling ahead of the US in the race to build infrastructure for 5G wireless, a report says.

The country has outspent the US by $24 billion since 2015 and built ten times more sites to support 5G communications, according to the Deloitte Consulting report, as cited by Reuters.

China built 350,000 new cell phone tower sites, while the US built less than 30,000, and China added more sites in a three-month period of 2017 than the US had in the previous three years.

The report warns that the first country to adopt the next generation of wireless communications will experience "disproportionate gains," as 5G brings an "era of untapped economic potential."

It also notes that it's about 35 percent cheaper to install the equipment needed for 5G in China as compared to the US.

For the US to compete, Deloitte recommends that it tweak policy to reduce deployment time, encourage carriers to collaborate and implement a database of statistics and best practices.

"Maintaining US leadership in mobile communications requires that carriers, technology vendors, OTT innovators, municipalities and policy makers collaborate to build a strong business case for 5G," said Dan Littmann, a Deloitte Consulting principal in tech, in a statement.

"Deployment costs and cycle times for a densified network infrastructure are critical for the US to gain equal footing with other countries striving to be first to 5G."

The report backs up an April study that placed China and South Korea ahead of the US and Japan as the global leaders in 5G.

It's likely that US carriers Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint will launch their 5G networks early in 2019, while AT&T said it'll bring its mobile 5G network to three cities this year.

First published Aug. 7 at 2:29 a.m. PDT.
Updated Aug 8. at 2:06 a.m. PDT: Adds Deloitte statement.

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