News Feature | November 10, 2020

The Week in 5G: 11/10/2020 — Biden Administration Inherits U.S. 5G Mess; South Koreans Dumping 5G for LTE

By Ed Biller


In the U.S., President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will have to contend with a 5G “race” the nation is losing to China, reports Politico

“U.S. carriers don’t have the right airwaves or network architecture to really allow for widespread, robust 5G use just yet, which will be a pressing challenge for whoever occupies the White House,” states the report.

Further, a group representing major U.S. telecom providers urged Biden, in a letter posted Monday, to "immediately halt" Department of Defense efforts to establish a nationalized 5G network.

“USTelecom said the new administration should [instead]… move to quickly repurpose ‘as much government spectrum as possible,’” reports Reuters.  

In South Korea, telecom providers are dealing with a different kind of problem: 5G subscribers dumping their plans to go back to LTE.

Citing Nikkei, Electronics Weekly reports that more than a half-million Koreans (about 6.5 percent of total subscribers) have bailed on SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus 5G plans “because they are disgusted with poor quality, inadequate coverage and high fee structures.”

While 5G promised download speeds of up to 20Gbps, South Korea’s three networks have only adopted the 3.5-5 Ghz band, for which the maximum speed for this frequency is about 1.9 Gbps. Per Electronics Weekly, consumers’ gripes extend to slow network connection and short battery life, as well.

China’s Huawei, meanwhile, is navigating political and legal barriers to contribute to rollouts in both Sweden and Brazil.

In Sweden, Swedish telecoms regulator PTS canceled 5G spectrum auctions set for Tuesday after Huawei appealed a court decision banning its equipment form Swedish 5G networks.

“Sweden last month followed the United Kingdom in banning Huawei equipment from its 5G network citing national security risks and asked companies taking part in 5G spectrum auctions to remove components from the company by Jan. 1, 2025,” reports Reuters.

The report also states Huawei prefers a “constructive dialogue with Swedish authorities” to more legal action.

In Brazil, the nation’s top four telecom companies decided not to meet with Keith Krach (U.S. under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment), who visited the country to pressure its telecoms to exclude Huawei from the Brazilian 5G equipment market, reports Reuters.

Reportedly, the telecoms already were cool to the idea of snubbing Huawei, as China is Brazil’s most prominent trading partner. They also were wary of meeting a U.S. government representative absent participation by anyone from the Brazilian government.

Meanwhile, Cellwize, a startup whose platform promises to “automate and optimize data for carriers to run 5G networks within multi-vendor environments,” raised $32 million in its latest funding round. TechCrunch reports the Series B round is “co-led Intel Capital and Qualcomm Ventures LLC, and Verizon Ventures … and Samsung Next, with existing shareholders also participating. That list includes Deutsche Telekom and Sonae, a Portuguese conglomerate that owns multiple brands in retail, financial services, telecoms and more.”

Per the report, the Israel-based company counts some 40 carriers among its clients and operates across 16 countries.

From terrestrial happenings to the air, a new research initiative will use Nokia’s 4G and 5G wireless network infrastructure to test wireless network technologies for commercial airline controller to pilot data link communications (CPDLC), reports Aviation Today.

The Single European Sky ATM Research Agency Joint Undertaking’s (SESAR JU) Project Future All Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Technologies (FACT) will deploy of Nokia’s wireless network infrastructure “at a private airport in Istanbul where both low high altitude air traffic data communications will be tested using modified airliner and drone avionics.”