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Davos 2023: India outkicking Its 5G coverage

5G networks are just around the corner from being just around the corner.

This, as Börje Ekholm the CEO of Ericsson AB, one of the world’s leading telecom equipment manufacturers, told a panel at the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Davos event that India is beating both the U.S. and Europe in its rollout of 5G network infrastructure.

“India will have the strongest digital infrastructure outside of China and soon, will be comparable to China,” he said, per a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report on the Davos panel. “The pace of rollout you see in India is very, very rapid… If you don’t have a digital infrastructure, you’re unlikely to have digital companies. India will have a digital infrastructure that is world class.”

Where does the U.S. stand? Ahead of Europe, Ekholm said.

But behind China, and now behind India.

Still in the Early Stages
The relatively slow rollout of 5G wireless networks and their supporting infrastructure around the globe have made it difficult to predict which of the technology’s moonshot promises for the future will bear fruit and in fact transform industries.

“It’s a bit slower than we had hoped for,” the Ericsson CEO said.

5G broadband networks give a significant boost to data transfer speeds and allow for highly integrated digital connections between things as disparate as surgical scalpels and factory warehouses.

While 3G networks provided cellphones with internet access, and 4G allowed video streaming to enter and effectively take over the mainstream, 5G is reportedly up to 100 times faster than 4G at its best.

Perhaps the broadband network’s greatest promise is serving as a foundation for the next generation of businesses that will be built on real-time and instantaneous data-transfer capabilities, like remotely performed surgeries or autonomous transit — both on the ground with self-driving cars and in the air with unmanned drones.

Verizon and Meta announced a partnership last spring (March 3) to explore how the faster processing and increased bandwidth of Verizon’s 5G network can support the so-called metaverse.

5G technology is believed to be critical in eventually supporting and enabling future, internet-reliant innovations like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and other immersive experiences across metaverses.

Still, as PYMNTS reported, T-Mobile has said that the technology’s hype is outpacing the number of innovative use-cases under development.

Ericsson’s Ekholm said people looking for that “killer app” need to wait until 5G networks are ubiquitous, adding that video streaming apps and ride-hailing services didn’t take off until 4G had more broadly penetrated the marketplace.

The Ecosystem Exists
Cellular carriers in the U.S. have been offering 5G capabilities for at least the past three years, and a recent survey shows that over half of American cellular customers (61%) accessed 5G networks in 2022, and that customers with 5G access spent on average a third of their waking day on their devices.

PYMNTS has been tracking the United States’ steady transition from an app-based world to an ecosystem-driven one for over half a decade.

Recent research in the PYMNTS’ report, “12 Months Of The ConnectedEconomy™” shows that consumers spent 2022 increasingly integrating digital channels into their daily routines, and using connected devices and digital methods to complete tasks 10% more than they were just a year ago.

Younger consumers are driving this trend, with additional research in PYMNTS’ “ConnectedEconomy™ Monthly Report: Meet the Zillennials” showing that the so-called “Zillennial” generation is nearly 2.5x times more engaged in the ConnectedEconomy™ than baby boomers and seniors are, and 36% more engaged than Generation X.

As noted at Davos, efforts are currently underway to create a robust U.S. 5G infrastructure that can effectively compete against the hegemony of foreign offerings and set America up for a further boom in its tech industry.

After all, digital infrastructure begets digitally native companies.

Complicating matters, as highlighted by PYMNTS, is the fact that most telecom operators and carriers globally are using major foreign incumbents like Huawei to build out their big-bet investments in 5G infrastructure.

The Chinese company’s products are viewed as presenting an “unacceptable” national security risk for the U.S., given the multinational’s close relationship with the Chinese government and its intelligence arm.

This means the U.S., land of the rugged individualist, will have to go it alone, and they have earmarked billions to do so.

The Open Radio Access Network (ORAN), which counts involvement from major U.S. carriers including Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, is seen as one possible frontrunner for helping develop this critical infrastructure.

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