It is starting to become obvious why the US is streaming ahead

When talking about the leaders in the 5G race, Europe is never in the fray. Comparing the attitude of the operators in the US and Europe, it is becoming very clear why.

A couple of weeks ago we travelled across to Austin to attend Light Reading’s Big Communications Event where several US operators gave their perspective on 5G. It was aggressive, bullish and ambitious. There is a race to be the first, it is a point of pride for the operators, and progress is being made in a very efficient manner. Of course, there are some claims which are suspect, creative advertising if you will, but you can’t deny the operators have an excellent roadmap.

This week we attended 5G World with the European and Asian operators taking the stage. In Korea, KT boasted about 5G trials at the Winter Olympics this year, while Japan’s NTT Docomo and KDDI gave some insight to various trials. Again, steady progress can be seen. When looking at Europe, the story is slightly different.

The work is focused on justification and business cases, attitudes are much more risk adverse and the fundamentals of the strategies are not looking anywhere near as comprehensive as elsewhere in the world. Compared to counterparts in the US, European operators are looking positively sheepish; there are few examples of confidence which can be seen in the US.

On the American side of the Atlantic, the operators are talking about commercial 5G services at the end of this year and beginning of next. The operators will be urging the handset manufacturers to hurry up so they can start the plethora of advertising campaigns boasting about 5G networks; for possibly one of the first times, the operators will not be the ones slowing progress.

Of course, 5G services will not be everywhere and the reality will unlikely live up to the promise in the marketing campaigns, but the industry is moving forward. Few people will say the same of Europe, as operators timidly tip-toe towards 5G. The difference is the attitude and ambition, as simple as that.