The Case for U.S. Leadership in Trusted 5G Infrastructure

June 2021
Topics: Wireless Communications, Signal Processing, Policy, Economics
Christine G. Gilbert, The MITRE Corporation
Jim Houchens, The MITRE Corporation
Christopher S. Moeller, The MITRE Corporation
Arman Mozahebi, The MITRE Corporation
Maggie Vencill, The MITRE Corporation
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In the global market for 5G infrastructure components, government regulation can prevent the use of equipment developed by or imported from adversarial nations within the U.S. telecommunications structure but regulations do not ensure that the private sector can offer economically feasible alternatives. This requires a healthy, diverse technology ecosystem that can innovate and achieve economies of scale at a competitive price. Unfortunately, the current provision of 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) on proprietary end-to-end (E2E) integrated systems imposes higher manufacturing costs and requires specialized cross-disciplinary skills. These barriers to entry inhibit U.S. companies from entering the 5G market, let alone establishing a leadership position in it.

The needed disruptor that is emerging is Open RAN—a new set of specifications that disaggregates the RAN into a set of interoperable components. The Open RAN architecture, with standardized interfaces between RAN components, facilitates interoperability and reduces barriers to entry, by enabling innovators to focus on those components where they have the greatest competence. By fostering the emergence of new entrants into the commercial marketplace, creating greater competition, and reducing the need for specialized components, U.S. industry can produce economically viable and trusted alternatives more quickly and at scale. Current U.S. Open RAN offerings are not mature enough to attract sufficient worldwide market share. Early adoption and targeted investment from the U.S. government and industry will provide a defined path for Open RAN to restore U.S. leadership in the global 5G infrastructure market.

This paper reflects MITRE’s multi-disciplinary assessment of the global 5G infrastructure market and specifically the RAN/Open-RAN sub-segment. MITRE found that, to foster the conditions favorable to a diverse U.S. 5G ecosystem and domestic market, the U.S. government must:

  • Incentivize Open RAN companies to mature and expand the Open RAN market in the United States
  • Subsidize U.S.-based manufacturing of 5G infrastructure (in particular, Open RAN) components
  • Entice existing U.S.-based companies to enter the market as integrators until the market matures and norms eliminate the need for integrators.

MITRE also developed a set of criteria to evaluate private firms capable of entering the market as 5G infrastructure integrators. The paper outlines the U.S. government levers of power and potential actions to create a marketplace favorable to government-supported partnerships. The government can leverage the Power and Preference methodology presented in this paper to assess private U.S. companies for their potential to partner with the government in this important undertaking.

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