By the end of last year, 150 million Chinese were using 5G mobile phones with average speeds of 300 megabits a second, while only six million Americans had access to 5G with speeds of 60 megabits a second. America’s 5G service providers have put more focus on advertising their capabilities than on building infrastructure.Graham Allison and Eric Schmidt, Opinion: China Will Soon Lead the U.S. in Tech, Wall St. J. (Dec. 7, 2021), https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-will-soon-lead-the-us-in-tech-global-leader-semiconductors-5g-wireless-green-energy-11638915759.
Of course, it’s a bit rich to be reading this in the opinion pages of the Journal, which can usually be found defending laissez-faire commercialism.
The American telecom industry is a marketing-driven oligopoly that colludes tacitly to minimize expensive investment in infrastructure and competes instead for market share via worthless, unproductive advertising.
Things would have been different if we had not broken up the old Ma Bell, an engineering-focused organization that took national defense very seriously. As a monopoly, it knew that it had to serve a public purpose or the pitchforks would come out.
Unfortunately, they came out anyway, and antitrust got it, and we are left with the miserable, middling shards that we have today—shards that quickly replaced their engineering culture with a marketing culture, because once they were small they didn’t need to worry about public scrutiny and were free to work exclusively for themselves.