Mapping the International 5G Standards Landscape and How It Impacts U.S. Strategy and Policy

November 8, 2021


  • The United States and U.S.-based companies in the wireless industry have long benefitted from global standards that have come out of fair, industry-led processes rewarding the best technologies.
  • In that tradition, 3GPP, the primary force behind the development of 5G specifications, is designed with transparency, consensus, and fairness in mind. Both analysis and anecdote indicate its governance mechanisms are generally working well.
  • However, this may not always be the case. China has ramped up its use of unfair standards processes and aims to dominate the industries of the future, in part through its official China Standards 2035 plan.
  • To protect the integrity of standards-setting bodies, U.S. policymakers and allies should analyze their governance models, informally observe deliberations, and support good-governance mechanisms.
  • The U.S. government should ensure there are no barriers to U.S. firms participating in international standards bodies.
  • Congress should change the research and experimentation tax credit to allow companies to include their spending on global standard-setting activities.
  • Explicit government coordination or identification of strategic standards priorities risks locking in suboptimal standards, accelerating unfair tactics, and balkanizing standards that are supposed to be global.