Although the world continues to grow more connected than it’s ever been, the bittersweet US and China trade rivalry that continues to pit the Donald Trump administration’s offensives aimed at frustrating Huawei Technologies’ ambitious 5G rollout threatens to as well impede America’s wireless ambitions.
Following the global recognition of the overnight importance of broadband owing to the recent surge in network traffic as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, 5G looks a worthwhile option due to the numerous advantages it can give.
The US-China tensions are now higher than they were on trade. This time, the outlet for frustration is more inclined on the 5G technology that they all ought to collaborate to support instead of locking in a race of dominance in the next apparent wave of wireless communications.
With its rapid, low latency, and high throughput transmission potential, 5G wireless communications will be the linchpin in a future dominated by sensors.
Hurt the Global Citizens
On the consumer side, it will offer speedier communications, hence enhancing mobile broadband, UHD and 3D video streaming, consumer cloud services, self-driving vehicles, smart cities, telemedicine, and education, augmented and virtual reality. On the infrastructure side, it will support the Internet of Things, Machine-to-Machine and Enterprise communications, healthcare facilities, smart city urban infrastructure, and more.
As per the African proverb, When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”. In this regard, the conflicts of these two mighty elephants US-China tend to expose and hurt the global citizens from benefitting from 5G technology which reportedly will be up to twenty times faster than the current 4G standard. To put things in perspective, downloading a two-hour long movie takes 26 hours on a 3G network and six minutes on a 4G network, while it will only take 3.6 seconds on a 5G network.
China and the United States are locked in a power struggle over who will master the technology first and make it available for public usage. The argument in all this debacle inclines on what seems like a must-win. When the US won the 4G race, it provided a boost of nearly $100 billion to the gross domestic product of the country. It is thus further argued that should it wins the race over 5G; it will create nearly 3 million jobs in the country, apart from providing a $500 billion boost to the GDP. The question is, in all this fiasco, what’s the benefits of the global citizens?
Currently, the most significant player in 5G technology is the Chinese tech giant Huawei. On May 15, Donald Trump, the US President, signed an order banning American telecom firms from using equipment manufactured by foreign companies, effectively banning Huawei. The reason cited was a “threat to national security”.
The step-up in efforts to block China’s development of 5G and aiming Huawei the privately-owned Chinese firm that’s now the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker slows the experience 5G gear on communications, artificial intelligence, and data that promises to shape the coming decades.
Taking it Hands Down?
Although China has a clear-headstart and does not want to fall behind its ambitious initiative whose time has come, a situation that is similar to the US-Soviet Union race into space and eventually to the moon, the US is not taking it hands down.
Comparatively no other company in the world comes closer to today’s “moon shot” in terms of the broad 5G investment and infrastructure deployment. Having earmarked an estimated US$170 billion, over the next five years to build China’s 5G network, Huawei despite the pressure that the world is experiencing as a result of coronavirus is expected to have 620,000 base stations to support advanced 5G capabilities by the end of 2020.
The multi-pronged effort by the US in persuading the European allies to bar the Huawei from supplying key elements of state-of-the-art 5G mobile data networks appears to have foundered. It has raised questions not only about the future of key intelligence-sharing relationships but also about the future of mobile technology in the US itself.
Having already embedded deeply in 4G infrastructure in the UK and Germany, where it also had a head-start with pockets of 5G, it is clear that even if Europe required to block Huawei from 5G, it would be difficult to do so according to some German experts.
Given these circumstances, the battle for 5G dominance will likely be decided in Asia, one of the growth engines of the world economy. Indeed, in Asia, debates on the 5G tug of war seem to conclude that the US will lose badly if it opts to shrug-off the need of cooperation.
For one, the US cannot expect smaller nations in Africa, keen on leapfrogging, to take a hard-line stance against 5G, a technology whose time has come. Worse still against Huawei, which appears to offer competitive costs that are nearly one-third less expensive, based on reported discounts of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent globally.
Swallow the Bittersweet
Arguably, for the US to stay calm, it ought to swallow the bittersweet trade pill and purpose to be competitive through collaboration, by for instance prizing network security – in word and deed – against countries with a track record of attacking US systems. It must, in this regard, work with China and partner nations to develop a framework lined to uphold the experience of 5G networks globally.
For one, establishing a criterion to exclude untrusted vendors based on a series of risk factors, which has topped the US fears would help screen the next Huawei. After all, the key to security in the 5G future is not just about Huawei. It is about the global industry players and therefore, it is about the systemic risk that results from relying on tech components from countries with a history of cyberespionage and a lack of the rule of law into critical infrastructure.
Trampling on the 5G grass when it is expected to grow for the benefit of all aggravates unnecessarily protracted trade squabbles which the US Department of Commerce can once and for all fix by signing off a new rule. A new rule that allows US companies to work with all 5G global industry players on setting standards for the next-generation 5G networks. Collaboration is the answer in fixing “the unnecessary politics” that tends to stifle leapfrogging the technology primed to offer more for the common good.
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