The importance of 5G technology in our increasingly digitized world suggests that it is a battle of whole economies, not just players in one sector
In recent months, the world has witnessed a scandal in which China's Huawei network equipment company is about to be "thrown out" by a number of major markets, because – according to their governments – China's authorities can spy on other countries through its equipment.
Huawei continues to deny the charges. But the US has imposed measures to limit the company's access to auctions to build wireless networks in the country. Several other governments have followed this example. Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Canada were involved in the scandal. Why are they so afraid of Huawei?
At the heart of these news is the issue of the forthcoming wave of new networking technologies known as "5G" – and who will "hold" it. The importance of this technology in our increasingly digitized world, however, suggests that it is a battle of whole economies, not just players in one sector.
What is this 5G?
This is not a protocol or device. 5G is a concept for a whole range of systems and technologies designed to work together to ensure the consistent connectivity of almost everything in our world – from unmanned vehicles to domestic appliances. The bursts will be super fast: With a bandwidth of 20 gigabytes per second, a high resolution movie will be downloaded instantly.
The first 5G smartphones will debut this year, but the full transition will happen in the next few years.
What equipment will you need?
The 5G networks will work in two different frequency ranges. In one mode, they will rely on the same frequencies as existing 4G and Wi-Fi networks, using a more efficient encryption scheme and larger channels to achieve 25% to 50% acceleration. In the second 5G mode, networks will use much higher, millimeter waves that can transmit data at higher speeds, albeit at shorter distances.
Since millimeter waves work short distances, 5G will require more transmitters. Many transmitters will be needed, sometimes only a few dozen meters apart.
In addition, to increase bandwidth, 5G cells will also use a technology known as MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output). Hundreds of antennas will operate in parallel, increasing gears and helping lower latency – up to about a millisecond (compared with about 30 milliseconds at 4G).
The risks of the new infrastructure
It is expected that 5G will replace the existing networks completely. In the fifth generation networks will be connected any appliances – besides computers, tablets and phones in the network will include cars, refrigerators and air conditioners, security cameras and industrial robots and hospital systems and banking machines … in practice everything.
And that means there are many interesting hacking sites. A "sea" of new possibilities emerges from malicious technicians. With so many things online, the possibilities of data theft, manipulation, extortion, sabotage are increasing. And the potential damage is much greater.
In the emerging new reality, it is obvious that it will be particularly important who will "control" all that network infrastructure that controls so many things. It will be important for who makes the software, it will also be important who is making the hardware for the new networks.
And here comes the worries of the US government, which is scared by Huawei. The company is currently the world's largest network equipment provider. It is also number two smartphone maker in the world. In summary, Huawei already "holds" a large part of the networks – both from the operator side and from the consumer side! At the same time, the United States does not have a strong enough player in the world of network equipment.
Huawei is also the best choice to take the lion's share of the future 5G market. And he, according to some analyzes, is estimated at $ 123 billion a year (on average) for the next five years.
The prospect of a Chinese company to "hold" all the new technological reality in the US will not be frightening for the US government. So it is not surprising that the United States "dragged its feet" and launched a whole cascade of "decisions" of other governments to sharpen their attention to Huawei.
It seems logical: for any government in the world is unpleasant if a key infrastructure is dominated by a single supplier and it is foreign. Even if there is no real case of government espionage, allegedly entrusting the network of the future, which will manage everything in its digitized reality, one producer is … worrying, to put it mildly.
A little different is the situation for European countries. Europe is home to two other major network equipment makers, contenders for "builders" of 5G networks – Nokia and Ericsson, which together with Huawei form the top three in this market.
It is no wonder, therefore, that European responses are much less reserved. Even Germany, to a certain extent, opposed the general persecution, yielding results from laboratory analyzes, claiming no evidence of espionage.
If it does not put a pole in the wheels of a strong Chinese player, the US is on its way not only to entrust the key future 5G infrastructure to "aliens". The country would find itself in an undesirable economic "grip".
Given the value of this fast-growing future market, letting Huawei dominate would mean "pouring" US money into the Chinese economy. And it is now too influential on a global scale. Moreover, for some time, the clear bipolar "terrain" of struggle between the two countries in all levels of political and economic relations has been seen.
On the other hand, the United States has made a lot of effort in recent years to promote the digitization of all industries. And while this undoubtedly pours water in the mill of a number of US producers, in the absence of a strong player in the network segment, it may well be that the digitization in question speeds up all the economic sectors of the Asian side.
If we add to this and China's tendency to form strong ties between industry and the state, which the country is well known for, the US's worries about the future of 5G networks are not unfounded. 5G networks are one of the key areas, along with the artificial intelligence that the two hyper-economies will have in mind – the outcome of this battle will greatly predict if there will be a change of hegemony.