As Benaich and Hogarth say in their definitive report on the State of Artificial Intelligence in 2019, “5G is the backbone of ubiquitous connectivity and AI computation. It offers the potential for much faster and more stable information transmission. The organization or country that owns 5G will set the standards for the rest of the world. Right now China is far ahead of the U.S.”
5G is the fifth generation of wireless communication standards. 2G set up standards governing wireless telephone calls, 3G allowed us to surf the internet on a smartphone and 4G delivered speeds that enable video streaming and millions of apps that require reliable connectivity. 5G is expected to be up to a hundred times faster. This level of speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate the delay, or the latency, between instructing a computer to perform a command and that command’s execution.
An article in the New Yorker, The Terrifying Potential of the 5G Network, projects that “5G will pump twelve trillion dollars into the global economy by 2035 and add twenty-two million new jobs in the U.S. alone.” Huawei, a Chinese manufacturer of consumer electronics and telecomm equipment, owns the most 5G patents at 1529 and is the global leader in 5G technology. (Finland’s Nokia is next in patents at 1397.) The U.S. views Huawei as a Trojan horse that would “give China effective control of the digital commanding heights.” Huawei denies that it is an agent of the Chinese government but the company is subject to a Chinese law that requires companies to cooperate with the state intelligence apparatus. Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S. have banned Huawei hardware from their networks.The EU is poised to reject American entreaties to avoid using Huawei with individual countries like Portugal and Germany already expressing a willingness to use Huawei equipment. Canada is relying on Huawei for at least one 5G trial and AT&T uses Huawei equipment in Mexico. Huawei’s equipment is cheaper and often superior to its Western rivals.
According to the Defensive Innovation Board (DIB) which advises the Secretary of Defense on new technologies, Huawei’s continued growth, “Will allow China to promote its preferred standards and specifications for 5G networks and will shape the global 5G market going forward.” At the start of 2019 Huawei had 30% of the global telecommunications equipment market and its revenue was 39% higher than the year before. The U.S.’s current policy of avoiding using Huawei equipment may not be enough to be competitive and secure in the 5G market.