''Don't Worry, I got 5G''
Have you heard of 5G? It may not yet be a staple piece of conversation, but odds are that this is a future worth anticipating. In an era where technological advancements have pushed phones from house bricks to paper thin marvels, the 4G derivative seems to have been in the books forever. Yet, as the chapters unfold, and technological revolutions continue to follow their precipitated scripts, history shows us that having a wary nose might still be a must during these exciting times. The same way social media platforms come with more baggage than we would like, new 5G technology won’t exist without constraints.
5G AND HUAWEI
In which way is 5G so intimately linked to Huawei that it deserves a header? Truth be told, Huawei has been competing in the major leagues for quite some time and has since firmly established its position amid companies such as Google and Microsoft. You might simply recognize the company for their high quality, innovative phones, yet, this is surprisingly only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath a sea of screens, the Chinese giant operates at grander scales as a leading manufacturer of telecommunication and networking equipment, offering its services to 45 of the 50 world’s largest telecom operators. Therefore, it is no secret that Huawei wants to establish itself as a principal supplier of the lightning-fast 5G internet services which classifies itself as an era-defining technology, laying groundwork to the creation of artificial intelligence and smart cities. Nonetheless, Huawei becoming the frontrunner in the roll-out of the new 5G network has been a bone of contention over the past several months, getting caught in a battle against American scepticism.
WHAT IS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
The US has decided to brand Huawei as a potential security threat following aggregated suspicion that the telecom company might be involved in some form of espionage for the Chinese government. By force of instinct, the US decided to place a ban on the use of Huawei’s equipment in the federal government, subsequently going to great length convincing European countries to fend off the, in their eyes, untrustworthy company. For the US, the primary concern lied with the possible leaks of information that Chinese manufactured infrastructures could occasion, potentially opening domestic companies to cyber-attacks. In retort, Huawei disclaimed all allegations, pointing out that the US hasn’t been able to produce any evidence of wrongdoings. Despite the quick response, some countries such as Australia and Japan caught onto the US’s warnings and decided to indefinitely terminate any future business plans involving Huawei as well.
THE SITUATION IN THE NETHERLANDS
In a world where people check their phones more than 80 times a day on average, it is safe to say that news travels fast. In Europe, red flags from the United States were seen from miles away with some countries also beginning to question the purity of Huawei’s intentions. The situation only worsened when the limelight was stolen by the Netherlands after an incident occurred at ASML, a Dutch chip machine manufacturer. Rumours about corporate espionage began circulating in the media when reports came out claiming Chinese spies had stolen trade secrets from the company. Assertions about the theft were voided by the CEO of ASML who stated that the company wasn’t “victim of national conspiracy” adding that the incident would have no implications on the company conducting business in China. A clean slate, however, wasn’t enough to fully convince the Dutch government that partnering with Huawei would be a sound move. Against the wishes of the house of representatives, the Dutch telecommunication company KPN entered into an agreement with Huawei. The deal in question could still be reversed if it doesn’t adhere to security standards set by the Dutch government who is currently still working on a “China strategy”.
With the picture slowly fading for Huawei in Europe, contenders to the 5G throne are making themselves heard. Amidst them, two Nordic company’s Nokia and Ericsson, are developing their own 5G equipment. Yet, whereas China’s combination of industry momentum and government support have led to an accelerated launch of the 5G network, the transition in Europe is happening at a quiet pace and boycotting Huawei’s equipment could delay the institution of the super-fast internet by 2 years. While long-term strategic costs involving Chinese 5G technology should be assessed, falling behind on such pivotal projects can seriously harm a countries wireless industry and larger spectrum of the economy. Security and legal backdoors are still to be accounted for, yet if one thing is sure, the introduction of the disruptive 5G network will effectively transform our society as we know it, opening pathways to the development of new businesses and revolutionizing human interaction.By Maximilian Reijnen 22-05-2019