Analysis & Opinions - WBUR

Huawei And The Race For 5G, The Latest Generation Of Cellphone Communication

| Jan. 29, 2019

With Meghna Chakrabarti

5G, the next generation of high-speed wireless, could change everything about mobile computing. But there are also national security concerns. We’ll explore what 5G actually is and what it will bring.


Klint Finley, contributing writer for Wired, where he covers telecommunication, net neutrality, software development, privacy. (@klintron)

Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC commissioner appointed by President Obama, and re-appointed by President Trump in 2017. (@JRosenworcel)

Philippe Le Corre, senior fellow, Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Non-resident senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Europe and Asia program. Author of "China’s Offensive in Europe." (@PhLeCorre)

From The Reading List

Wired: "The Wired Guide To 5G" — "The future depends on connectivity. From artificial intelligence and self-driving cars to telemedicine and mixed reality to as yet undreamt technologies, all the things we hope will make our lives easier, safer, and healthier will require high-speed, always-on internet connections.

"To keep up with the explosion of new connected gadgets and vehicles, not to mention the deluge of streaming video, the mobile industry is working on something called 5G—so named because it's the fifth generation of wireless networking technology.

"The promise is that 5G will bring speeds of around 10 gigabits per second to your phone. That's more than 600 times faster than the typical 4G speeds on today’s mobile phones, and 10 times faster than Google Fiber's standard home broadband service—fast enough to download a 4K high-definition movie in 25 seconds, or to stream several at the same time.

"Eventually anyway. US carriers promise that 5G will be available nationwide by 2020, but the first 5G networks won't be nearly so fast. 5G isn't a single technology or standard, but rather a constellation of different technologies, and deploying them could require a radically different approach than building 4G networks. Carriers have launched demos and pilot programs that demonstrate big leaps in wireless performance, but mobile networks based on the “millimeter wave” technology that may deliver the fastest speeds probably won't be widely available for years."

Politico: "The real threat to our 5G future" — "Government officials and industry stakeholders will gather at the White House on Thursday to promote U.S. leadership in fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G. The focus of the event, it appears, will be the importance of staying ahead of China, which is aggressively vying for the top spot in wireless leadership.

"The event is designed to send the message that the Trump administration considers 5G a national priority. But it ignores the biggest barrier for U.S. leadership: the administration’s own misguided trade policies. Indeed, the administration’s trade war with China threatens to increase the costs of wireless infrastructure by hundreds of millions of dollars at a critical moment in the race to 5G.

"It’s a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing."

The National Interest: "Huawei and Europe’s 5G Conundrum" — "The recent controversy in the United States, Japan and Australia over the Chinese technology giant, Huawei, is also beginning to reverberate across Europe . Several European countries—including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Czech Republic —have all recently taken steps to scrutinize Huawei as they are preparing to hold auctions for awarding contracts to build out their respective 5G networks next year. Such steps are welcomed by Washington, which is actively pushing its allies and partners around the world to be more vigilant about Chinese 5G due to national security concerns.

"In the UK, the country’s largest telecom provider, BT, has already announced plans to remove Huawei equipment from its existing networks. This is a far cry from the previous David Cameron government’s lax approach toward China. Even the screening mechanism it introduced, the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC), failed to provide complete assurances that all risks to British national security posed by Huawei's involvement in the UK's critical networks were 'sufficiently mitigated.' Last summer, representatives of the 'five eyes' (top intelligence chiefs for the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand) also decided to send strong warnings about risks presented by Huawei and ZTE, a state-owned Chinese telecommunications manufacturer.

"In Germany as well, there are concerns around the Chinese National intelligence law, as the intelligence community fears that Huawei could be asked by the Chinese government to incorporate 'backdoors' into their equipment, allowing access to encrypted data for spying or sabotage purposes. Deutsche Telekom has recently decided to review its vendor plans in light of recent debates of the security of Chinese network equipment while France’s Orange has already severed ties with Huawei. Under the guidance of ANSSI (Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d’Information) , French security agencies have been warning ministers for over a decade about potential risks, barring Huawei from government contracts—despite very competitive offers from the Chinese manufacturer."

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Huawei And The Race For 5G, The Latest Generation Of Cellphone Communication.” WBUR, January 29, 2019.