Next-generation telecoms network becomes global battleground for China, US

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/29 21:53:39

Reports that the US government may build a national fifth-generation (5G) telecoms network to counter the threat from China indicate that the next-generation wireless technology has become a key area of global competition between China and the US.

A proposal circulated by the US National Security Council involves a federal takeover of portions of the country's mobile broadband networks to build a centralized national 5G network by the end of US President Donald Trump's first term, according to documents obtained by US news outlet

The major reason behind the unprecedented proposal is that China "has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure," said the documents.

Although Reuters reported on Monday, citing a senior administration official, that the nationalization option is still being debated at a low level, the proposal underscores the escalating competition in the global telecommunication industry. The 5G technology, which will offer faster data speeds and more bandwidth capacity than the fourth-generation (4G) or third-generation (3G) networks, is expected to offer applications for a wide range of new technologies such as driverless cars, virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

It is true that Chinese telecommunication equipment producers like Huawei and ZTE have been enjoying a growing presence in the manufacture and operation of wireless networks. Industry reports also suggest that there will be more than 1 billion 5G users globally by 2023, with more than half based in China. But whether Chinese companies can dominate this next-generation mobile technology depends on whether they can take the lead in the race for a unified 5G standard.

Given the high price China paid for its lack of globally recognized standards for 3G and 4G networks, it is essential that the country does not miss the opportunity to establish an internationally accepted 5G standard to move up the global value chain.

Huawei has made remarkable progress in this aspect. On January 9, the company completed its 5G core network technical verification testing at China Mobile's Research Institute. In September 2017, German operator Deutsche Telekom and Huawei launched Europe's first 5G connection in Berlin.

But that's not enough. Many global carriers and telecom equipment makers are striving to develop 5G technology that could be agreed on by the International Telecommunication Union and put into practical use in 2020. The Chinese government needs to concentrate its technological resources to support the innovation of 5G technology to ensure the upper hand in the competition for the next-generation mobile network.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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