Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections can travel at multigigabit speeds, with potential peak speeds as high as 20 gigabits per second (Gbps) by some estimates. These speeds exceed wireline network speeds and offer latency of 1 millisecond (ms) or lower for uses that require real-time feedback. 5G will also enable a sharp increase in the amount of data transmitted over wireless systems due to more available bandwidth and advanced antenna technology.
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A big conference will be held in Germany soon. Its primary speakers are the foreign ministers of China, Japan, India and South Korea. There is concern in Europe that the nations of Europe will never have 5G independence. Germany’s cybersecurity chief struck a pessimistic tone at a pre-Munich cyber conference: “If you talk about digital sovereignty, we don’t have it. And we’ll never have it.” There will be presentations by Pelosi, Pompeo and Zuckerberg as well. [Politico]
The idea of sovereignty may undergo significant political transformation if, as feared, whole nations are just uplinks to a few communication systems owned and operated by a few nations like China and the US. National privacy, very much like personal privacy, may not be available. In the old days the spy business used to be a face-to-face transaction but with China manufacturing its technical equipment and the US eavesdropping, no nation will have secrets.
The US already is pushing back on China for a number of manufactured items used in smartphones and cloud-based games. The US asked the European Union not to install Huawei hardware but, said the EU, what else is there? The US is behind China in 5G development.
Nations, just as with a person’s decision making, will be influenced by 5G operators who already know what the target nation is thinking, what its economic conditions are and where its vulnerabilities lie. What will this do to traditional diplomatic relationships? Will a robot wearing suit and tie replace Pompeo?
A current model may provide insight. At the turn of the millennium there were 12 significant stock exchanges around the world. The differences in time zone meant that transactional business for a given stock exchange was local and finished before other stock exchanges opened. Today, that is not the case. An investor can issue trades to any exchange in the world at any time of day. An investor doesn’t have to miss daily opportunities that would be gone had the investor had to wait until the exchange opened for business the next day.
Continuous access has the effect of leveling the monetary value of daily interactions between exchanges. It also reduces the range of highs and lows relative to other exchanges.
Applying these causes and effects to nations using 5G, the positive side may be the prevention of surprises that lead to political or military conflict. The downside may be a new form of authoritarianism – similar to the direction AI is taking with US citizens.