Ned Ryun: The critical 5G war

There’s a war going on for your next cell phone network. You might not have heard about it, but last week President Trump made a major move to protect American interests and support American technology superiority.

By announcing a broad deployment of 5G networks and financial incentives for American companies to keep pace with China and other competitors, Trump is continuing his administration's push on the 5G front. This is just the next step in the battle over who will control the future of 5G. Congress, our executive branch, and American companies need to understand what’s at stake with the development and implementation of 5G networks, especially as it relates to China.

We’re on the cusp of the next revolution in internet connectivity. The fifth generation of cellular technology, or 5G, is upon us. 5G isn’t just an incremental advance in technology: it's a giant leap forward. If done right, we’ll see significantly faster speeds not only on our cell phones, but also for Internet of Things devices.

WHAT IS 5G AND WHY IS IT A BIG DEAL?

The last big advance in network technology helped make technologies like Lyft, Uber, and many more possible. With speeds upwards of 100 times faster than 4G, 5G can be the same kind of engine, spurring another generation of technology growth in agriculture, transportation, medicine and manufacturing. So it’s crucial that America leads the way.

Last week, President Trump announced a $20 billion fund to help wireless companies keep pace with Chinese-government-backed ventures. But our government must do more: it must unleash free market competition and then, more importantly, get out of the way.

To avoid Chinese control of the 5G space, our government needs to avoid any heavy-handed, centralized regulatory scheme and allow the markets to thrive and drive our growth. The FCC under Ajit Pai has already begun this, by making it easier for companies to install 5G infrastructure.

New 5G cell stations are not the mega towers of the previous generation, and instead can be the size of backpacks in some cases. Our old regulatory scheme was designed with these towers in mind, but the FCC’s relaxing of mandates has spurred not only job growth but infrastructure investment.

For more competition in the marketplace, the FCC and DOJ should approve the Sprint and T-Mobile merger to allow for a virtual technology arms race to occur between Verizon, AT&T and the new Sprint T-Mobile company. The benefactors of this competition? The American people. In other instances, like the FTC's suit against Qualcomm, one of our leaders in 5G technology, we are being our own worst enemies.

On a much larger scale, this is really is a question of whether we think our free market approach can triumph over a subsidized, government-run economy on one of the most important issues of our day. Because we must recognize that entities like Huawei are not companies in the sense that Americans understand them.

They are state-backed entities, working hand-in-glove with the autocratic government of China. Allowing these pseudo state actors to control this crucial new technology paves the way for further Chinese influence and eventually domination in the tech space.

This is absolutely a battle of world views. America represents a world with free and open access to the internet, the free flow of information, and that values, although doesn’t always practice, privacy, avoids government intrusion, and allows for innovation and growth.

The Chinese internet is one of centralized control, with constant tracking and surveillance by government actors, government control of the flow of information, and the massive abuse of the rights and privacy of its citizens. We can’t allow the Chinese model to be adopted by the world.

Some analysts say that we’re behind in this race to win the 5G battle, and now we have reports that as Huawei is already making aggressive inroads in the 5G space, it is also building and repairing underwater internet cables that are data superhighways carrying 95 percent of our data and voice traffic.

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Underwater internet cables have been a field in which America has traditionally led, but Bloomberg reported recently that Huawei is now involved in building or repairing of 100 of these underwater cables, having just completed the 4,000-mile cable between Cameroon and Brazil. Ask yourself this: do you really think a company subsidized by a Communist police state didn’t backdoor that cable to capture all of the information flow?

America can’t be asleep at the wheel. Chinese-backed ventures have been quietly working on winning the 5G race for many years. Trump is absolutely right on the United States winning the 5G battle: we can’t allow ourselves to be beaten by an authoritarian state bent on its own form of world influence.