5G cellular networks a defining geopolitical dilemma

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The rollout of speedy new cellular networks is a geopolitical turning point‭, ‬but almost nobody yet recognizes this‭.‬
The rollout of fifth-generation cellular networks around the world will likely be a defining geopolitical dilemma of 2020‭. ‬But American and European consumers could easily mistake 5G for just another marketing ploy for early adopters—to the detriment of democracies worldwide‭.‬
When the number in the corner of our smartphone screens changed from 3G to 4G‭, ‬few of us even noticed‭. ‬Ditto when LTE‭, ‬another step in the evolution of cellular networks‭, ‬appeared as an alternative to 4G‭. ‬Still‭, ‬for the better part of the past two years‭, ‬wireless carriers on both sides of the Atlantic have been hyping 5G—which‭, ‬they promise‭, ‬will offer data speeds of up to 100‭ ‬times faster than current connections‭. ‬Tech futurists say fifth-generation networks will support a plethora of internet-connected sensors‭, ‬vehicles‭, ‬appliances‭, ‬and other devices that will perform functions yet unimagined‭.‬
In Europe‭, ‬the walls of nearly every major airport from Stockholm and Brussels to Lisbon and Madrid have been plastered with 5G‭-‬related ads‭. ‬In the United States‭, ‬network providers such as AT&T have even rolled out what they’re calling‭ ‬“5GE”‭ ‬networks—a pre-5G deployment that capitalizes on the vaguely futuristic branding of fifth-generation networks even before all the requisite new radios and chipsets have been installed‭. ‬Still‭, ‬7‭ ‬of 10‭ ‬Americans tell PricewaterhouseCoopers they’ll wait patiently to receive a 5G device until they are eligible for an upgrade from their current provider‭.‬
Amid this much public indifference‭, ‬5G may seem like an unlikely battleground between China and the West‭. ‬Yet the transition to‭ ‬5G may mark the point‭, ‬after decades of Chinese integration into a globalized economy‭, ‬when Beijing’s interests diverge irreconcilably from those of the United States‭, ‬the European Union‭, ‬and their democratic peers‭. ‬Because of a‭ ‬failure of imagination‭, ‬Western powers risk capitulating in what has become a critical geopolitical arena‭. ‬Simply put‭, ‬neither‭ ‬the American nor the European public seems to view the networks that supply Snapchat clips and Uber cars as anything close to a‭ ‬security threat‭.. ‬

Al Jundi

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