China has launched 5G capabilities in 50 cities across the country in what is being called one of the biggest single rollouts of the super-fast mobile network technology.
Experts warn that the massive switch to 5G threatens to vault China past the U.S not only with regards to the consumer benefits the technology can afford but also in its military and robotics applications. 5G networks enable quicker decision-making for robots, and easier communication among dispersed military units or drones.
“This launch demonstrates the effectiveness of China’s massive government push to 5G,” said Paul Scharre, director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
Chinese network giant Huawei is a key player in the rollout of the new networks, and the recent bans and sanctions implemented against the company by the U.S., along with a renewed call by President Trump’s administration for a focus on homegrown solutions, have placed even more of a spotlight on the news coming out of China.
The number of industries that rely on wireless communication is large and continues to grow, and a wider rollout of 5G networks and the speeds granted by them could provide a major boost to the technology sector as a whole in addition to the role they play as a potential military tool.
“If 5G is so revolutionary that it unlocks incredible new kinds of economic growth and tech development, then a slower rollout in the U.S. could harm our competitiveness and could hollow out tech companies,” says Jon Bateman, a fellow in the Cyber Policy Initiative of the Technology and International Affairs Program of the Carnegie Endowment.
While there are some 5G networks up and running in parts of the U.S. and Europe, they are much more limited in scope than the rollout seen this week in China.
According to a report from Reuters, Trump recently said the U.S. would cooperate with “like-minded nations” in developing 5G technology, and once again implored allies to avoid Huawei’s services.