The latest move in the race to 5G came on Saturday when China threatened Germany with retaliation should the country exclude Huawei Technologies Co. as a supplier of 5G wireless equipment, citing the millions of vehicles German automakers sell in China.
“If Germany were to take a decision that leads to Huawei’s exclusion from the German market, there will be consequences,” said Ambassador Wu Ken. “The Chinese government will not stand idly by.”
China is Germany’s largest trading partner and the largest market for VW, Daimler and BMW.
The ambassador’s comments came after German lawmakers proposed a bill that would place a broad ban on 5G vendors deemed “untrustworthy.”
Politicians and intelligence officials in the U.S. have claimed that Huawei could be exploited by the Chinese government for espionage, posing potential national security risks. In May, President Trump signed an executive order barring U.S. companies from using technology from anyone considered a national security threat. The move was widely viewed as targeting Huawei, and the Trump administration has sought to enlist U.S. allies to take similar actions.
Huawei has denied that any of its products pose a security risk.
Trump’s ban on Huawei is part of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, and it could have big implications for the future of 5G.
What is 5G?
5G refers to the fifth-generation cellular network.
First-generation wireless allowed voice communication, followed by 2G which added text and 3G which enabled basic computing. 4G unleashed higher data speeds which allowed for greater mobile web access, gaming, high-definition video streaming, and more.
5G is even more powerful, with average download speeds of more than one gigabyte per second. That’s about 20 times faster than 4G.
5G is not widely available in U.S. just yet, and there aren’t very many people who even own devices capable of connecting to the ultra-fast network.
American carriers currently provide 5G service in select cities, with the promise to expand the service in the near future. The availability also varies between carriers. Right now, if Detroiters want to be part of the 5G network, they’ll need to go with Verizon.
The race to 5G
Last month, China’s three state-run carriers launched 5G service in 50 cities. Although US companies launched the service earlier in the year, China boasts the biggest 5G commercial network.
A major motivation for winning the race to 5G is that faster networks will create significant economic opportunities.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., in a February hearing stressed that 5G has the potential to revolutionize healthcare, agriculture and transportation in the U.S.
“To realize all of these benefits fully, the United States must win the global race to 5G,” Wicker said. “Failing to win the race to 5G would not only materially delay benefits for the American people, it would forever reduce the economic and societal gains that come from leading the world in technology.”
Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to hamper Huawei by blocking it from the American market, the Chinese company seems to be dominating the development of 5G.
In September, Huawei announced that it had scored more than 50 commercial 5G contracts globally. The closest competitors were most recently known to be Nokia with 45 commercial deals and Ericsson with 24.
Huawei is also shedding itself of its dependence on American chip manufacturers. With Trump’s executive order in May, American companies were temporarily restricted from shipping to Huawei. However, this did not hold the company back.
Huawei’s latest phone, the Mate 30, was launched in September and contains no U.S. parts, according to an analysis by UBS and Fomalhaut Techno Solutions.
The Mate 30 competes with Apple’s iPhone 11, which unlike Huawei’s new device, lacks any 5G capabilities.