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China's long march towards 5G foiled?

Updated: Jan 19, 2021

The 1980s brought the first generation (1G) of networks with voice-only, analog service. The top speed of data transmission on a 1G network reached around 2.4kbps. The 2G network began in Finland in 1991. The Japanese introduced us to the 3G in 1998. We are currently in the world of 4G which was brought upon by the USA in a large scale and it is almost 500 times faster than 3G. So where does China come in?


Even China wanted a piece of the action which would cement its status among the global elite. China saw 5G as its chance to lead wireless technology. Under government direction, Chinese companies started their research on 5G way back in 2013 and held technical trials in 2016. This meant that China already had an upper hand in 5G tech whereas countries like USA were about 2 years behind. So now what exactly is preventing the Chinese 5G monopoly?


It is a well- known fact that most of the companies in China have very close ties to the Communist government. No one really knows how the ownership of the tech giants in China work. So, the USA started raising objections about the Chinese 5G tech. They believed that companies such as Huawei would install hidden spyware in their telecom equipment and gain access to their sensitive data.


5G is viewed as the next revolution in tech. IOT is the bubble which is ready to blow when 5G begins to take center stage. Remote activation of software could be made possible, a world where self-driving cars would be a reality. A fridge which automatically places your grocery order. 5G can do it all. 5G brings us a world where machines can talk among themselves. Given all this, we are pretty sure that 5G is going to become omnipresent. So, probably the fears of the USA are not completely unreasonable. Are we really willing to take a chance with all our sensitive data now, knowing the scale of 5G?


So, the USA banned Huawei from selling products in their country and have asked many other countries to do the same. Countries like Japan, Australia, Vietnam have already agreed. Coming to India, the Indian government allowed Huawei to conduct trials for 5G network in December. But, they were still uncertain to let them use their equipment here.


However, everything changed after 20 Indian army soldiers were martyred after an altercation at the Indo-China border. The government has now asked BSNL and MTNL to stop using Chinese telecom gear. They have also pulled back from a recent tender floated by Chinese companies. They are also urging private telecom operators to cut their usage of Chinese gear. Currently China accounts for about 25% of the telecom gear used in India. The rest of the market comprises of Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and Korea’s Samsung. Switching to other companies now would not bode very well financially for our country as Chinese companies offer better financing models compared to others. Analysts now say that a complete ban of Chinese gear in India could delay deployment of 5G for another 3-4 years.


None of them seem to bother our country right now. It seems the Modi led government is willing to take the financial brunt for now. But how long will this play out? How can the government navigate out of this situation? Stay tuned.


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