Why 5G Technology Is A Geopolitical Issue

5G technology only came into operation in 2019, yet at the expected rapid rate of deplyment will soon become  commoplace and while 5G networks are leveraging technologies that are software-centric are moving from custom hardware to software components running on commercial hardware. 

While 5G will certainly increases speeds, there are a number of issues that still to be dealt with. In particular, the increase in software content across 5G platform raises problems, as these technology innovations are widening the attack surface of the system. 

While 5G core network functions are making use of a new and different software architecture, common technologies like HTTP and REST APIs that are well known are replacing proprietary interfaces of the past. All of these things increase the potential for cyber security attacks and vulnerabilities.

Much attention has been paid to the economic and espionage implications of a Chinese lead in developing and operating 5G infrastructure, but the military implications remain largely overlooked.  The military applications of 5G technology have vital strategic and battlefield implications for the US. Historically, the US military has reaped enormous advantages from employing cutting edge technology on the battlefield. 5G technology holds similar innovative potential.

Perhaps most obviously, the next generation of telecommunications infrastructure will have a direct impact on improving military communications, however, it will also produce cascading effects on the development of other kinds of military technologies, such as robotics and artificial intelligence. 

Space-based communications will play a key role in connecting 5G devices and the US military officials have expressed concern over China winning the race to 5G. 

The global competition over 5G technology has accelerated. The Trump administration is working to isolate China’s Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, from developing a larger foothold in US partner countries. 
For instance, if the United States was conducting a military operation in an area of interest to China, it is plausible that the Chinese government could leverage Huawei to intercept or even deny military communications. 

The administration has specifically worked to keep members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group, the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, from working with Huawei, although his has not worked in UK, which is still saying it will implement a reduced version of 5G’s Chinese operations. 

Huawei won't be allowed to have its technology involved in key parts of the UK's Critical National Infrastructure, 'core' parts of communications networks, or at sensitive military or nuclear sites. On top of this, the government is also putting a restriction on the amount of a network that Huawei can own: 35 per cent.

In any event, China's Huawei will have strong 5G presence is a concern for the US military as it could potentially undermine operations will increasngly rely more on 5G connectivity, and cannoy risk having China involved in building out American infrastructure using Chinese-made tech from the likes of Huawei.

Although there are plenty of companies from around the world that are building 5G mobile networks (Nokia, Samsung, Ericsson, to name but three), a seriously big player across the world is Huawei and the Five Eyes intelligence operation believes Huawei to be run by the Chinese Government. 

TechRadar:        Council On Foreign Relations:        I-HLS:       Wired

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