By Ubong Kingsley- Udoh
The debacle between Huawei and major US vendors like Google, Intel, and Qualcomm with a behemothic underpinning from the US Government is premised on who is going to be the leader in 5G. Huawei greatly positioned itself in all relevant parts of the network – from access, via backhaul, through the core. If the first generation (1G) brought about mobility in technology, the second generation (2G) brought us into the digital world. The third-generation (3G) saw the introduction of mobile data, while the fourth generation (4G) created the mobile broadband that we use today.
Unlike previous generations which took us a single step forward arithmetically (though in scale, it was always a big one), the fifth generation (5G) takes us multiple steps in varying directions. When you think 5G, think about Artificial Intelligence & Robotics, think about the Internet of Things, and think about Virtual & Augmented Reality. 5G will enable this technological phenomenon to be deployed at the speed of light through applications like the Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) providing increased capacity for mobile subscribers at a peak rate of over 1Gbps per customer.
These new applications that are 5G driven will, in turn, create new services to new addressable markets. For instance, the Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC), will enable massive Internet of Things applications like automatic meter reading and automated agriculture; and Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC), will enable mission-critical applications like autonomous drones (for delivery & supply chain services) and autonomous vehicles. These applications, stacked with the Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) application makes 5G a different type of generation.
5G will provide an exciting journey for mobile operators, ISPs and everyone who sees an opportunity with it, but it comes at a major price. There will be major network and operational challenges arising towards network and service evolution towards 5G, and most importantly, there are the NATIONAL SECURITY DIMENSIONS. Just as with 5G creating multidimensional opportunities, it creates its own multidimensional problems and that’s why the United States government is currently on overdrive in its campaign of calumny against Huawei. It started out with arresting the company’s CFO in Canada, now, it has metamorphosed into institutional proscriptions.
5G Multidimensional Challenges
With 5G, you need to deploy more sites and use higher RAN frequency bands which require shorter distances between the cell sites and end devices. This means massive network densification – with up to five times the number of cell sites in certain parts of the network when equated with the existing 4G infrastructure. Huawei has done this in many Chinese cities without having to go through the hassles of rigid environmental laws, and when pitted against the United States from a manpower point of view, will deploy 5G faster. CHINA WINS!
With 5G, the issue of capacity becomes a front-burner issue. Huawei will produce more 5G end devices with infinite capacity than any American manufacturers. The coup de grâce in this is that China remains the Mecca for cheap production, so either way the pendulum swings, it’s in Huawei’s favour. CHINA WINS!
With 5G, vendor agnosticism comes into play. Huawei network gears were built with neutrality in mind as compared to an American vendor like Cisco. 5G will see the banding together of multiple services over the same network and this will bring about the introduction of service orchestration techniques such as network slicing and segment routing, which are not little tasks in today’s networks. It’s a draw for China and the USA!
With 5G, network densification will be a constant as well as new markets, new services and new geographies and this will result in an intriguing operating environment. The truth remains that China has a superintending influence in Asia and in Africa and will establish frontier markets very quickly than the United States. So, from a scale and skill standpoint, the mass deployment will be a critical element in the quick adoption of 5G. CHINA WINS!
With 5G, and with the major players across the world, the national security imperatives of nation-states come into play. With American social media companies from Facebook to Twitter to Google, it has been oft-repeated that the CIA has backdoor access to these SaaS. Social media and user-generated contents platformed and American-owned, in general, is modern feudalism. There’s no shard of doubts that Huawei has created backdoor access in their devices, which will allow Beijing to listen in whenever it wants to. It’s now left for nation-states to read the riot’s acts to Huawei at the point of purchase about blocking out its spying holes. China wins!
Huawei’s contributions to the Android market cannot be over-emphasised. It contributed to the growth of Android globally at a time when every leading smartphone vendor was shrinking or stagnant. Huawei has long been prepared for this and the CEO, Ron Zhengfei has stated that the firm has no intention of changing its activities on the US request. We live in a balkanised and polarised world and it’s about time we stress-test these assumptions of globalism. With the rising nationalism in the United States, it’s clear that the best and the brightest aren’t all aggregating there as they should be.
If American brands like Google, Intel, and Qualcomm whose relationship with Huawei was forged at a very seminal moment in their companies lifecycle could follow through with a clampdown of their services and products at the behest of the United States government, then Huawei’s response should be a wake-up call, a sobriety check on rational company building, thoughtful business model construction, strategic operational guidance of a business and that’s in short supply.
The Chinese realised earlier on that money is always a lagging indicator of value and inflows are a lagging indicator of risk allocation, they decided to build their influence across the world’s new markets. The race towards the full adoption of 5G on a massive scale globally is at the advantage of Huawei and the last Chinese entity that acted as a sacrificial lamb to the US Government in this technological race was ZTE. Huawei CEO blurted out so toughly that even if they were given tax breaks and the free tools necessary to manufacture in the United States, they will not go there.