The aim of the Monroe doctrine, which talks of “America for the Americans”, was for the United States to remain in control of the Americas, and it seems that the country wants to continue gaining ground, but this time through 5G technology.
The control that this country has exercised throughout the Americas is part of its foreign policy, a way to safeguard its interests. In terms of technology, this explains why the USA is openly opposed to the arrival of innovative and cheaper equipment, such as Chinese equipment.
A barrier to 5G
The race to roll out the fifth-generation mobile network is not just beginning. At least this is what Mike Rogers, a former Republican legislator from Michigan in the United States, has pointed out. Rogers alleges that Chinese companies, subsidized by the Chinese government, weaken their competition and are seeking to monopolize the 5G market.
Why is this mobile technology so important?
In the world of telecommunications, 5G means higher speed, better quality, and immediate response. “It’s not just connectivity: the fifth generation will innovate in all areas, including society and industry. What’s more, 5G could boost security,” says Jin-Hyo Park, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at SK Telecom.
In addition, there is a lot of money involved in the development and deployment of this technology. Between 2024 and 2034, 5G will contribute 2.2 trillion dollars to the global economy, according to estimates from GSMA, an organization that represents more than 750 telecommunications operators around the world.
For Rogers and the US government, the numbers have not gone unnoticed. President Donald Trump has accused Chinese companies of espionage, without this having been confirmed.
“Trump’s intentions have been very clear from the beginning. He wants to get a new trade agreement through a trade war,” says Efrén Páez, economist and independent telecommunications analyst.
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While the economic power of the United States is undeniable, some countries have managed to stick with their trade decisions. In June, Finnish company Nokia reported that it had signed a contract with Taiwan Mobile to migrate services to the 5G network. The deal, worth almost 450 million dollars, is to be completed in three years.
Nokia declined to comment immediately due to the quiet period prior to its quarterly report.
Even in Mexico, where 5G networks are not yet operational, their potential is enormous. A study by Nokia and Omdia indicates that long-term deployment in Mexico will have an economic and social impact worth 730 billion dollars by the year 2035.
“Network security depends on the vendors, and not on those who make the equipment or develop the software. This is what lies behind a technology war over 5G leadership. The United States wants to develop new business models and its only serious competitor is China,” says Jorge Bravo, President of the Mexican Association for the Right to Information (Amedi).
Here are some of countries continuing their trade partnerships with Chinese vendors, despite opposition from the United States:
The Brazilian government is currently analyzing whether to stop participation by the Chinese company Huawei in the construction of its 5G network.
Countries like Norway managing to detach themselves from the US boycott is only due to the search for better vendor opportunities for their telecommunications networks.
“The government is holding an open and productive discussion about security requirements. It is the direct responsibility of companies within the telecommunications sector to carry out their own risk assessments when selecting equipment vendors,” Nikolai Astrup, this Nordic country’s minister for local government and modernization, told Reuters earlier this month.
Give and take
Rather than a security issue, analysts point out that obstacles to the deployment of Chinese technology serve to gain time for the United States.
“By banning (companies like) Huawei, the United States wants regions like Europe and Asia Pacific to delay their projects by a year or two. (If it gains) that time, the United States of America would have an untouchable lead,” says Bravo.
While the United States is pressuring others not to use Chinese technology in their 5G network deployments, it is also offering its own alternatives to developing countries.
Just this Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed a memorandum of understanding to “promote secure and open 5G networks in the developing world”.
“The United States could contribute resources to ‘develop 5G’ without using technologies from these (Chinese) manufacturers. However, neither the scope of that intention, nor the mechanisms for distributing those resources, are clear. We don’t know whether there will be enough resources. It’s very ambiguous”, says Jesús Romo, Director of Telconomia.
More than money
With more than just money and jobs at stake, the United States’ barrier to Chinese technology is also about information management. “A war involving data rather than weapons would seem less harmful. However, this is very far from the truth. One example of this would be the great battle being fought over global 5G adoption,” says Ingrid Motta, Director of BrainGame Central.
5G is not only about innovative technology, “it’s the most powerful weapon needed to win this geopolitical war. The great battles are taking place over data, content, and deciding who will be the world power to revolutionize global economic relations,” adds Motta.
Meanwhile, companies like Huawei are only seeking to fulfill their commitments.
“Since the US began sanctions last year, American semiconductor manufacturers can no longer supply us. This means that our former US partners can no longer work with us. Since August, it has become even more difficult,” says Kurier Abraham Liu, Huawei’s Vice President for Europe, to Tec Review.
The fierce competition to develop technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence will continue. Germán Patiño, a specialist geopolitics professor at Tec de Monterrey, believes that governments will continue to support the creation and development of companies in these areas. “Those who develop the best products in the race for artificial intelligence will hold power in the 21st century,” he says.
Patiño explains that companies such as Alibaba are much more efficient and attractive than US companies for the Asian market. “But they don’t enter Mexico, because it would mean the reconfiguration of a model led by the United States across the Americas. China represents a great threat in that sense,” he says.
Even with these obstacles in place, companies like Huawei will not admit defeat. “We’re confident that we can continue to serve our European customers in the 5G sector due to many initial preparations and investments using the most advanced technology,” Liu says.