Every day there are more headlines about China’s rise in 5G, the next generation of wireless communications technologies, and the economic and national security risks to the United States that go along with these developing technologies.
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On June 12, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co. had asserted more than 200 patents against Verizon Communications Inc., reportedly demanding more than $1 billion in licensing fees. On its face, this would seem to be a private patent dispute.
For the past several months, American policymakers have sought to convince allies, partners and potential partners to ban Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from supplying the entirety of, or components for, 5G communications networks around the world. This messaging campaign has centered primarily around concerns that Huawei could assist the Chinese government in spying on other countries or even shutting down or manipulating their 5G networks in a warlike scenario.
On Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear expert testimony on the development of 5G infrastructure from the following witnesses:
Today, Lawfare published an article by Alexei Bulazel, Sophia d’Antoine, Perri Adams and Dave Aitel on “The Risks of Huawei Risk Mitigation” that seemingly disagrees with an earlier piece of mine on the topic.
While there is widespread agreement that Huawei devices in 5G infrastructure pose some risk to the U.S. and allied nations, the policy community—in particular the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre—has paid insufficient attention to the technical aspects. The discussion must examine not simply whether China would use this technology maliciously, but the specific threats that Huawei equipment could pose and the extent to which these threats can be mitigated.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed last week on CNBC that U.S. and Chinese negotiators have reached agreement on an “enforcement mechanism” as part of negotiations over a bilateral trade deal. Mnuchin specified that both sides “will establish enforcement offices that will deal” with matters of compliance.
In a letter released Wednesday, six former combatant commanders and intelligence chiefs outlined “grave concerns” about risks posed by Chinese-developed 5G networks, including espionage, constraints on U.S. military operations, and threats to democracy and human rights. The letter is available here and below.
Based on cybersecurity concerns, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have staked out policy positions that prevent or strongly discourage the acquisition of Huawei 5G technology for use in the national communications infrastructure of these nations. Other U.S. allies have announced or are considering policy positions that do not go so far and would indeed allow such acquisition at least to some extent.
5G promises to revolutionize how people use technology. From transportation to health care to entertainment, the way people interact with wireless internet devices will change substantially. And as 5G enables data to be transmitted much more quickly, the number of devices connected to the internet will likely explode, producing massive economic benefits for those who can quickly take full advantage of the new technology.