The shock of COVID-19 is wearing off. We are gradually attempting a, somewhat, painful attempt to return to a modified normal that will take some getting used to.
Apparently, that worries the White House and some of the administration. I guess they are looking for hooks to hang their hats on as the elections draw near. One of those hooks is, of course, 5G. Seems there is some renewed activity in the 5G hype department from that direction; most recent being Attorney General William Barr.
And, not only 5G. There has been noise from the White House about 6G as well.
It always humors me when politicians try to speak intelligently about technology. By intelligently I mean what they are coached by advisors who know even less about technology and use sources such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, Faux News, and other consumer publications that think they understand technology.
Lately, Barr has been pitching how badly we need 5G. His main angle is national security. He has been banging the 6G drum, as well, although only the brightest minds in telecom have an inkling of what 6G is going to look like. Their favorite line is that 6G will be what was left out of 5G.
Meanwhile, back to the politicians.
Since COVID-19 is off the table as a winner for Trump and company, and certainly the economy is not something he can “trump”-et right now, what is left? National security, that is what.
I cannot remember a time when telecommunications was even a glimmer in any politician’s re-election wheelhouse. However, Trump needs something to use for the upcoming elections. Demonizing Huawei and using them as a springboard for frightening the consumer about national security seems to be his latest angle. So, it is back to the race to 5G and 6G, if one listens to Barr.
This came out of the recent Global CTO Roundtable on 5G Integrated and Open Networks (ION). Barr got on the soapbox, saying, “The United States and our partners are in an urgent race against China to develop and build 5G infrastructure around the world. Our national security and the flourishing of our liberal democratic values here and around the world depend on our winning it.”
OMG! Really, Barr? I have heard some really ridiculous statements made by members of this administration. However, this one is way over the top. I guess someone forgot to inform this administration that the “race” to 5G is long over. He did get one thing right when he noted that, “Unfortunately, China is well on its way to seizing a decisive 5G advantage.” There is more, but like any good politician, much is just rhetoric and filler.
The real story is that 5G was never a race, as I have parroted often. I guess these people in the top slots have not been reading my editorial. So, for their sake, one more time, 5G is a march and not a race. Not all nations see it the same way. And not all nations are in the “race.” Luckily, most media outlets and company marketing diatribes have dropped the race mentality. This latest volley from Barr and the constant rhetoric from Trump about 5G and national security has no basis in fact. 5G, in itself, will do nothing more for national security than any other communications technology. In fact, AI will be a much stronger platform for security than a new wireless telecom infrastructure. 5G will, if they get it right, have levels of security built-in. However, 5G, actually, has little to do with national security and more to do with overall security.
Next, let us drill down on 6G for a moment. 6G is not even a solid theory yet. All of the talk around it is no more than looking into the crystal ball of future applications and technology. Of course, it will be the child of 5G in many ways but if one listens to the noise, some of it claims it will be a completely different animal – more so than 5G was over 4G. It will incorporate technologies and applications (quantum computing, for example). That are barely nascent today, or even undiscovered.
Presently, there are some loose ideas floating around to try and congeal the Jello that think tanks believe will be 6G. There are various vectors, such as standards organizations, trying to come up with a viable option to examine 6G. However, there is little tangible activity, presently.
Back to a different vector on 5G. The talking heads in Washington are in a catch-22 around it. Without a doubt, if the present track continues and the U.S. disengages from China; technologically, it is probable that the U.S. will fall farther and farther behind the longer this goes on.
To replace China’s and, particularly, Huawei’s technology will take some time and cost the U.S. lots of money. For example, chumming up to TSMC to entice them with financial incentives to build a fab in Arizona will take several years before they are fully functional. And, cozying up to international companies such as Ericsson, Samsung, and others will also take some time to ramp up. Then there is the issue of meeting the demands at a reasonable cost, which is questionable without low-cost labor.
As well, mostly American companies, such as Intel and Cisco, will also take time to ramp up. And, again, cost of goods will be an issue. By then, we will be quite far behind and any belief that we will be as advanced, technologically, as China is only a dream. Port that to 6G and China will be there way before the U.S.
And, do not forget the cost factor. China has been the go-to for technology manufacturing because the can do it cheaply. Made in America will never be able to compete on a cost basis. And will telecoms and other wireless players do it here, whatever the cost? Meanwhile, China is supplying much of the rest of the world, save the United States and, recently, the United Kingdom.
Finally, there is the argument that we can go to Korea or India or some developing nation somewhere for cheap goods. However, such nations have other issues that pose challenges, such as India’s power, transportation, resource infrastructure and of course, political environments.
When all is said and done, the path that the United States is taking will not likely turn out the way this administration envisions it. As well, the cost to the taxpayer to subsidize made-in-America technology might just be more than they are willing to pay.