The 5G Pandora Box: An Ultimate Kingmaker

Thong Ming Sen

August 9, 2020

On 2 September 1945, World War Two (WWII) ended with the signing of an official surrender by Japan aboard the USS Missouri. Given the sufferings and hardships caused by WWII, one would think that humanity has learnt its lessons well.

As with most things in life, the sands of time has left WWII as not much more than a historical event to be honored albeit as one which has shook humanity to its very core.

Fast forward to 2020, a large part of the generation of humanity which fought in WWII has passed on bringing with them the bitter memories of the atrocities and torment of the war.

Not unlike the conditions which led to WWII, the current global political climate is brimming with an explosive concoction of nationalistic pride, ideological intolerance and military hostility.

Case in point is the United States (U.S)-China trade war which is threatening to escalate into a cold war whereby at the center of it all is the technological double-edged sword that is 5G.

5G and Its Contextual Background

From the outset, it has to be noted that notwithstanding the fact that China is leading by a mile in terms of 5G development the technology itself was neither created nor owned by China but instead is a successor to the existing 4G networks.

In terms of its objective, the development of 5G is primarily aimed at paving the way for the establishment of a global Internet of Things (IoT) architecture whereby everyone and everything including machines, objects, and devices are connected as part of an overarching ecosystem.

Notwithstanding the persistent attacks by the US against China’s Huawei which is the current front-runner in terms of 5G development, the technology itself would presumably be able to prevail as the cloud-native digital transformation which is taking over the world by storm is not likely to be deterred by mere import bans and other trade tactics due to some geo-political brouhaha.

On a more positive note, there has been much progress in the unified development of 5G standards by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which is a coalition of standards organizations from the US, Europe, China, Japan, India, and South Korea, whereby this illustrates the manner in which countries can come together to spur the growth of the technology.

Given the immense potential of 5G, it is unsurprising that even major corporations in developed countries such as Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and NEC are turning to the technology to boost their operations.

In this connection, e-commerce and internet giant Rakuten have also gotten in on the act through the development of its 5G-based virtualized, software-defined mobile service which is set to be the world’s first.

For the Asian continent in general, the region’s export-oriented economy renders it to be particularly vulnerable to the prevailing twin notions of protectionism and automation.

All the more reason for Asia to join the 5G bandwagon for the digitization of the region’s economy as part of its efforts to develop into a mature market i.e. one which is less reliant on export and which can stand on its own two feet.

The 5G Factor

As humanity forges ahead in its quest for progress and advancement, 5G technology would be a central piece in the global technological agenda. It is perhaps rather ironic that the development of 5G is being sidetracked due to the actions of the world’s biggest debtor i.e. U.S against its largest creditor i.e. China.

Perhaps the U.S’ actions are nothing more than political power play to maintain its hegemony over the global order. However if the lessons of WWII are anything to go by, hegemony is a dangerous thing.

Paradoxically, 5G which is supposed to be the technology which unites the world is threatening to tear it apart though this is not too surprising given the envious and suspicious tendencies of human nature which manifests themselves on a macro level in the form of vendetta and mistrusts respectively on the global political scene.

Unlike WWII which had sheer military might as its focal point, if and when a World War is to take place during our time, digital technologies such as 5G would likely play a critical role in deciding who will fall and who shall rise.

Sources: National WW2 Museum, Qualcomm, Ericsson, Wired, RCWireless, TechHQ, SCMP and Visual Capitalist.

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About the author
Thong Ming Sen

Contributing Author

Combining his professional experience as a corporate legal practitioner with his knowledge of blockchain, Ming Sen finds it fascinating to explore the endless possibilities of blockchain particularly in the regulatory domains of the financial services and capital markets sectors.

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