Axios News reports that the Trump administration is considering the prospect of nationalizing the forthcoming 5G network when it begins to be built in the United States. Naturally, this idea is controversial, as private enterprise has been in charge of much of commercially used spread spectrum technology in the the USA for decades.
The proposal would limit itself to 5G networks only, and not to previous technologies or different ones.
While the spectre of “government controlled” airwaves seems sinister, there is some good reasoning going on with regard to this technology.
4G is more or less confined to dealing with wireless devices – cell phones, data points and so on, and it offers extremely high speeds for data transfer. The full 4G standard, LTE, allows for mobile data speeds to have downloads up to 100Mbit/s and for non-mobile points to offer speeds up to 1000Mbit/s. These limits can be superseded by LTE Advanced which extends the speed of mobile applications significantly. This technology is still under development.
Most cellular systems throughout the world are using some variant of 4G-branded technology, and it is quite good. However it does have significant lag time and intermittently slower periods. The upcoming 5G standards are supposed to deal with this, but it is not intended to help you gain access to movie tickets faster.
5G is being styled as the wireless data standard that will enable what has come to be called the Internet of Things. It is expected to deliver data up to 100 times faster than currently available technologies do. Included in this are self-driving cars and other transportation forms, virtual reality, wearable internet technology (think Augmented Reality, like Google Glass), extreme real-time communication, ultra-reliable and lifeline communication and other services. While the standards are still being defined, this list gives some idea of what we are expecting:
- Data rates of tens of megabits per second for tens of thousands of users
- Data rates of 100 megabits per second for metropolitan areas
- 1 Gb per second simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor
- Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections for wireless sensors
- Spectral efficiency significantly enhanced compared to 4G
- Coverage improved
- Signaling efficiency enhanced
- Latency reduced significantly compared to LTE.
The reason for the concern about cybersecurity on this network has to do with China’s notably strong abilities with Artificial Intelligence and the fear that China or other states with bad intent could hack into an American 5G network and cause major disruption, even fatalities by interference with devices dependent on this technology.
Think about if that self-driving car of yours gets hacked and decides to drive off a cliff or into a crowd, or if the self-driving semi is used to deliver a bomb or just simply refuse to run. Imagine a whole fleet of these being paralyzed and cutting off food shipments from one part of the country to another.
This worry is based on reportedly sensitive documents obtained by Axios, and it makes some sense as to why the government might want to nationalize and therefore control all aspects of security on a system that essentially would be a major functional part of our actual infrastructure.
Since private industry usually competes to build out such networks and since this 5G network would also manage the traditional device regíme that all previous cell networks have done, there is certainly vested interest in the carriers having some business say about what should happen with this new technology when it is developed and begins to be implemented.
For now, all is talk. 5G is not fully defined yet – in fact, 4G has not even been fully achieved in commercial use just yet, and various aspects of the Internet of Things are still under development, such as those self-driving cars. In fact, this technology still has a chance of fading out as a novelty, as it is uncertain how trustworthy such devices can really be, and also simply whether or not people are truly comfortable automating cars and trucks and even planes in such a manner. But we can be sure that this topic will become more widely discussed as innovation and implementation move forward.