[Column] The US-China tech wars in 6G

Posted on : 2020-10-29 18:46 KST Modified on : 2020-10-29 18:46 KST

Washington seems to be scrambling to make up for its losses against Beijing in cutting-edge advancements

On Oct. 13, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) announced the launch of the Next G Alliance. The founding members of the alliance are major North American tech companies such as Cisco, Qualcomm, AT&T, Bell Canada, Intel, Facebook, Microsoft, and Verizon, along with Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia.

The Next G Alliance has staked out a clear goal: namely, laying the foundation for North America to take the lead in sixth-generation (6G) mobile technology and other areas of cutting-edge communications technology over the next few decades.

Speeds from 6G will be 50 times faster than 5G. Although 5G communication is just getting on its feet, the world is already jumping into competition over 6G. That can be attributed to the “new cold war” between the US and China.

Hegemony over the latest technology is determined by who can develop and standardize a faster high-speed communication network. Americans underestimated the Chinese, leading to the US’ defeat in their competition over 5G, the first skirmish in this technological struggle.

China has used Huawei’s 5G communications equipment to flaunt its technological prowess. That has given China a springboard for taking a commanding lead over the US in face and voice recognition, quantum computing, electronic payments, and drone technology. If the US can’t compete on communication networks, it will also lose ground in the military, aerospace, medicine, and energy.

A greater sense of urgency is driving the US to try to claw back the lead in cutting-edge technology that it lost to China by stealing a march on 6G technology.

The US government is trying to crush Huawei through tough sanctions while also asking its allies to join the Clean Network, hoping to oust Chinese companies from global communications networks and mobile app markets. Washington’s apparent strategy is to buy time by sanctioning Chinese companies while American companies team up with Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia to gain an edge in 6G technology.

China is countering by pouring its own energy into 6G development. Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party recently said that the most important topics in collective study sessions are next-generation information technology, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.

The party assembled 374 leaders for the 19th Central Committee’s 5th plenary session on Oct. 25-29, where they are devising a global strategy to prevail against American pressure. That strategy will center on building up the domestic market and achieving high-tech independence.

While we are bickering over the nature of the Korean War, 70 years after hostilities ended, what we ought to focus on right now is not the past but the future.

By Park Min-hee, editorial writer

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