5G is the latest generation of wireless technology. Even more than its predecessors, it is supposed to bring tremendous benefits for both enterprises and consumers. However, 5G has also started to be perceived as critical infrastructure, and has therefore become one of the biggest fields of competition among global powers today. With a focus primarily on the EU and its relations with China, this paper aims to better understand the core stakes in the 5G debate.
First of all, 5G should be understood in the context of a more geopolitical world order caused by the rise of China as a global technology leader and as a consequence of this new mindset, economic benefits in and of themselves are no longer seen as being sufficient. There is an overt need to balance commercial gains with strategic sovereignty, global influence and dependency concerns. Secondly, the future of the 5G market is Chinese-led. This opens up to a series of substantial economic opportunities for European companies such as Ericsson and Nokia, while it also poses significant challenges. Thirdly, in the implementation of 5G, the EU is lagging behind. Learning from the 5G case, the EU and its Member States make an effort to catch up and look beyond the horizon in developing a common approach and vision on 6G.
This policy brief concludes with key takeaways including that the EU takes the lead together with China in the 5G standardisation agenda; that the EU should carve a middle way by strengthening its economic ties and cooperation with China, without harming its historical transatlantic ties; that the EU must develop a common and coordinated approach to avoid backlogs, partly fuelled by unscientific populist agendas.
Author: Luca Tarantino, Junior Researcher