The Canadian plan to build a 5G network, which could be around 2020, has been very focused in recent months, following the arrest of the Canadian authorities of a high level executive to the Huawei technologies in China. Ottawa is now under growing pressure to block Huawei from developing its 5G technology in Canada, as experts warn that it would pose a national security risk.
But what exactly are 5G networks? And why security problems? Here, we give you a (very) brief explanation about what is 5G, and why it matters:
What is 5G?
Fifth generation networks, or 5G, are basically a faster and reliable version of wireless connectivity. They come after four generations of past improvements. 2G brought us text messages, while 4G introduced video transmission and other capabilities, which gave us access to a number of new mobile services such as Uber and Spotify.
5G marks a great leap forward in this wireless technology. Unlike previous networks, which basically connected devices through unidirectional interactions, 5G would have innumerable connectivity points, creating something that could be considered a grid pattern or what experts call a "network of networks ".
If it is applied to the maximum, the technology would obtain data from almost any device, from mobile phones to stand-alone cars to appliances (for example, a smart device that catalogs and organizes food that is supplied to the refrigerator ). It will also be much faster. Users can download a movie of two hours in less than four seconds, about six minutes today (or 26 hours under 3G technology).
How it works?
This connectivity of the devices, also called Internet of Things (IoT), would require the transmission of immense data amounts. The current facilities simply can not handle a quick ramp so quickly.
"The conclusion is that this unit, this momentum for more data, will require a lot of performance," said Glenn McDougall of Doyletech Corp.
The data in a 5G network is transmitted through hardware such as satellites, antennas and sensors, as well as advanced software. A large part of these data will reach through super small satellites, which companies are starting to grow frequently, and at a much lower cost.
Planet Labs, a North American company, is currently launching up to 300 small orbiting satellites that will be able to photograph Earth's entire earth on a daily basis (the satellites weigh 12 pounds and are not bigger than a package, unlike the clunky satellites that the space agencies used to launch, which were the size of a small or larger car).
Who are the players?
Telus and ECB, or Bell Canada, are associating to build 5G technology along with Huawei. His Canadian rival, Rogers, is working with Swedish telecommunication Ericsson – a leading rival in Huawei.
Nokia, Samsung and ZTE from China are the other great 5G developers. Last week, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains announced $ 40 million in new funds for Nokia, which operates in Canada.
Why the security risk?
Currently, Ottawa is reviewing the offer of Huawei to develop 5G technology in Canada. Security experts have warned that the Chinese government could use Huawei to intercept confidential data. This claim is mainly due to the concerns that Chinese companies, particularly state-owned enterprises, are forced to act on behalf of the Communist Party of China if they ask to do so. A similar argument was made against the acquisition project of 1,500 million US dollars of the Canadian construction company Aecon last year by a Chinese conglomerate that was eventually blocked by Ottawa.
Experts say that the vast amount of connections and the integrated nature of 5G networks provide hackers with a much greater opportunity to enter the system through so-called "back doors". And the risks are much higher: a data breach in an extensive 5G network would provide a data group that is much deeper than in current networks.
A new cold war?
Experts warn that divisions about 5G are just the beginning of a larger technological struggle between the United States and China, some have called the "New Cold War". After years of greater collaboration between governments and companies that build technologies such as 5G, security concerns and other geopolitical afflictions are beginning to erode this progress.
In particular, a protracted trade war between the US and China, and the threats of US President Donald Trump to ban certain Chinese technology companies from the US supply chain could further divide the technology scene worldwide Without change, this can lead to a world where technological progress between countries is much less uniform and integrated.