The big picture: As more systems become interconnected to the Internet of Things (IoT), more wireless bandwidth is vital to keeping the data flowing smoothly. Being the frontrunner in building the 5G infrastructure is equally essential.
Although 5G technology is still quite far from being broadly implemented, the US military says, "Space-based communications will play a key role in connecting 5G devices." Officials also believe it will be vital to many of the missions taken by the newly formed Space Force. They feel the US should be the one to pave the way for the next generation of telecommunications technology.
“We need to up our game in 5G. As more autonomy moves to the edge of the internet of things, it’s going to have to be supported by more bandwidth,” said Air Force acquisition officer Will Roper. “It would be a shame if something that is going to control most of the data moving from machine to machine commercializes first overseas.”
The military supports the Huawei ban and hopes that our allies continue to stand behind it, too. While skirting around specifics, officials said a Chinese foothold in the US and friendly countries could undermine military operations.
“Our partnerships and our alliances and our friendships, we are about collaboration and cooperation, our adversaries are about coercion,” Lieutenant General David Thompson, one of the new commanders of the Space Force, told CNBC last week.
Democratic lawmakers in the US share the sentiment that China poses a 5G threat. In one of the few times that the House majority leader voiced agreement with the Trump administration, Nancy Pelosi urged allied countries not to use Huawei equipment, albeit for different reasons.
“If you want to build a collective conscience of values and respect for human rights and the rest, don’t go near Huawei and instead, let’s internationalize and build something together that will be about freedom of information,” the Speaker said at a security conference in Munich.
The consensus is that China would use 5G as an intelligence-gathering vector. The Trump administration banned the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment by government agencies and contractors in 2018, at the same time warning neighbor nations to do the same.
Intelligence officials in the US have long suspected Huawei of being a spying tool for the Chinese government, an allegation the company vehemently denies. However, earlier this year, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that the US has “evidence” proving the claims are valid.
“We have evidence that Huawei has the capability secretly to access sensitive and personal information in systems it maintains and sells around the world,” O’Brien said without giving specifics citing to security concerns.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo views all Chinese run tech companies as suspect, calling them “Chinese intelligence Trojans.”
Air Force Commander General Jeffrey Harrigian summed up the situation saying, “At the end of the day, I think we need to be clear-eyed [about] what the Chinese are trying to do with 5G. It’s something that globally we need to pay attention to because that’s a threat that frankly if you don’t pay attention to it, you’re going to get yourself in a square corner.”
Pelosi image credit: Sheila Fitzgerald via Shutterstock