The road to development and prosperity of 5G: How to cope with the new challenges of technology, security and ideology

12 Apr 2019 09:00h - 10:45h

Event report


Mr Fang Xingdong (Director, Communication University of Zhejiang, China) welcomed the audience to the panel on 5 Generation (5G) networks saying that, ‘5G is just one of the topics around the world, but it is not only an innovative technology, but a mark of a societal revolution.’

In a video message, Mr Manual Castells (University Professor and Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society, University of Southern California) made two points. Firstly, that new technologies and innovations are possible only because of a constantly developing infrastructure. The most important way to advance the Internet and human values is to cooperate through infrastructure.
Secondly, infrastructure triggers geopolitical confrontations. He reflected on the accusations against Huawei by the United States for corporate espionage, and classified this as false. According to Castells, cyber concerns around spying through the existing infrastructure, and the high density of electromagnetic antennae whose negative effect on human health is still unknown, are slowing down the development of 5G.

Mr Jovan Kurbalija (Executive Director, Secretariat of the UN High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation) focused on the fragile understanding of the fact that we are jumping into a new phase which will be more challenging in terms of ethics, data, security, and privacy. Technology should not and cannot be stopped. However, there is an increasing need to start asking about the externalities of a particular technology, and whether we should use it once it is designed, regardless of the fact that it exists. Kurbalija reminded the audience that we are not taking into account the societal implications of new technologies on our values, ethics, and even health. He recommended integrating an ‘empty chair’ during policy negotiations to remind us about the questions of future generations. ‘We have to be careful not to neglect the core values of humanity,’ Kurbalija said.

Mr Peter Major (Vice Chairman, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development [UNCTAD] presented the mobile economy in 2019. As the Internet of Things will grow from 9.1 billion to 25.2 billion connected devices, there will be a paradigm shift. While 5G is welcomed, it poses several big questions. Health wise, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has flagged cellphones as a possible source of carcinogenic radiation. He pointed to privacy, cybersecurity, and electronic waste as significant concerns. Major invited the community to strengthen the multistakeholder approach, harmonisation with the sustainable development goals, and the possible establishment of working groups within the World Summit on Information Society process.

Also in a video message, Mr Robert Pepper (Senior communications expert) spoke about mobility. ‘We should remember that our networks are not mobile, the users are mobile and this is an important architectural question,’ Pepper stressed. Several necessary flexibilities arise with 5G. Licenses and spectrums should be open for trading, the notion of service should be redefined, and regulators should consider merging licenses for different generations of technology as we move along.

Mr Hui Cao (Head of Policy, EU Public Affairs & Communication Office, Huawei Technologies) shared the progress and policies of 5G in Europe. The improvements of 5G include enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine type communications, and ultra-reliability and low cost. Regulation and rollout infrastructure were pointed to as the biggest challenges. Cao remarked that 5G has arrived faster than expected. From a spectrum point of view, in 2018 around 15 countries had auctions for the 5G spectrum, this year it is 20+ and next year more than 30% of countries globally are expected to hold spectrum auctions.

Mr Yang Guang (Deputy Director, Department of Wireless & Terminal, China Mobile Research Institute) agreed that while 4G changed our lives, 5G will change our societies. He presented the work of the China Mobile Research Institute in developing end-to-end technologies and the focus on entrepreneurship. Guang mentioned their trials aimed at pushing industrial communication forward, as well as initiatives such as establishing an institute, researching smart cities, and launching the China Mobile capital fund to support innovation.

Mr Zhu Xuguang (Director, Communication University of Zhejiang, China) noted that 5G has high reliability and little delay, which will bring many new services such as progress with medical applications. 5G technology will provide users with immersive experience such as ultra-high definition videos, smart homes, smart communities, cities and health. It gives options to make our lives more comfortable and convenient in a new global, digital age.


By Jana Misic