5G: Progress or Peril? [Episode 65]
The hello and welcome tall tomorrow. Peter Sector Mooney Johnson. Let's do a deep dive on five G. Today everyone talks about it but not everyone knows what it is or its implications and since we are podcast based on geopolitics we will focus on the impact of a broad five. G. Connected World on Politics Economics and communications in our daily lives. We will be joined later by Tom. Wheeler former head of the FCC Federal Communications Commission who will help us break down the challenges of the global balance of power of this new very exciting and sometimes frightening prospect. So MOONEY IS FROYLAN. Maria would say in the sound of music. Let's start at the very beginning and you say you can sing that. But I won't fifth generation mobile networks technology. That is very different from our current. Four g connectivity it offers enormous speeds and reliability. Five G. is going to take us to a whole different level not only connecting people but allowing machines to talk to each other and industries and user experiences at massive speed capacities. Experts have compared to the invention of the automobile or electricity in the scope and magnitude of its ability to transform in some say greatly improve the world. I mean I. It's being hyped up a lot and let me give you a few numbers. According to Qualcomm by twenty thirty five five G. CAPABILITIES IS GONNA produce twelve trillion dollars worth of goods and services. It's GonNa support twenty two million jobs and create three point five trillion in aggregate revenue. And this is just based on what we know and God knows all of the things that can happen wonderful things that can happen that we can't even imagine today but will it change in our daily life a few things are smartphones which will literally fly industry will benefit from enhanced remote control of infrastructure and machinery medicine in particular. We'll gain enhance robotics and developing countries will have access to low cost data and mobility. Networks will be easy to build and hopefully to protect. Let's think self driving cars everywhere. Smart cities remote surgeries streamline supply chains automation automation automation. So what's the status of this thing exactly in the? Us Verizon launched it last year and it's operating at several cities and several smartphone devices companies. Like T. mobile sprint eighteenth and not far behind the UK and Australia are up and running. China South Korea Germany and smaller countries like Switzerland and Finland are also active in. This others are moving quickly in the same direction. So the world is Joe moving quickly to adopt and implement. Oh and it all sounds so wonderful. Doesn't it Peter a connected world endless possibilities advancing science and technology and education? That's all great. I feel a hero but come tiny bit until we think of the policy implications inside and between countries that's already flaring up. And then the conversation becomes a lot more complicated for main challenges. Jump Out of course. The first is the security implications of using mostly Chinese technology and therefore the geopolitical leverage that five G. can give and has given China over the rest of the world. The second is the eternal tradeoff of privacy versus convenient with talk about that before on this podcast and also the price tag for countries. And you know obviously for is what's going to happen with the developing world is going to widen the gap. So I think we should start first with China since hyped this up Mooney at the beginning. Let's start throwing cold water on this thing. It's a lot of people believe that five G. is going to become the largest source of tension between the West in other words. Us Europe Japan. Australia and China and is the single. Most sensitive political issue in the future and the reason is simple the largest best equipment. Manufacturers of five technology are state-controlled Chinese companies like Weiwei and Z. T. and as we discussed in previous podcasts the world has legitimate fears of spying and cyber attacks and stealing government corporate data by Chinese entities and this mistrust which is especially acute now in the United States is let the trade deal delays and ultimately the famous. Us BAN ON WHY products Europe has taken the somewhat. More pragmatic approach is adopted technology. But you know what certainly lived? The British government has said when it opted the technology. It said it's only for low risk communications and they did this even at the risk of tensions with the United States so the West is far from reaching much-needed cross-border policy in dealing with geopolitical dependence on Chinese technology and its security implications. The issue of consumer privacy is also at stake whether individuals trust governments or corporations or neither with their private information varies by country. It was really interesting to see how Chinese consumers trust the government whereas the US India Japan and Brazil among others have more faith in the private sector over the government. You know is a debate about when all this will happen when all this will encroach in our daily lives and meanwhile policy lags behind in creating public. Private frameworks for data protection and consumers. We all remain careless about what in with what we do with our data right so finally. Mooney. There's tons and tons of practical questions about five G. Let's start with the question about whether this is just a lot of hype. Serve like we've suggested before. Proponents of five G. Believe in its widespread use of virtual and augmented reality and autonomous cars in this wonderful world of low latency gigabyte connectivity body cans ubiquitous Internet of things. But who pays for all this stuff? One of the big questions of some experts keep asking is who has the foot the bill and indeed. We all know that five G. devices are expensive and most of their costs are going to be born by consumers and beyond that. There's an issue of like you've already suggested an issue of equitable distribution how developing countries prepare and invest in five G. Capabilities and said of being the great equalizer giving access to better life around the world. Some people are asking. Is it going to deepen the divide between the haves and have nots? And then there's another issue that keeps popping up which is a health issue. There's some controversy five gene potential health than backs city council meetings in Santa Barbara. California and Keene New Hampshire made news by reversing course on five G. Antennas until health outs have been clarified. So as a result all these questions have led experts such as William Webb to ask if five G. proponents just casting around for problems. That might need their solution. So we have about a million questions for our cast and this is a really good time to bring him in chairman. Tom Wheeler is visiting fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington Thomas Businessman author and was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Fcc from twenty thirteen to twenty seventeen but for over four decades. He's been involved in new telecommunications networks and services including the adoption of net neutrality privacy for consumers and increasing cybersecurity among other policies and as an entrepreneur. Tom Started her help start. Multiple companies offering innovative cable wireless and video communication services was also CEO of several high tech companies. A true expert at the intersection of Technology and politics. Welcome to all Tamara. Tom Wheeler. We'll thank you. It's great to be here. Let's start with a general question. What do you see the greatest benefit and the greatest challenge of five g. In Our world? Well hit the greatest benefit is that it is an entirely new network structure what the geeks called Topology In that it is we are now substituting for old a software based network and that change allows all kinds of interesting things to happen both in terms of What the network can do as well as the costs of rolling out the network. The biggest challenge to this is we invest in this country based on the ability to generate a return other non marketplace economies in the world like China have directed economies will make the investment in Five G. as there are opportunities for a return on that investment and that means that It is It is not going to happen as quickly as everybody has hoped. But that's not a challenge chess not a problem. We weren't I in one g two G. Three G. or four G. yet the United States and the technologies of the United States or the dominant technologies in wireless activity around the world. I want to come back to this last point that you made because you know there's a lot of hype around this. It's been called groundbreaking biggest geopolitical change in potential in history. Who's going to pay for the service? How how is the because you make the right point which is to say that we invest we invest for returns will consumers end up paying for? This just seems like that. Topology that new word. I just learned it. Infrastructure INVOLVED IN. That correct is a lot of infrastructure. The good news is that because it is software It is less expensive to both build and operate than Than hardware so. That's a very helpful step but it's still going to be a highly expensive process but again who's GonNa pay for it? It's going to get paid for like every other network has ever been paid for and that is that That companies who see a potential for a return ARGO invest. And they're gonNA turn around and sell access to those services to to consumers so. I've I've read a couple of the I've suddenly done a ton of reading on five G. and found also that in places as diverse as Santa Barbara California. In keene New Hampshire. There's the sudden concern about health issues. That real well you know I I think we have to look at health professionals and ask them the question you know when we were at the FCC we looked at the food and Drug Administration who is responsible. For All of these kinds of determinations and my I used to always say we ought to look at folks white coats rather than blue suits for answers and The folks in white coats are telling US move on not a worry. So let's get political. Many people say five days a threat to democracy and geopolitics. What are your views on this? Well I wouldn't go so far as to say that the network itself is some kind of threat I mean. The interesting thing is that I've always felt I wrote a wrote a book called from Gutenberg to Google the history of our future. Get a plug in here. and One of the concepts it discusses is that it is never the primary network that is transformational but the secondary effects of that network. How we are using the Internet. Writ Large Little on the wireless Internet is something that that there is reason to believe has a negative effects on democracy because the business plan of the social media providers is to is to divide us into tribes to deliver in secret information to each of those tribes and in the process to to threaten the the we the onum that are you know unum that our our founders talked about in the ability to come together And so I think that it is a it is a broader issue than than five G. but generally how networks are used in the business plan for the networks being to divide us so on a more positive note what is the impact of five G. on our daily lives. We've talked about earlier. Medical procedure supply chains faster speeds. How's this going to change our lives? Well I'm not GonNa see it in the in the short term right now. Five G. IS ESSENTIALLY FAST FOUR G. Okay but I go back to my point about it's never the primary network that's transformational but the secondary effects you know when four G. came out who had the expectation that suddenly we will be watching movies on our phones right and so five. G. IS GOING to offer to new important capabilities. Worn is throughput is the speed. With which data can be can be transported and that is going to allow things like virtual reality assisted reality things things Like this and the other is what the technical folks call latency. Which is the time that elapses between you requesting something in that actually happens. I'll tell you a story. I when I was chairman I sat in an office at the FCC and operated an Earth Mover in Dallas. I was sitting there working the controls of this huge shoveling. We used to call it a steam shovel. I don't know what you call it now. But this huge shoveling device that That was in Dallas and the point was and who's using five G. Technology. The point was that the latency was so minimal and non existent that. I could control this machine in Dallas from Washington. This podcast is all about global affair. So let me take us to what the global affairs implication are of the five G. Technology clearly. The birth of this technology is going to change again the way we look and deal with China at the moment. China is the main technology manufacturer of a lot of the five G. Technology. So tell us a little bit about how you see. An evolving relation with China we. Now have this prohibition on Wa way in this country other countries in Europe Have accepted some type of low presumably. Low risk. Use of why the -nology. What's her evolving relations with? China through this five G. Prism will have probably two points. I is the Obama Administration. Came out and asked all of the major wireless carriers in the country not to use while we equipment and All of the the big companies agreed to that a handful of small companies. I think and it is not reflected well on them decided to to to go ahead but the major companies all said No. We're not gonNA use what equipment because of the potential threat. But I think there's a bigger issue here. If we focus too much on quote the wall way issue okay that it blinds us to the other cybersecurity issues that. Let's go back to think about what I said at the outset. What is five g? Five Jesus software driven network. What do we know about software? It's Hackel so what are we doing to protect against that? What are we doing to have cybersecurity to deal with the fact that many of the decisions of how the network runs are being made in the network by artificial intelligence? Not even people aren't involved? What are we doing about the fact that when you hit a hardware based network there was a choke point everything had to go through when you sit there and check things out in the software network? Where all the activities distributed. You don't have that kind of checkpoint so what we did at the FCC. When I was chairman was we were the first country in the world to make five G. Spectrum airwaves available and in putting out that rule. We said that we wanted to have in the standards setting process cybersecurity as a fourth ought not an afterthought every telecommunication standard from the beginning of time has been built and then at the end legal organise. What are we going to do about the security threats and you do some kind of a bolt on patch? We said let's do something upfront. And then we put out called a notice of inquiry in which we said to the smartest people in the country. Tell us how you do that. And then we said we're going go to the standards process and we want a seat at the table not just to have the company's sitting around deciding what they're gonna do but let's have the People's representatives bringing in this information unfortunately at the time every one of the Republican commissioners at the FCC voted against this and when we had the election in two thousand sixteen and they could make up of the commission changed one of the first things that the Republican chairman and Commissioners did with to repeal all of these so we had the opportunity to say. This is a brand new network. Let's deal with the cyber security issue upfront. And unfortunately we walked away from it. That's fascinating but I wanted to ask you what the implications are for having walked away from it. We're GONNA be playing catch up ball. I think that there is a growing concern about this. I think the government and the FCC are probably finally going to step in but the Horse has left the barn. It seems to me. Just I'm trying to read between the lines dirt telling us that China is not the only worry but rather hackers wherever they may be is now the real worry and not. It's not necessarily about China. Well I think we certainly can't underestimate China but in the interconnected network. I mean we've already seen North Korea doing the Sony attack Attacking banks to fund their their activities activities. The Ron does this. Intelligence community has told us that that election interference has been ongoing since the last election. And if five. G. Is the network of the twenty first century which I believe it is and if that pathway is an invitation to attack we ought to be doing something proactively about that and forgive me for insisting on the China thing but why are. Europeans seem more relaxed than Americans do about using China's technology. Well I think you probably have to ask them. I'm not I'm not but I but I I can't. I can't make the observation that our government to be able to work together with our allies on a multilateral basis to be able to attack common challenges and we're not very good at multi-lateralism in this administration. So I guess. In a perfect world there would be some sort of global regulatory framework to deal with the implications or negative implications. This doesn't seem like it's got a really important point. You know it used to be that. The United States was the leader in building the global regulatory structure. And because of the fact that we have been on this for several decades don't touch the Internet. You can't regulate it you may you may break something If you do that we have allowed other nations to step up and make the rules. And who's WHO's in charge now that the US has stepped away or the EU is the is the leading thinker and regulator I think it is a it is a work in progress but I think that. Yes for the most part. They have stepped in to fill a void. The problem is that that void addresses. Some questions that we in the United States have ignored while at the same point in time. Doing it in a way that well you know it just might be advantageous for European companies opposed to American companies and so one of the tragedies of American companies pushing so hard to have no government involvement in their activities is that they're allowing others to make those rules. Who just might have different sets of priorities on the issue of privacy for individuals? We saw some interesting information about countries trusting governments versus corporations with their data. What is your position there? As far as what consumers how protected our consumers we have gone through a fascinating process with the digital alchemy where were private information and my private information has suddenly been turned into a corporate asset. The big online companies have so much information about you and me as it would make big brother George. Orwell's Big Brother Green with envy and yet again. Here's Europe stepping up and saying we're going to do something about privacy and we're still here talking about what we're GonNa do the asking a little bit about how. The wealth gap affects the adoption of this technology. I mean we have a whole bunch of developing countries. That probably don't have the ability to finance and pay for this systems. I mean are we looking now? I know five. G. Has long been seen as a sort of an equaliser. But is it actually going to exacerbate the haves versus have nots in the world where you know the the? Great Muhammed Yunus The founder of remain and the Nobel Peace Prize winner said all you need to do to attack poverty in the world is to give everyone a phone because it opens up all kinds of Newark new opportunities. Whether it's a three g phone reforge phone or hopefully. Eventually if I'm Jay Phone and I would just challenge one of your assumptions going in. It's not gonna be the governments who are going to be building these networks it's GonNa be private companies and that becomes again an issue where we go back to what's the return on investment. I am personally hopeful that we're going to be able to see Five G. rolled out In developing countries As a result of in in remote areas of developing countries as a result of new satellite technologies. Because the most the most expensive part of building a five G. Network in an environment like that is what's called back hole which is how do you get the signal from the the data from the antenna back into the network and normally that involves fiber or something like this which is expensive delay if you can do that. Less expensively by satellite you might have a new opportunity. This is something that's actually happening. As I mean there is a series of new satellites air. Elon Musk and one. Web and others are launching less expensive low-orbit satellites That will provide this kind of back on. And perhaps the pope in this kind of opportunity hopefully opens opportunity. Tom This has been fascinating. Let me ask you a final question. So what sixty will you know? The fascinating thing is that six G is being developed as we speak. It started First of this year and The standards making process is Is One where all of the companies that own intellectual property rights to technology get together and bicker back and forth until they figure out how our technology who works together. I think that we're going to see six g finished as a standard in a shorter period of time than ever than before it. Normally it's been it's been a ten year process between the Geez. Told that it may be as little as eight although let's go along buried and that we're probably going to see some kind of a new way new operation beyond Internet Protocol. I think that there is at least the thought process in some circles that are working on the standard that peavy six of version six of internet protocol has been taken about as far as it can and we may be need to think about eight new concept and that is a mind boggling thought in itself that will be when we have you back for another. Show Tom Thank you so much for joining us on ultramar great to be. Thanks a lot all right. Mony a couple of things struck me about this interview. One is how much the? Us is falling behind and how much Europe has really carved out a leadership role in how to regulate. I'M NOT GONNA say only the Internet how to regulate digital communications. I don't think the US is really aware the US government is really aware of the implications that can have because that shift all power towards Europe and leave the US defenseless and kind of lagging behind on on everything five G. which is Chairman Wheeler has described is going to affect every single aspect of our lives. We mentioned two more things which struck from this interview. One is that I come away with some more hope than I walked in about. How developing countries can access five G. as he described through satellite communications? And so that there won't be left behind and the second thing I'm just struck by his the ease at which hacking is now going to. Its if it if it's bad already just got the impression that five G. is going to make it a whole lot worse. I'm with you on the hacking the developing world. I'm not so optimistic. First of all they have to regulate what to do with these satellites. The satellites are under construction. I still have the huge questions. Who'S GONNA pay for it? Yes corporations are going to build it. But WHO'S GONNA pay for it? Well we'll see who pays for it and protect your accounts because five G. is coming and with that will see you next time on Alta Mar. Thanks for joining us.