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5G, PNG & big power politics

5G technology is another arena of big power rivalry, with PNG caught between US and Chinese interests


WEWAK - Big data mining and the new science of singularity and its application in nanotechnology, nanobiology, machine learning and manufacturing have crept up on us in Papua New Guinea.

The announcement by the PNG government’s telco provider, Kumul Telikom, that it had reached an agreement with Huawei of China to roll out 5G starting in urban centres in 2020 threw our small science and engineering community into disarray.

The fear of radiation associated with 5G technology was the most immediate concern raised by the so called educated elite.

Then there were the far more critical real geo-political issues including the potential of spying by the China on countries using Huawei 5G technology, a particular concern of Australia and the United States.

PNG and 68 other countries including South Korea, Germany and the UK are now being asked by the US to quit the use of Huawei 5G technology or face being cut off from intelligence sharing and development aid assistance.

Australia and New Zealand have already complied with the United States ‘directive’.

In the race for 5G technology, China is about five years ahead of the US, which has been caught off guard and seems unlikely to catch up.

According to former US senior politician Newt Gingrich, this is because US telcos such as AT&T did not invest in 5G research.

Being unable to compete with Huawei, these telcos are pressuring the US government to crack down on Huawei, at least until they can catch up. That’s a big ‘if’, because Huawei invests more than US$70 billion a year on research and development.

The US, which expects to have 5G coverage by 2022, is also working closely with European telco equipment manufacturers to challenge Huawei.

For those susceptible people in PNG, no, this is not a health battle. The radio waves emitted from the 5G network are the same as those on our 2G, 3G and 4G networks with negligible impact on health.

For the religious, yes, ‘666’ is definitely here with 5G technology. Law enforcers worldwide now have access to facial recognition technology with 5G that can do risk assessments from identifying criminals to checking people opening bank accounts.

In other parts of the world we are already seeing 5G smart technology replace paper money as a medium of exchange and I suspect PNG will just have to catch up with this new technology.

Work on the PNG Kumul 1 satellite project will have to include planning for 5G applications and we also need to confront other big data projects, including the new sciences of nanobiology and machine learning and manufacturing.

We need to debate the ethical issues and pass laws to deal with the creation of new life forms that nanobiology is getting into.

By 2025 these new sciences will revolutionise the world as we know it today, and science will ride on the back of 5G technology. The last time the world saw anything like it was in the industrial revolution of 18th century Britain.

In the PNG context we welcome 2020 with yet another controversy not of our making at our doorstep.

The last time this happened was in 1940 when the USA was challenged by Japan with the creation of the ‘co-prosperity sphere’. Today PNG has been asked by the USA to draw a line in the technology space between itself and China.

In 1940 PNG was a primitive society still in the stone age with decisions made by Australia on its behalf.

Today that call will have to be made by James Marape. Is it China or the USA? Let’s get on with 2020.


In a media statement on Friday, PNG's communication and information technology minister, Timothy Masiu, announced he had stopped telcos Bmobile and Huawei from progressing any further with the 5G trial - KJ


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Marjorie Andrew

Thank you. Such an important issue. This needs to be debated in Parliament too. I wish to share your article on LinkedIn, but not given the option here.

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