The situation is “dire,” says former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
In fact, it’s a full-fledged national emergency.
“I estimate that China is about 10 times ahead of us in the 5G space,” Schmidt told CNN during an interview on Sunday.
“This is a national emergency. The United States needs to get the necessary bandwidth and funding to the telcos to get that built out, we may have already lost that one, that’s how dire the situation is.”
In a report from Telangana Today, Schmidt is urging the government of US President Joe Biden to crank up its 5G game, in a bid to derail the Chinese Communist Party’s plans to control global networks.
Schmidt’s remarks segued into the raging debate over China’s Huawei, the world’s leading peddler of 5G technology, which came in for peak skewering during the former Donald Trump presidency.
The Trump administration spearheaded the campaign against Chinese 5G vendors Huawei and ZTE, unleashing a steady string of escalations against these companies before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in early 2020, Telangana Today reported.
The US has described Huawei as Beijing’s backdoor access to foreign markets and an “unacceptable” risk to national security, critical infrastructure, privacy, and human rights.
“If these technologies are built in China, for example, they are not necessarily going to follow our privacy rules or our ethics … We have to be careful to win this battle,” Schmidt said, pointing to the Chinese government’s plan to lead the global market for AI by 2030, Telangana Today reported.
For months, US cybersecurity officials have been warning that allowing “high-risk” vendors such as Huawei and ZTE into any part of 5G networks (edge or core) makes critical systems “vulnerable to disruption, manipulation, and espionage while putting sensitive government, commercial, and personal information at risk.”
However, no proof has ever been provided, by the Five Eyes intelligence network, or any other spy agency, to back up this claim. Huawei has also denied any wrongdoing.
In an op-ed for The New York Times last year, Schmidt argued the US government should massively increase its investment in technologies like AI, 5G networks, and cloud computing to maintain its economic and geopolitical competitiveness with China.
“Americans should be wary of living in a world shaped by China’s view of the relationship between technology and authoritarian governance,” he wrote. “Free societies must prove the resilience of liberal democracy in the face of technological changes that threaten it.”
Schmidt’s remarks come at a time when Huawei sealed its latest deal, in India.
The Economic Times, quoting “multiple people aware of the development,” reported that Bharti Airtel handed Huawei an infrastructure expansion contract worth “around Rs 300 crore.”
“This is kind of a deal which is considered massive in this space. Airtel has already issued a procurement order (PO) to Huawei,” a senior executive working with Huawei’s rival company told ET.
“The value of this deal is a major part of Airtel’s overall capex budget for non-radio network.”
The deal is part of an ongoing Airtel process to expand its National Long Distance (NLD) network which is currently run by Huawei, ET reported.
NLD optical transport network is considered to be crucial as it carries inter-circle and international traffic and helps manage the network capacity. It also carries internet traffic and traffic from main landing stations.
Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal has backed Huawei in the past, publicly calling its 3G and 4G products better than its those of its European rivals.
Ironically, the deal comes at a time when the Indian government is preparing a list of “trusted sources” under the National Security Directive for acquiring equipment for telecom networks.
Experts said the move was aimed at keeping Chinese equipment makers Huawei and ZTE out of India’s 5G deployments, in line with the US and the UK, which have taken steps to bar them from critical infrastructure.
Sources: CNN, Telangana Today, The New York Times, The Economic Times, Business Insider