The United States has acted on several fronts in an effort to control the international expansion of 5G networks. Earlier this month, CIA Director William Burns came to Brazil to discuss, among other issues, the auction notice to be launched by the Brazilian government regarding infrastructure installation for the new technology.
From a legal perspective, the U.S. has passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, advancing new legislation on innovation and strategic competitiveness. The act aims to guarantee U.S. leadership in the global economy and technology development by promoting incentives for installing semiconductor factories in North American territory, having 5G technology as one of its focus areas.
In my book “The Geopolitical Competition Between the United States and China Over 5G Technology: The Impacts on Brazil,” I address the geopolitical dispute between the United States and China on this issue.
U.S. legislation supports the creation of open and interoperable 5G networks called the Open Radio Access Network, which will allow greater competition, innovation and supplier variety. It provides guarantees to expand the influence of the United States in international organizations dedicated to the definition of technical standards for 5G, such as the International Telecommunications Union. There are existing concerns related to precision agriculture and artificial intelligence, which is why the U.S. is taking measures to maintain its global leadership in these areas.
Additionally, the United States passed another bill, called the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, which has China as a geostrategic target. It provides incentives for international cooperation concerning global infrastructure, focusing on internet access and digital infrastructure in emerging markets. The act is also associated with the dispute between the United States and China, seeking leadership in setting 5G technical standards.
The United States has proposed partnerships with the private sector and allied countries for digital connectivity and 5G technology seeking to establish security standards for developing equipment, software and hardware. The country has also been monitoring the market for the basic technology industry, in addition to the strong action by U.S. intelligence agencies regarding China, especially with respect to 5G. The United States’ main concerns regarding 5G technology are related to national security. The U.S. has already found telecommunications networks with equipment supplied by the Chinese company Huawei near an airbase in the state of Montana.
Simultaneously, Europe holds a privileged position concerning 5G, as it is the home of the leading companies Ericsson (Sweden) and Nokia (Denmark). The European Union wants to guarantee its geostrategic technological autonomy to reduce dependence on the United States and China. The EU also encourages the installation of data centers and internet traffic points in European countries.
Before launching the notice for the 5G frequency auction process, Brazil must understand the geopolitical circumstances at hand to obtain clarity and precision about the geostrategic aspects of this matter. In this context, Brazil should demand the creation of a nonespionage agreement with the United States and China as a condition for making investments and operating companies in Brazilian territory. That would be a way of protecting Brazilian sovereignty over its telecommunications network infrastructures.
There is an opportunity for Brazil to participate internationally in the global geopolitical game of communications over 5G networks in terms of industrialization and participation in the supply chain by manufacturing hardware, software, equipment and support systems for this new technology. Therefore, Brazil must promote alignment between industry, science and technology, foreign trade and national defense policies.