The Global 5G Roll-Out is a Geopolitical Turning Point

By Joanna Eva 

For the best part of two years, wireless carriers in the US and Europe have been hailing the imminent onset of 5G technology. In Europe, Switzerland, Spain and the UK have already adopted commercial 5G coverage in major cities. Beyond the obvious benefits of the new technology, however, most consumers remain wilfully ignorant to the geopolitical realities of the ongoing roll-out; 2020 presents nothing less than an existential crossroads for democracies around the world. 

Though a more complex and expensive operation than previous mobile technology upgrades, American and European consumers eagerly await 5G’s laundry list of offerings: data speeds up to 100 times faster than existing connections, internet-connected sensors, vehicles and household appliances, revolutionised healthcare delivery, and a host of other applications as yet unimagined. 

In Europe, 5G advertisements have coated the walls of major airports from Lisbon to Stockholm. The European Commission has set a target of 5G coverage in all urban areas by 2025, apparently unfazed by the €500 billion price tag. In 2019, spectrum auctions took place in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Lithuania; this year, more auctions are set to follow in Spain, Malta, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland and the UK. 

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