5G and telecommunications warfare


Guam and, to a lesser extent Saipan, are moving toward more integrated state-of-the-art telecommunication networks. This means a lot in today’s world because the global economy is driven by how fast technology, communications, and creativity unfolds. Our telephones, which were once used for phone calls alone, are now high powered, wireless, mobile computing devices, capable of doing all sorts of things that were unimaginable in previous generations. 

Our families, friends, coworkers, and relatives of all ages are now becoming more and more accustomed to using high-tech devices. We want our Zoom meetings, our pictures, videos, and no longer accept high latency periods because we have gotten used to how technology has further enabled our lives, connections, and relationships through increased signal speeds and enhanced computing. 

The result is that more of our people use more technology more of the time, in more interconnected ways, at fixed sites and mobile locations every day. It is difficult to imagine not having a mobile phone and immediate access to the internet with a laptop or iPad. 

The Chinese–American war for world leadership on telecommunications 

China and the United States have been at war on the telecommunications front worldwide. Chinese firms are not allowed to compete in most key telecommunications business areas in the United States and in the Marianas because of American national security concerns. These decisions are informed and founded on existing geopolitical restraints and government-to-government rules and regulations. 

Compared to the United States, China is engaging in a more integrated whole-of-society approach to telecommunications, with the Communist Party funding and supporting research and development across consumer and business applications, network equipment production, site set up, silicon chip production, and infrastructure expansion for the purpose of becoming the world’s leader in telecommunications. China is also managing its radio wave spectrum license process in ways that help it build its infrastructure faster than the U.S. 

China has spent close to half a trillion dollars so far on 5G. China has differing interpretations of what constitute worldwide standards compared to the U.S. and this difference is monumental because it informs how American competition with China is shaping up worldwide.

The newest kinds of telecommunications networks and some key benefits for our Chamorro people

With 5G available in Guam, villagers can now use a variety of advanced technologies that are intended to improve the quality of life. Medical advice can now be delivered online and via video calls in greater capacities as laptops, phones and watches are able to interconnect and deliver content in new ways. 

The technological change taking place in the Marianas driven by 5G will continue to create the conditions that provide new kinds of jobs for our people and new kinds of entrepreneurial opportunities for our families over time. Let’s remember that we are already in the era of autonomous driven vehicles powered by electricity, and this will also make its way to Guam and the Northern Marianas and will become the next new normal, thanks in part to 5G. 

The Marianas will also continue to see the American national government maintain tight control over how 5G radio wave spectrum is allocated and managed, with clear separations to be kept in place for military/national government clients and commercial/villager clients. 

Some monumental challenges remain

Privacy has and remains a key challenge because as technology improves and is deployed, our daily activities become more fully integrated and automated. This drives greater reliance on technology based on 5G standards, and with greater reliance comes greater risks such as misuse and theft of personal data and information. 

In addition, from a human health standpoint, greater numbers of smaller cellular transmission sites that enable smaller radio waves to travel shorter distances are known to be a potential cause of cancer in humans. We need to be very careful on this front and learn as a community what are the precise risks to human health and welfare. 

How the Chamorro people of the Marianas Islands can benefit

How our Chamorro people can benefit is through realizing that Guam and construction of 5G networks being tested in the Northern Marianas are part of a massive and broader American commercial effort to modernize, expand, and develop 5G infrastructure. Total U.S. corporate investment in 5G comes from 50 firms deploying close to $300 billion. This massive investment has and will create many jobs for citizens across the American empire, including the Marianas Islands.

The Marianas public sector, education leadership, and island lawmakers are now in a position to seek out stronger partnerships between and amongst UOG, GCC, NMC, GDOE, governors’ offices, and local legislatures to find mobile phone manufacturing companies, network equipment producers, chip makers, and software companies who are interested in bringing into the workforce younger, talented, tech-savvy Chamorros and villagers who can and will make a positive difference through working in telecommunications. 

Second, the governors of Guam and the CNMI have nothing to prevent them from working with the United Nations on telecommunications development standards to address the concerns of villagers when it comes to how companies deliver technology networks, and how they are deployed for not only consumer and commercial use, but for business-to-business use, and systems of systems use. Local government participation is crucial to the success of 5G rollouts. 

Lastly, there is no reason that Marianas leaders cannot further solicit large corporations to set up data centers in Guam or the Northern Marianas to help localize cloud computing. If this happens, villagers will be able to conduct their daily activities in ways that further enhance the speed of all their electronic devices, bringing about an overall higher quality of life.  

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at guamaffairs.substack.com. For more information, contact Perez at rickp7839@gmail.com.

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