5G Use in Georgia Might Force the Country between China & the US

Already one of the most discussed topics in the modern world, the majority tend to think that 5G will be more a revolution than a mere technological development. Simply put, 5G will be fundamentally different from its predecessor, 4G (LTE - Long-Term Evolution): it will be brand new radio technology. Initially, vastly higher speeds will not be noticeable as it is likely that 5G will be used by network operators just to boost capacity on existing 4G networks and ensure a consistent service for customers. Ultimately, the speed capacity you get will be contingent upon the spectrum band the operator runs the 5G technology on and how much your carrier has invested in new masts and transmitters.

For Georgia, like anywhere across the world, the new fifth-generation mobile internet connectivity will promise faster data download and upload speeds, and much wider coverage from across the globe. In Georgia, where the fastest 4G mobile network operators on average offer about 45Mbps (megabites per second) with a chance of reaching 1Gbps (gigabites per second = 1,000Mbps), 5G could give the country browsing and download speeds about 10 to 20 times faster.

Currently, only four companies in the world possess enough technological prowess to supply the components necessary for building a 5G network: Huawei and ZTE in China, Ericsson in Sweden and Nokia in Finland. It is notable that the US companies are absent from this hi-tech race. What’s more worrisome for the US is that among those companies, only the market leader Huawei possesses the most modern and cheapest technology to date.

Given that Georgia has relatively liberal laws and economic policies in comparison with East European countries, with the right vision and practical policies it could easily reap the benefits of 5G for its economic development. In fact, Georgia can become a leader in the region.

Experts predict that the introduction of fifth-generation wireless internet will begin in about a year. Thus it is likely that intensive discussions on 5G will start from late 2019. Moreover, it is also possible that, like in most European countries, in 2020 Georgia too will experiment with the launch of 5G internet, though for the moment it is impossible to provide any specific details.

Among the Georgian companies, Magti is arguably best poised to become a leader in the new industry. Magti as a network is much stronger than Silknet and has traditionally been more aggressive in investments and development of up-to-date technologies.

5G technologies could also be applied to Georgia’s defense sector. Faster communication with the outside world will also make it possible to collect the information needed for a better defense of state borders, internal security, etc. It also carries risks as other, much larger and better developed states will be able to use the 5G technologies to smuggle technologies and information from Georgia’s vital state sectors.

However, this is a relatively smaller issue in comparison with wider geopolitical problems Georgia could see due to the application of 5G.

Consider the following fact: China has pushed its companies to play a leading role in 5G after it was left out of play in the development of 3G technology, and with only a limited role in 4G development and standards set-up. As said above, there are four companies spearheading 5G development. The US is worried that China might use this superiority for military and economic purposes incompatible with US practices.

Being an ally of the US in the region and simultaneously enjoying rising economic relations with China might become problematic for a Georgian government in the future as Tbilisi may face the dilemma of having to choose between Washington’s support and the use of China’s technological advancements.

By Emil Avdaliani

02 September 2019 17:30