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China's 5G fever triggers 6G delirium as experts channel Dr. Dolittle

China's 5G dominance is causing some experts to blather about the possibilities for 6G, but the country's leadership in this space is brittle.

Robert Clark

May 14, 2020

2 Min Read
China's 5G fever triggers 6G delirium as experts channel Dr. Dolittle

Now that China rules 5G, Chinese experts are kindly offering their advice on 6G.

Lu Tingjie, a professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT), believes it might enable humans to talk to animals.

In an interview with Sina Tech website he observes that animals sometimes perceive what humans cannot – for example anticipating earthquakes. If humans can connect with them, it could be possible to predict earthquakes."

Sure, once we get over the hump of figuring out how forest animals sense earthquakes, and how to persuade them to pass that knowledge on, that big 6G pipe will be handy.

But why limit yourself to Dr. Dolittle? Another BUPT professor, Zhang Ping, created a stir last year with a paper proposing that 6G will connect to human souls. He didn't specify if he meant living or dead.

This ardor for 6G is a spillover of China's red hot 5G fever. In fairness to Lu, he also delivers some cautionary remarks on the patriotic bombast around China's "world-first" in 5G. The natural pride a developing country might feel for its achievement has pivoted into a ridiculous triumphalism.

"Some even say that its significance is greater than [China's] atomic bomb, because when China's nuclear test succeeded, the US did not get into a panic, but a private Chinese company, Huawei, has created an emergency for the US," said Lu. "This thing [5G] is more powerful than nuclear weapons."

An obvious analogy might be the coronavirus 5G voodoo theory rampant outside China – the difference with this junk theory is that it's the Chinese government that's pumping the tires.

China certainly enjoys an advantage in the scale of its rollout, and Huawei on most counts is the biggest supplier of 5G kit. But it's hard to maintain a decisive technology leadership in a standards-based ICT industry.

As Lu says: "We have been slightly ahead in 5G technology, but this kind of leadership is limited."

He points out technology success needs to be supported by basic scientific research, and there is still a big gap between China's science and the rest of the world's. The sector is rife with corruption, plagiarism, financial waste, political interference and a lack of originality.

The US probably is over-reacting to Huawei. But it doesn't exclude foreign business from entire industry categories, including aviation, mining, media, electricity and telecom services, to name a few. And many governments have legitimate concerns about China's continued cyber-raids on western industrial secrets.

All of which should remind the world that China's dominance of 5G is brittle and its willingness to lean in on ultra-nationalist bluster is a sign of its own lack of confidence.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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Asia

About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech (http://www.electricspeech.com). 

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