The world came together to build 5G. Now the next-generation wireless technology is pulling the world apart.
The latest version of the 5G technical specifications, expected Friday, adds features for connecting autonomous cars, intelligent factories, and Internet-of-things devices to crazy-fast 5G networks. The blueprints reflect a global effort to develop the technology, with contributions from more than a dozen companies from Europe, the US, and Asia.
And yet, 5G is also pulling nations apart—with the United States and China anchoring the tug-of-war. Tensions between Washington and Beijing over trade, human rights, the handling of COVID-19, and Chinese misinformation are escalating global divisions around the deployment of 5G. A growing number of countries are aligning with either a Western or a Chinese version of the tech.