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Delay to UK's 5G roll-out puts at risk government's 'levelling up' agenda says Huawei

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The UK government’s own acknowledgement of a likely delay in rolling out 5G in the UK risks not fully realizing £108 billion worth of economic benefit and the creation of 350,000 jobs in regions outside London and the south-east over the next decade.

A delay in Britain realizing its full 5G potential could condemn some parts of the country to the digital slow lane for years to come, according to an independent report by Assembly published on 29 October.

The new report, commissioned by Huawei, lays bare the opportunities for levelling up. If 5G were delivered nationwide without delay, three-quarters of its expected economic benefit would likely come in regions outside London and the south-east with the potential to transform connectivity in areas such as the north-east, the north-west and the West Midlands.

Risk to UK jobs and a widening of the digital divide

As a global leader in 5G, the UK could stand to benefit from more than 600,000 potential new jobs over the next decade, bringing with it the value of more than £6,000 per household on average by 2030. Critically, the jobs at risk are not limited to the tech sector or confined to tech hubs but spread across white-collar and blue-collar workforces.

  • In the North-West, the region risks not fully realizing an economic uplift of £16.9bn between 2020-2030 – and 59,000 new jobs.
  • In London, the region risks not fully realizing an economic uplift of £39.7bn between 2020-2030 – and 139,000 new jobs.
  • In the West Midlands, the region risks not fully realizing an economic uplift of £13bn between 2020-2030 – and 45,500 new jobs.

Consumers could be left waiting

The UK mobile industry has already made significant progress in the roll-out of 5G, with more than 300 towns and cities already having some degree of coverage. However, a delayed roll-out would mean consumers across the country would have to wait longer to enjoy the full benefits of next-generation connectivity on their devices – such as virtual reality video streaming, gaming and the delivery of on-demand content.

Industries face losing out on 5G benefits

The report warns that a delay in 5G roll-out threatens to slow advances in everything from next-generation remote healthcare and smart manufacturing, to robotics and at-home schooling. Slowing down advances in high-quality remote learning and healthcare, are potential ‘social equalizers’ ­– helping to address GP or teacher shortages.

Advances in smart manufacturing and robotics would also be under threat. A recent 5G trial in Worcestershire registered a marked rise in productivity after exploring the use of 5G in machinery fault detection and remote training.

Assembly Principal Analyst and Founder Matthew Howett said: "The government’s own expectation of its restrictions on Huawei is for up to a three-year delay in 5G roll-out. The risk of course is that this will be felt by operator’s being forced to focus their deployments in more profitable urban centres and that would inevitably mean it takes longer to reach, and fully cover, more rural and remote parts of Britain with 5G. If this plays out there is a risk of a widened digital divide."

Huawei Vice President Victor Zhang said: “UK government has set ambitious targets for improved connectivity by 2025. This research reveals how a 3-year delay in 5G roll-out will have a significant economic impact on every part of the UK, and highlights the consequences of failing to realise Britain’s full potential. Without global 5G leadership, Britain faces relegation to the digital slow lane, a job creation black hole and a wider digital divide.”

A copy of the full report ‘Regional and consumer impact of a delayed 5G roll-out’ can be downloaded here. Supporting graphics are available here.City level data at a glance

Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 6,435

Potential jobs created by 5G: 22,475

4G coverage: 99%

5G availability: EE, O2, Three, Vodafone

Birmingham

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 2,603

Potential jobs created by 5G: 9,091

4G coverage: 98%

5G availability: EE, O2, Three, Vodafone

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 3,095

Potential jobs created by 5G: 10,810

4G coverage: 100%

5G availability: EE, O2, Three, Vodafone

Glasgow City Region

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 3,966

Potential jobs created by 5G: 13,853

4G coverage: 86%

5G availability: EE, O2, Three, Vodafone

Newcastle

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 806

Potential jobs created by 5G: 2,814

4G coverage: 100%

5G availability: EE, O2

Leeds

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 2,349

Potential jobs created by 5G: 8,203

4G coverage: 97%

5G availability: EE, O2, Three, Vodafone

Edinburgh

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 2,166

Potential jobs created by 5G: 7,564

4G coverage: 91%

5G availability: EE, O2, Vodafone

Cardiff

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 1,058

Potential jobs created by 5G: 3,695

4G coverage: 96%

5G availability: EE, O2, Three, Vodafone

Bristol

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 1,301

Potential jobs created by 5G: 4,542

4G coverage: 100%

5G availability: EE, O2, Three, Vodafone

Belfast City Region

Potential 5G benefit 2020-2030 (£m): 2,638

Potential jobs created by 5G: 9,214

4G coverage: 97%

5G availability: EE, O2, Vodafone

About Assembly

Assembly is an independent analyst firm providing subscription-based information, analysis and commentary on regulatory, policy and legislative developments that affect communications markets and the wider digital economy.

For more information, click here. 

About Huawei

Founded in 1987, Huawei is a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices. We are committed to bringing digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world. Huawei's end-to-end portfolio of products, solutions and services are both competitive and secure. Through open collaboration with ecosystem partners, we create lasting value for our customers, working to empower people, enrich home life, and inspire innovation in organizations of all shapes and sizes. At Huawei, innovation puts the customer first. We invest heavily in fundamental research, concentrating on technological breakthroughs that drive the world forward. We have nearly 194,000 employees, and we operate in more than 170 countries and regions, serving more than three billion people around the world. Founded in 1987, Huawei is a private company fully owned by its employees.

For more information, click here. 

China

EU-China investment deal stalls

Catherine Feore

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European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis confirms that progress on the investment deal with China has stalled following March sanctions.

The EU concluded what Dombrovskis describes as an “asymmetric deal” with China at the end of last year. Known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), it was presented on 30 December. 

Today (5 May) he said: ”There are substantially more new commitments from China as regards market access, with regards to the level playing field and this is something that European companies have been asking us for for many years. So as regards the agreement itself, that technical work is ongoing to prepare the ground for ratification.”

At the time of the agreement Dombrovskis said: “This deal will give European businesses a major boost in one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing markets, helping them to operate and compete in China. It also anchors our values-based trade agenda with one of our largest trading partners. We have secured binding commitments on the environment, climate change and combatting forced labour. We will engage closely with China to ensure that all commitments are honoured fully.”

Wider political context

When asked about whether the deal had been suspended, Dombrovskis said that the position of the European Commission has not changed. He said that the “ratification process of comprehensive agreement on investment cannot be separated from the wider political context. I will repeat that the ratification process cannot be separated from evolving dynamics of the wider EU-China relationship. And in this context, Chinese sanctions targeting among others members of European Parliament and even an entire parliamentary subcommittee are unacceptable and regrettable, and prospects and next steps concerning ratification on comprehensive agreement of investment will depend on how the situation evolves.”

The Commission faced much criticism when the agreement was reached, by appearing to move ahead of the United States, before the new administration had taken office. It was felt by some that the EU should wait to see if there was the possibility of finding common cause with the new Biden team. 

There were also accusations that the EU was ignoring China’s human rights record, particularly in relation to the treatment of the Uyghur muslim population in Xianjang province and the crackdown on the democracy protesters and the introduction of the national security law in Hong Kong.

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China

G7 to discuss decisive action to counter threats like Russia and China

Reuters

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Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meets with Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Kent, Britain May 3, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson/Pool
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks at a news conference following a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in London, Britain May 3, 2021 during the G7 foreign ministers meeting. Chris J Ratcliffe/Pool via REUTERS
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a news conference with India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar following a bilateral meeting in London, Britain May 3, 2021 during the G7 foreign ministers meeting. Ben Stansall/Pool via REUTERS

Britain on Tuesday (4 May) sought to agree decisive action from G7 partners to protect democracies against global threats like those posed by China and Russia.

Hosting the second day of a foreign ministers' meeting in London designed to lay the groundwork for a leaders' summit in June, Dominic Raab (pictured) will lead talks among the Group of Seven wealthy nations on threats to democracy, freedoms and human rights.

"The UK’s presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats," Raab said in a statement.

In addition to the G7 members Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, Britain has also invited ministers from Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea this week.

Their first face-to-face meeting in two years is seen by Britain as a chance to reinforce support for the rules-based international system at a time when it says China's economic influence and Russian malign activity threaten to undermine it.

On Monday (3 May), having met with Raab, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was a need to try to forge a global alliance of freedom loving countries, though stressed he did not want to hold China down, but make sure it played by the rules. Read more

Tuesday's discussion also covered the coup in Myanmar, urging stronger action against the military junta in the form of expanded sanctions, support for arms embargoes and more humanitarian assistance.

In the afternoon talks will turn to Russia, including how to respond to a troop manoeuvres on the border with Ukraine and the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Raab said on Sunday he wanted the G7 to consider a joint rebuttal unit to tackle Russian disinformation and propaganda. Read more

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China

De-coupling from China would be the wrong way to go, Germany warns

Reuters

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The European Union needs to engage with China despite many differences instead of opting for a more isolationist approach, Germany said on Wednesday (21 April).

"In the EU, we have been describing China as a partner, competitor and systemic rival at the same time," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (pictured) said ahead of a virtual meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

"In all these three dimensions we need strong, sustainable communication channels with Beijing. De-coupling is the wrong way to go."

Berlin's warning against de-coupling is in line with Beijing's long-held position against disengagement among nations, including with China, despite mutual differences.

Last month, China was hit by a round of coordinated sanctions from the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada over reports of forced labour in the far western Chinese region of Xinjiang, accusations that Beijing rejects.

Ties between China and Germany have generally remained stable since last year, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said later in his meeting with Maas.

Wang also said major economies like China and Germany should jointly resist any de-coupling, and instead seek to uphold the stability of global industrial and supply chains, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

At the same time, China does not approve of any re-drawing of ideological lines, and is even more opposed to engaging in “small cliques”, and even arbitrarily imposing unilateral sanctions based on false information, Wang said.

Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in his first face-to-face White House summit since taking office, where both leaders said they shared serious concerns about the human rights situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

In a show of economic cooperation to the exclusion of China, Biden said Japan and the United States would jointly invest in the tech sector including semiconductor supply chains.

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