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

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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

US and China positions at a standstill in entrenched Tianjin talks

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With no indication of a US-China leaders' summit in the works, nor any outcomes announced from high-level diplomatic talks on Monday (26 July), relations between Beijing and Washington appear to be at a standstill as both sides insist the other must make concessions for ties to improve, write Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom.

US officials had stressed that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's trip to the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials was a chance to ensure that stiffening competition between the two geopolitical rivals does not veer into conflict.

But the combative statements that emerged from the meeting – albeit coupled with suggestions from officials that closed-door sessions were marginally more cordial – mirrored the tone set in Alaska in March, when the first senior-level diplomatic talks under President Joe Biden were overshadowed by rare public vitriol from both sides.

While Tianjin did not expose the same degree of outward hostility that was on display in Alaska, the two sides appeared to stop short of actually negotiating anything, sticking instead to lists of established demands.

Sherman pressed China on actions Washington says run counter to the rules-based international order, including Beijing's crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, what the U.S. government has deemed is an ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, abuses in Tibet and the curtailing of press freedoms.

"I think it'd be wrong to characterize the United States as somehow seeking or soliciting China's cooperation," a senior U.S. administration official told reporters after the talks, referring to global concerns such as climate change, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

"It is going to be up to the Chinese side to determine how ready they are as well to… take the next step," a second U.S. administration official said of bridging disagreements.

But Wang insisted in a statement that the ball was in the United States' court.

"When it comes to respecting international rules, it is the United States that must think again," he said, demanding that Washington remove all unilateral sanctions and tariffs on China.

China's Foreign Ministry has recently signaled there could be preconditions for the United States on which any kind of co-operation would be contingent, a stance some analysts say is a recipe for diplomatic ossification and that leaves dim prospects for improved ties.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said it was important for the two sides to maintain some form of engagement. At the same time, there appeared to be no agreement in Tianjin for follow-up meetings or mechanisms for ongoing dialogue.

"That will probably leave US allies and partners uneasy. They are hoping for greater stability and predictability in the US-China relationship," Glaser said.

Both sides are likely to be disappointed if they expect the other to give in first, she added.

There has been some expectation in foreign policy circles that Biden could meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the first time since becoming president on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Italy in October.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the prospect of a Biden-Xi meeting did not come up in Tianjin, though she added that she expects there will be some opportunity to engage at some point.

Indications are, meanwhile, that the Biden administration may scale up both enforcement actions impacting Beijing – such as cracking down on Iranian oil sales to China – and coordination with allies in the context of countering China, including another summit later this year that Biden is keen to host with the leaders of Japan, Australia, and India.

Biden's White House also has given few signals that it intends to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods established under the Trump administration.

At the same time, cooperation on the COVID-19 pandemic seems almost entirely out of reach, with the United States calling Beijing's rejection of a World Health Organization plan for further study of the virus' origin "irresponsible" and "dangerous".

There has been little sign either of a willingness by China to cooperate with Washington on the climate issue, a priority for Biden, despite energetic entreaties by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.

"What was on display in Tianjin is that both sides are still very far apart on how they view the value and role of diplomatic engagement," said Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Scott Kennedy, a China specialist at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies,, said neither side saw much upside for now in being more cooperative.

"And there's no low-hanging fruit for cooperation for either side and any gesture toward co-operation actually comes with significant costs, both domestic and strategic," he said.

"I think we ought to have very low expectations about the two sides finding common ground and stabilizing the relationship in the near future."

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China

Chinese president Xi Jinping visits troubled region of Tibet

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President Xi Jinping (pictured) has visited the politically troubled region of Tibet, the first official visit by a Chinese leader in 30 years, writes BBC.

The president was in Tibet from Wednesday to Friday, but the visit only reported by state media on Friday due to the sensitivities of the trip.

China is accused of suppressing cultural and religious freedom in the remote and mainly Buddhist region.

The government denies the accusations.

In footage released by state broadcaster CCTV, Mr Xi was seen greeting a crowd wearing ethnic costumes and waving the Chinese flag as he left his plane.

He arrived in Nyingchi, in the south-east of the country and visited a number of locations to learn about urban development, before travelling to the capital Lhasa on the high-altitude railway.

While in Lhasa, Mr Xi visited the Potala Palace, the traditional home of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

People in the city had "reported unusual activities and monitoring of their movement" ahead of his visit, advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet said on Thursday.

Mr Xi last visited the region 10 years ago as vice-president. The last sitting Chinese leader to officially visit Tibet was Jiang Zemin in 1990.

State media said Mr Xi took time to learn about the work being done on ethnic and religious affairs and the work done to protect Tibetan culture.

Many exiled Tibetans accuse Beijing of religious repression and eroding their culture.

Tibet has had a tumultuous history, during which it has spent some periods functioning as an independent entity and others ruled by powerful Chinese and Mongolian dynasties.

China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on the region in 1950. Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces.

China says Tibet has developed considerably under its rule, but campaign groups say China continues to violate human rights, accusing it of political and religious repression.

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More Tibetan Buddhists behind bars in July

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On 6 July 2021, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, turned 86. For Tibetans around the world, the Dalai Lama remains their guardian; a symbol of compassion and hope to restore peace in Tibet, and ensure genuine autonomy through peaceful means. For Beijing, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to undermine China’s integrity by pursuing an independent Tibet, write Dr Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy and Willy Fautré.

As a consequence, Beijing considers any country engaging with the spiritual leader or raising the situation in Tibet as interference in its internal affairs. Similarly, Beijing does not allow Tibetans to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Moreover, the communist government in Beijing applies harsh punishment for any such attempt, just as it continues its campaign to undermine the Tibetan language, culture and religion, as well as the rich history through brutal repression.

For year Beijing has continued to discredit and subvert the Dalai Lama. Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo, public celebrations and sharing of his teaching via mobile phones or social media are often harshly punished. This month, as they celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday many Tibetans were arrested according to Golog Jigme, a former Tibetan political prisoner now living in Switzerland.

As such, Chinese officials in Sichuan province arrested two Tibetans. Kunchok Tashi and Dzapo, in their 40s, were taken into custody in Kardze in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). They were arrested on suspicion of being part of a group of social media that encouraged the reciting of Tibetan prayers to commemorate their spiritual leader’s birthday.

Over the past years, the Chinese authorities have continued to intensify pressure on Tibetans, punishing cases of ‘political subversion’. In 2020, the Chinese authorities in Tibet sentenced four Tibetan monks to long prison terms following a violent raid by the police on their monastery in Tingri county.

The cause of the raid was the discovery of a cell phone, owned by Choegyal Wangpo, a 46-year-old monk at Tingri’s Tengdro monastery, with messages sent to monks living outside Tibet and records of financial contributions made to a monastery in Nepal damaged in a 2015 earthquake, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Choegyal was arrested, interrogated and severely beaten. Following this development, police and other security forces visited his home village of Dranak, raided the place and beat more Tengdro monks and villagers, detaining about 20 of them on suspicion of having exchanged messages with other Tibetans abroad or of having possessed photographs or literature related to the Dalai Lama.

Three days after the raid, in September 2020, a Tengdro monk named Lobsang Zoepa took his own life in apparent protest against the crackdown by the authorities. Soon after his suicide internet connections to the village were cut off. Most of the monks detained were held without trial for months, some are believed to have been released on the condition of committing to not carrying out any political acts.

Three monks were not released. Lobsang Jinpa, 43, deputy head of the monastery, Ngawang Yeshe, 36 and Norbu Dondrub, 64. They were subsequently tried in secret on unknown charges, found guilty and given harsh sentences: Choegyal Wangpo was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Lobsang Jinpa to 19, Norbu Dondrub to 17 and Ngawang Yeshe to five years. These harsh sentences are unprecedented and indicative of the increase in restrictions on Tibetans to communicate freely, and practice their fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.

Under President Xi, China has become more oppressive at home and aggressive abroad. In response, democratic governments across the world have amplified their condemnation of China’s human rights violations, with some taking concrete action, such as imposing sanctions. For the future, as China’s regional and global clout continue to increase, like-minded democratic allies across the world must hold Beijing to account concerning the situation in Tibet.

Willy Fautré is the director of the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers. Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy is a research fellow at Academia Sinica and an affiliated scholar at Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s political science department. 

Guest posts are the opinions of the author, and are not endorsed by EU Reporter.

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