5G has been making headlines recently. It came up in a White House memo leaked in January that argued creating a nationalized 5G network was the only way for the US to protect itself from Chinese security threats. Though lawmakers quickly dismissed the idea as an infringement on the private sector—”We’re not Venezuela,” said one congressman, “We don’t need to have the government run everything”—the fact that the idea was even considered shows how nervous the Trump administration is about Chinese efforts to develop 5G technology.

5G was also on the President’s mind earlier this month when he signed an executive order blocking a $117 billion take over of Qualcomm by Singapore-based Broadcom. The decision came amid warnings by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that the deal would affect Qualcomm’s ability to develop 5G. This, they said, could allow China to take the lead in advancing the technology.

So what exactly is 5G? Why does it matter who develops it first? And how close is China to developing a global standard?

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Roma Eisenstark

Roma Eisenstark is a Beijing-based freelance journalist. She likes to write about changes in Chinese culture and the effect of technological innovation on society. She can be reached by email: roma.eisenstark@gmail.com,...