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Accepted Contribution:

Rip and Replace: 5G small cell networks, urban planning, and the geopolitical crisis of foreign surveillance  
Harrison Smith (University of Sheffield)

Short abstract:

Drawing on legal findings and government documents, this paper examines policy changes governing the deployment of 5G 'small cell' masts within the US and UK as part of a geopolitical conflict between Western nations and China.

Long abstract:

This paper examines the political economies of 5G ‘small cell’ wireless telecommunications masts and their deployment within the context of a geopolitical conflict between Western and Chinese nations. Small cells are a ‘backbone’ component of 5th Generation Wireless telecommunications networks that uses low-powered radio antennas for ‘plugging’ various gaps in network propagation, typically in urban areas and indoor environments. Estimates predict that small cell radio networks will significantly increase to ensure sufficient network densification needed to scale 5G in the future. Recent spectrum auctions have likewise opened up new parts of the electromagnetic spectrum for 5G small cell networks.

Western countries have sought to regulate if not completely ‘rip and replace’ Chinese manufacturers of 5G kit such as Huawei from national networks, under the pretence of maintaining national security, network resilience, and economic competitiveness. Crucial to such concerns is a perceived crisis of 5G that would open up risks of foreign surveillance due to the technical affordances of small cells for data gathering.

By drawing on legal fillings and government documentation, this paper examines key policy changes that have emerged to govern the deployment of 5G small cell masts within the US and UK. The paper focuses on the material aspects of infrastructure that have reconfigured legislation on land use policies, supply-chain diversification, and standards settings. These changes contribute to an understanding of the political and material forces shaping 5G deployment.

Combined Format Open Panel P055
Making 5G Matter: Transformations In Network Infrastructure And Research
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -