State won’t block Huawei from rolling out 5G network, says CS

A security robot with Huawei 5G technology is displayed at an exhibition during the World Intelligence Congress in Tianjin, China May 16, 2019. [Reuters]

As Americans and the Chinese fight over who will control the Internet as part of a wider geopolitical war for dominance, Kenya has cleared hurdles for the rollout of the fastest internet service.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru said the country will not follow the US in shutting out Chinese firm Huawei from rolling out 5G - the fifth generation cellular network technology.

“You know there’s something called sovereignty. We are a sovereign country and decide our own destiny. We do not follow what other people say, we take what works and innovate with it,” said Mucheru.

“Our policies are not driven by the US policy as far as technology is concerned, we take what is best for us, what is secure for us. I think for us, we are not going to be tied to what other people are saying. We are going to ensure we have value for money for our citizens and we will continue to ensure we have security. This is even as we can innovate and ensure we have the security and all that we need.”

In simple terms, 5G is the use of the radio spectrum that enables more devices to access the mobile internet at the same time, increasing speed by up to 20 times.

The technology will allow remote robotics-assisted operations and automated surgeries where, for example, a doctor in India can operate on a patient in Kenya without having to move here.

Kenya, where market leader operates extensively with Huawei hardware, would take a hit if the US sanctions were extended to firms doing business with the Chinese firm.

Kenya is also working with Huawei to build a smart city in Konza as part of government efforts to make the country a tech hub.

“We are doing a data centre, and we are building a tier four data centre for the services of the country. We have four fibre cables coming from the sea. We did not do this thing by chance. We researched and decided this is the direction that we will take,” CS Mucheru said.

The technology has been launched in London, South Korea and select US cities and is reported to operate on average at around 200Mbps on 5G, compared to around 25 Mbps on 4G.

The technology could ease the use of driverless cars, remote robotic surgery, and the Internet of Things where machines and devices are linked through the internet.

The 5G network will also power the development of fully autonomous weapons that make their own decisions to fire at targets as well as tracking people in public places in real time using facial recognition technology.

This has put 5G technology at the centre of power struggles between the US and China, with the former moving to block Western companies from doing business with the Chinese technology firm.