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The Importance of 6G Hardware: The Case For 'Made in America'

Samuel S. Visner spoke about his opinions towards 6G and the United States.

When IBM licensed Microsoft's DOS operating system to other computer manufacturers in 1980, it was widely regarded as a windfall for the young entrepreneur Bill Gates.


A blunder that would go down in history was IBM's mistaken belief that value lay in the hardware rather than the software it was developing. And it is likely that this error is at least partially responsible for the dangerously bankrupt argument that it doesn't matter who builds the hardware as long as the United States develops the technology, standards, and software (as opposed to China).


This point of view is one of several reasons why the United States has lagged behind the rest of the world in deep technology innovation for decades, particularly in areas such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, telecommunications, semiconductors, biotechnology, and advanced manufacturing, among others. Moreover, it's one of the reasons why China has risen to become the world's leading manufacturer of 5G hardware and software deployment.


The rest of the world follows in the footsteps of the country that is the first to implement a new technology. Chinese telecom giant Huawei has steadily increased its share of the world's 5G infrastructure over the past few years. Economic and technological dominance are important in achieving global power and influence, and the Chinese government has long recognized the importance of this. Controlling the hardware is a critical component of their development process. As long as the rest of the world continues to buy Chinese hardware, it is inevitable that the rest of the world will eventually buy Chinese software as well.


What makes you think we'll allow the same thing to happen with 6G? Because of this, we will not only lose jobs and economic growth but we will also put our businesses and the entire country in jeopardy. When thinking about a large-scale cyberattack on critical infrastructure, it's easy to imagine a more mundane approach, such as cutting supply lines, that can be just as devastating.


While the pandemic was underway, this type of supply chain risk became increasingly apparent as we became increasingly reliant on China and other countries for masks and ventilators. The United States, whose vast manufacturing capabilities played a critical role in the victory of World War II, was taken by surprise.


Consider the ramifications of this for the transportation industry alone. Our autonomous vehicles, including trucking across the United States, may become reliant on hardware and software manufactured in China in a relatively short period of time if we continue on our current course.


What happens if China decides to halt the supply of components for 6G hardware and software? What are our alternatives? What will the rest of the world do is anyone's guess.


In order for 6G to be successful, we must decide now whether or not we are willing to allow this to occur. Despite the fact that it takes approximately ten years to develop and deploy a new generation of mobile technology, research into 6G technology has already begun. Commercial deployments of 6G could begin as early as 2028 or 2029, as each generation advances at a faster rate than the one before it.


Given the challenges ahead, which include changes in clean energy, electric vehicle manufacturing and infrastructure, and other factors, we must devise a strategy for retaining more of those jobs in the United States of America.


The following steps must be taken in order for the United States to reap the greatest possible benefit from 6G manufacturing:


  • Let's get over our aversion to the term "industrial strategy" and embrace it. An expert on technology policy, Robert Atkinson makes a compelling case for the development and implementation of a national industrial strategy in order to reestablish American leadership in the global economy. The government, he points out, does not always serve the national interest, but it does foster significant technological advances and has backed several technology winners in fields such as materials science, computing, aviation, and other areas of interest.
  •  To revitalize domestic development of technology talent while increasing our country's attractiveness to the world's brightest minds, we must take the following actions: After all, with a population of only 5 percent of the world's total, the United States cannot claim to have produced every intelligent individual required. Despite the continued rise in H1-B visa rejection rates, Michael Savvidas of the Center for Strategic and International Studies makes a compelling case for a human-centric strategy for the Sixth Generation of the Internet.
  •  Intensify efforts to fund 6G research and development, which should include methods to increase the efficiency and profitability of American manufacturing. As with the construction of our Navy's submarines, industrial capacity is required for all aspects of 6G, including hardware, as well as for the development of software. The United States government should consider, if necessary, the economic incentives and support that will be required to develop and maintain that industrial capacity.


In order to fully appreciate the potential of 6G, we must consider much more than just fast internet and incredible virtual reality experiences.


Using 6G, we will be able to turn around our current weakness in deep technology innovation while also avoiding the supply chain risk that we discussed earlier. Using it, we will be able to take rapid prototyping and computer-aided design (CAD) to a whole new level, as well as act quickly in an emergency to avoid supply chain risk. If, for example, manufacturers ultimately determine that it is more cost effective to manufacture ventilators overseas, 6G should significantly improve our ability to turn around critical parts in large quantities within days of receipt of the order.


Since the notion that "hardware really doesn't matter" became ingrained in our business mindset, we need to think about manufacturing and how 6G can help us close the significant gaps that have been allowed to be filled by Chinese manufacturers.


That being said, there is some good news: we are about to enter a period of unprecedented manufacturing opportunity. Now is the time to begin preparing for the use of 6G technology to assist in the resolution of many of our current economic, workforce, climate, and national security challenges – as well as to prevent the emergence of serious new problems.


Now is the time to seize the initiative in the 6G sphere of influence.

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