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Exploring the intersection of IT and Geopolitics with Tony Blair Institute Director, Anand Pillai

GGI Business Review is a new business series, capturing snapshots of the GGI Harvard Case Style Masterclass by CEOs and Industry Leaders.

This particular piece is a snapshot from Anand Pillai's GGI Masterclass.


When we talk of 5G, the first thing that comes to mind is “SPEED”. Well, it is obvious to think of speed, when talking about 5G, as it aims to enhance the user experience of internet users around the world by providing lightning-fast speeds in a fraction of a second. But the talk about 5G also includes discussions around the geopolitical issues surrounding the rollout of technology around, with the significant leaning of power towards China due to its massive 5G-ready mobile infrastructure.

Anand Pillai, Director at Tony Blair Institute for Global Change helps us deeply understand the geopolitical issues surrounding the rollout of 5G services around the world.


When talking about 5G, one of the first questions that come up is that is 5G really needed right now. The simple answer is Yes because while living in a dynamic environment with constantly changing technologies around the world, the driver behind the technology around the world needs to be as updated as possible. With the internet being the driver behind technology around the world, there is a constant need to strive and upgrade the worldwide internet infrastructure, and 5G is the latest technological advancement needed around the world to keep technological innovations on track.

5G is faster and uses less energy when compared to 4G and it simultaneously allows us to do things more quickly while using less energy and less bandwidth, making it an energy-efficient upgrade needed in a world facing a global energy crisis. Depending on how fast our network is, we can do many amazing and exciting things like autonomous driving or VR.

Lots of industries will derive a lot of benefits from 5G as it is faster, better, and cheaper which allows companies to do things that they weren’t able to do before.

A lot of 5G infrastructure will be based on the existing 4G infrastructure and a lot of companies around the world are working on developing it even further. Many Chinese and Korean companies have been working in this space for quite some time now and that is why they enjoy a significant edge over their European and American counterparts.


5G is a battle being played predominantly between the US and China as part of larger geopolitical tensions between these countries.

The US and China are locking horns over the following factors in the race to 5G:

  1. In-country preparedness: China is ahead in this category, with the Chinese government playing a significant part in the push for 5G.

  2. Global Sales: China again leads this category with Huawei, the world’s largest mobile infrastructure firm trialling 5G in over 40 countries.

  3. Standards: While the US enjoyed dominated standards setting for 4G, it is Beijing that has substantial representation in 5G standards and is becoming more assertive in international bodies.

  4. Security: Huawei has been facing allegations around the world for including “backdoors” in its 5G equipment.

China is ahead in terms of built infrastructure and is expected to have the largest 5G market. They have taken a whole government-side approach to 5G, by putting the power of state-owned enterprises for pushing towards 5G.

Currently, Huawei has a large part of the market in terms of 5G infrastructure around the world. However, one of the biggest challenges that Huawei faces right now is that due to US regulatory clampdown, the Chinese firm could be left wanting for some pieces of equipment that it sources from around the world for assembling its 5G equipment. However, the innovations being done by US firms should not be discounted as they are also making significant progress towards making their telecom infrastructure 5G ready.


There are two main regulatory bodies in the telecom sector around the world, -International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and, -3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).

By being a front-runner in the 5G sector, China has also taken a leadership role in major governance and regulatory organisations around the world like the 3GPP. This gives China major decision-making powers in the 5G sector which can be used to make decisions in its favour.

Technology is the new battleground of the world and countries are striving to dominate the tech battles around the world

By dominating the technology sector, countries around the world can have significant influence over many geopolitical decisions that might favour them and after analyzing all the aspects discussed till now, it's easy to figure out the importance of 5G from Foreign Policy and Technological Perspectives. This is why nations and companies around the world are striving to get their services up and running as soon as possible.


Anand Pillai currently leads the Center of Government and Delivery Practice at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, and prior to his current role spent 10+ years as a management consultant working on diverse mandates ranging from implementing a government relations strategy ($10bil Rio Tinto mining project) to the transformation of one of the world’s largest plantation companies before its IPO.

Anand has advised Heads of State, Ministers and local governments across Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa on the delivery of their political priorities and on how to put in place systems in the centre of government to drive ambitious reform agendas.

Anand holds a graduate degree from the University of Oxford and is also an engineering and management science graduate from Northwestern University, Chicago where he completed his undergraduate studies.


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