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China nears completion of its GPS competitor, increasing the potential for Internet balkanization





China nears completion of its GPS competitor, increasing the potential for Internet balkanization – TechCrunch




























On Friday, China announced that it would complete its competitor to the U.S.-operated global positioning system network by the first half of next year, increasing the pace of its decoupling from U.S. technologies.

China’s Beidou network of satellites — named after the “Big Dipper” constellation — will be the first service to compete with the U.S. Air Force’s global positioning system and already has a potentially massive user base since over 70% of Chinese smartphones are now ready to use its positioning services, according to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review.

The Beidou network is integral to China’s longterm plans to dominate the next generation of telecommunications services and — coupled with China’s advances in fifth-generation wireless communications technology — represents as significant challenge to the U.S. hegemony over telecommunications infrastructure.

China plans to launch the final two satellites needed to make the Beidou system operational by June 2020, according to a statement from the project’s director, Ran Chengqi quoted by The Associated Press.

Envisioning a system where China’s global positioning system and fifth generation wireless networking technologies work in tandem, China could command a lion’s share of the market for new telecommunications services.

A test of how these technologies could work in tandem is being developed in Wuhan, where both 5G and Beidou’s mapping technologies will be used to create an autonomous vehicle testbed on a 28 kilometer stretch of road.

Beidou already has 120 partners signed up to work with the service — all linked to agreements made under China’s expanding Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, according to Nikkei.

Chinese smartphone manufacturers accounted for over 40% of sales worldwide as of the second quarter of 2019, the latest data from Counterpoint Research shows.

China’s GPS href=”https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-45471959″> rolled out in phases beginning with a domestic service launched in 2000 and a regional service for Asia Pacific coming online in 2012.

By 2020 the nation’s network of 35 satellites will exceed the U.S. system that’s currently in place.

“There is certainly an aspect of this that is about expanding influence, but part of it is likely also about economic security,” Alexandra Stickings, from the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, told the BBC last year. “The main advantage of having your own system is security of access, in the sense that you are not relying on another country to provide it. The US could deny users access over certain areas, for example in times of conflict.”

Space is an area of strategic importance for the Chinese government. The country has already achieved significant milestones including quantum communications powered by its space capabilities and the first human exploration of the far side of the moon. And current plans are in place for China to send a probe to Mars in 2020 as it prepares to complete a space station by 2022.

It’s against this backdrop of increasing activity in space — even as tensions mount terrestrially — that the U.S. created the latest branch of its armed forces under the moniker of the Space Force.

Citing Chinese state media, the Nikkei Times reported that the value of goods and services tied to Beidou will reach $57 billion by 2020. The figure itself is nebulous, but points to the kind of economic power Beijing hopes to yield through the new satellite positioning service.

The development of these alternative internet realities matters a great deal.

As Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer of Google — and no stranger to the operations of Chinese technology companies —  noted last year at a private dinner (first reported by CNBC):

“[The] Chinese Internet is a greater percentage of the GDP of China, which is a big number, than the same percentage of the US, which is also a big number. If you think of China as like ‘Oh yeah, they’re good with the Internet,’ you’re missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you’re going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc. Look at the way BRI works – their Belt and Road Initiative, which involves 60-ish countries – it’s perfectly possible those countries will begin to take on the infrastructure that China has with some loss of freedom.”

 


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from Accel and SoftBank talk Europe’s startup scene, what they expect in 2020, and the future of SoftBank”,”content”:{“rendered”:”

If you haven’t noticed, Europe’s startup scene is in full bloom, with more than $30 billion deployed in startups across the continent over the last 12 months and more than 20 countries now home to a so-called unicorn company.n

Investors around the globe are jumping into the pool, too. Consider that the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) is currently investing a u20ac300 million fund in Europe. Abu Dhabi’s state investor, Mubadala, last year announced it was launching a $400 million fund to back European startups. And that’s saying nothing of the many Europe-based venture investors who are either raising new funds or recently closed them.n

Atomico, for example, one of the continent’s biggest early-stage firms, closed its most recent fund with $765 million in 2017 and is reportedly out fundraising again. Others of all different sizes have recently announced new vehicles, including Balderton Capital, which last month closed a new $400 million fund; United Ventures, a 6.5-year-old, Milan-based early-stage venture capital firm that last week closed its second fund with u20ac120 million in capital commitments (nearly double the u20ac70 million it raised for its debut fund); MiddleGame Ventures, a 1.5-year-old, Luxembourg-based fintech-focused investment firm that recently held a first close on a fund that’s targeting u20ac150 million altogether; Northzone, a 23-year-old, London-based venture capital firm that closed on $500 million in capital commitments for its ninth fund (its largest to date); Ada Ventures, a new London-based seed-stage venture firm that just closed its debut fund with $34 million; and Dawn Capital, a nearly 13-year-old, U.K.-based early-stage venture firm that in summer raised $125 million for an opportunities-type fund.n

To find out more about what’s happening on the ground, we sat down at Disrupt Berlin earlier this month with two London-based investors —  Carolina Brochado, who late last year left Atomico to join SoftBank’s Vision Fund, and Andrei Brasoveanu of Accel — to discuss where the money is coming from, which European cities are becoming more interesting to both of them, and some of the challenges they face in covering so many different regions.n

We also talked specifically with Brochado about whether SoftBank is changing up its tactics in light of some bets that aren’t panning out as intended — and whether she has any qualms about the outfit’s biggest investor. Our conversation, edited lightly for length and clarity, follows.n

TC: We’re all meeting for the first time, and I thought we could do everyone here a service who wants to understand both of you better by talking a little bit about who you are and what you focus on. Do you want to start Carolina? I know you studied in the U.S…n

CB: Yes, so I’m originally from Brazil. I moved to the U.S. for university, spent over 10 years in the U.S., [and I] have worked in in large cap private equity, have worked at a pre launch, launch, [then failed] startup, and then have spent a lot of my time in Europe, which has been seven years now, at an earlier stage VC firm called Atomico . . . and for the last year, I’ve been at SoftBank Vision Fund, investing at the growth stage.n

AB: I’ve been with Accel for six years. I’m originally from Romania and spent 10 years in the states like Carolina, studying and working in New York in high frequency trading. At Accel, I’ve been focused most of my time on enterprise software and financial services and I’ve been very excited to back European founders from London all the way to Bucharest. Accel is one of the few Valley-based venture firms with on-the-tground presence in Europe. We’ve been here for 20 years, and we really believe in having a local approach to investing.n

TC: Carolina, you switched from Atomico to SoftBank this year. Why?n

CB: There’s a lot of push and pull with these sort of things. Europe is such an incredibly exciting place right now, and to be totally honest, back [when I moved here] in 2013, I didn’t totally see it, but over the years, you realize how many incredible entrepreneurs [are here], how many incredible teams, and the opportunity that lies ahead. And firms like Accel and Atomico were paving the path of the capital structure in Europe, which is actually very young; maybe the past 15 years, there’s been VC in Europe, and now you starting to see the fruits of that and the exits.n

So for me, part of it was while there are great funds at the early stage, there’s still a lot of underfunding at that later stage, so I was really excited about doing growth in Europe and putting significant amounts of capital behind founders who want to go for the really big outcomes.n

TC: You now have an insider’s view of these two very important firms. What are some of the biggest differences between Atomico and SoftBank, aside from the different stages at which they invest — how do maybe the processes differ?n

CB: There’s obviously a difference in size — Atomico was 70 people and SoftBank is a 500-person organization. There is an interesting founder-led approach to both organizations. They are both very mission- driven by founders who want to change the world and by founders who want to be the best at what they do, which is really exciting.n

One of the key differences at SoftBank is that it’s really global firm [with] offices everywhere. We have offices in the U.S. We have offices in Asia. We have offices in Europe. For me, it has been a really interesting platform to see what other great founders are doing in other places of the world.n

And then, just because of the sheer size of the organization, you have a group of 50-plus operating partners who may have really deep areas of domain expertise like talent but who are also helping our companies do business development, and who can look at our ecosystem — which today is over 85 portfolio companies —  and make connections, and win business and actually win profitability for companies across and within that ecosystem.n

TC: You’re both [in Berlin right now] from London. Andrei, do you run into each other in deals, or are your worlds vastly different?n

AB: I would say we have quite different focus areas, we’re very much early-stage focused as our sweet spot [though] some of our companies, when they get to that mature stage, may benefit from working with SoftBank.n

CB: We try to stay very close to the great companies at Accel, so they’ll nudge us [when it’s the right time].n

TC: Who are you seeing coming into deals who you might not have when you joined Accel in 2014?n

AB: It’s interesting. Since I joined Accel, the quality of investors in Europe has increased dramatically. So we’ve seen quite a few former operators, for example, [meaning] very successful founders who are now starting the starting their own funds. We’ve seen more family offices enter the industry. We’ve seen more U.S. capital in the market. And in general, I think [all] has helped raise the bar in terms of the quality of capital available to founders across Europe. And many of these folks, especially the local players, have been good partners for us.n



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