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Removing Chinese Telecommunications Equipment From U.S. Broadband Networks Would Cost More Than $1 Billion

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WASHINGTON, June 27, 2019 – When it comes to removing Huawei or ZTE telecommunications equipment from U.S. broadband networks, a strategy of “rip and place” would cost well over $1 billion.

Rural broadband carriers don’t have the budget for that, and they are concerned that the costs of a retrofit would delay the deployment of 5G wireless networks.

That was the message that multiple broadband providers – particularly rural entities – delivered to Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks at a Thursday FCC workshop that had been framed as a discussion about network security.

Starks staked out a strong position against the use of Chinese telecommunications equipment in U.S. broadband networks, noting existing steps by the Trump administration to prohibit procurement of telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE.

Starks convened the discussion at the agency, however, to address equipment that is already inextricable intertwined within U.S. networks.  “Network security is national security, and our interconnected networks are only as secure as their most vulnerable pieces,” he said.

The discussion applies to wired networks because equipment to run fiber-optic wires will be more instrumental in operating 5G networks than previous technologies. Mike Saperstein, vice president of policy and advocacy at US Telecom, said he is in support of federal risk management activities to “identify supply-chain threats.”

Others cited the distinction between trusting equipment and trusting suppliers. Much of 5G and 4G traffic will not necessarily pass through a network core, said Brian Hendricks, vice president of policy and government relations at Nokia. The radio layer of a mobile network has become a more vulnerable point of attack.

The issue of deploying 5G will fall “particularly hard” on small rural carriers in the United States, Hendricks said.

The only way to eliminate any risk would be to ban Chinese equipment entirely, said Jim Lewis, senior vice president and director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And such a “rip and replace” is not tenable, he said.

Moreover, he said, just as big American tech companies use Chinese components in their equipment, Chinese telecom depends on U.S. technological advancements.

And doing anything that would delay the deployment of 5G technology would ultimately hinder the economy.

Carri Bennet, general counsel at The Rural Wireless Association. Cited the figure of more-than $1 billion figure for replacing all Huawei and ZTE equipment. And attempting to replace network equipment while the network is still in operation could create service issues, including for public safety.

She suggested that it would be good to start with third-party monitoring of carrier networks.

“We should not be reliant on suppliers from adversarial nations to design manage and secure our critical infrastructure, especially as we develop cloud technologies,” said Travis Russell, director of cybersecurity at Oracle Communications. There is no finalized definition yet of what a stand-alone 5G network would look like, he said, so there is still time to “work out a solution” for this dilemma.

The FCC has a vital role in understanding the issues that small, rural carriers face, said Dileep Srihari, senior policy counsel at Telecommunications Industry Association.

Many rural providers lack the budget to replace banned equipment, said Jeff Johnston, senior economist at CoBank.

A “rip and replace” strategy to remove equipment that some have suggest is not secure would bear an “enormous” opportunity cost for rural carriers relying on Huawei for telecom infrastructure, said Christopher Reno, chief accounting officer at Union Telephone Company.

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Johnny Kampis: Wireless Survey Shows 5G’s Role in Closing Digital Divide

5G has experienced a quantum leap in growth since it first began rolling out in 2018.

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The author of this Expert Opinion in Johnny Kampis of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance

There was universal consensus that 5G wireless technology would be a game changer for closing the digital divide. The question was whether or not private investment would be enough to deploy the needed infrastructure. A new report shows that capital expenditures from wireless providers reached a record high in 2021, as 5G saw tremendous growth and will continue to help connect households now unserved by broadband.

CTIA’s 2022 Annual Wireless Industry Survey shows that wireless providers invested $35 billion into growing and improving their networks, the fourth consecutive year of industry growth.

CTIA said this is “a powerful trend that emphasizes the societal importance of wireless connectivity and underlines the industry’s commitment to building a robust platform for innovation that connects all communities.”

5G has experienced a quantum leap in growth since it first began rolling out in 2018, as infrastructure reforms that eased deployment barriers have resulted in 5G growing twice as fast as 4G. Since the Federal Communications Commission and state legislatures worked to modernize key siting regulations that could have stymied the technology’s growth, wireless providers have added 70,000 active cell sites. There are now nearly 420,000 operational cell sites across the U.S.

As CTIA notes, “More cell sites enhance coverage, encouraging adoptions and helping to close the digital divide.”

Clearly consumers want faster mobile internet speeds as the number of connective 5G devices grew more than a whopping 500 percent this past year from 14 million to Accenture 85 million. About one-third of American now possess an active 5G device.

CTIA points out that the number of connections that require wireless technology is helping fuel the growth – everything from smart watches to medical sensors. Such data-only devices represent about 42 percent of all wireless connections.

Wireless providers have invested nearly $121 billion into their networks since the launch of 5G.

CTIA notes that in an age of incredible inflation, the wireless industry’s investment, combined with increased market competition, has led to lower prices, “providing a welcome contrast to an economy where consumers have faced priced increases for 94 percent of tracked goods and services nationwide.”

Since 2010, the cost of unlimited data plans has declined 43 percent while wireless speeds have increased 85-fold over the same period.

Investment and competition have also led to new innovations such as 5G for home broadband and 5G fixed wireless. The latter is particularly useful in connecting rural areas where it’s hard to make a business case for fiber due to the cost of the last-mile connections. CTIA notes that 5G home broadband is available in more than 40 million households, providing home connections via spectrum with high capacity and low latency rather than a wired connection.

The report also points out that 5G is helping mitigate the impacts of climate change by creating green jobs in key industries. Accenture has found that 5G-enabled use cases should delivers 20 percent of the U.S.’s emission reduction targets by 2025.

5G is clearly helping usher in a new age of connectivity in this country. CTIA’s statistics are encouraging signs that the latest wireless technology is helping make broadband access available to more Americans than ever before. The best part of this growth is that taxpayer dollars are not being spent.

Johnny Kampis is director of telecom policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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5G Connected Traffic Structures Will Facilitate Safer, Environmentally Friendly Travel: Industry

The release of more spectrum will help move autonomous vehicles forward.

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Screenshot of Joe Moye, CEO of Beep

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2022 – 5G-connected street infrastructure, such as traffic lights, will make commuter travel environmentally friendly and safe, said a panel at a Punchbowl News event Thursday, and it can be facilitated by the release of more spectrum.

The move toward autonomous vehicles will require vehicles and road structures communicating with each other. Some vehicles on the road include sensors that detect objects to avoid collisions – but these vehicles still require someone behind the wheel.

Nick Ludlum, senior vice president and chief communications officer of the event’s sponsor, CTIA, spoke about the environmental benefits of autonomous transportation and said vehicles and road systems can “all work together…to make more efficient transit patterns…so people aren’t sitting and idling in cars with, [producing] all the emissions.”

But Ludlum noted that the Federal Communications Commission can facilitate such autonomous travel by auctioning off more spectrum. “More spectrum means better networks, and better networks means bigger innovations,” he said.

Joe Moye, CEO of autonomous transportation company Beep, said that his company’s specialty is autonomous shuttles – with capacities of 12–14 passengers.

“The vehicles have to interface with infrastructure like a human would,” said. Beep’s CEO argued that 5G-enabled real-time communication between vehicle and infrastructure is “absolutely critical to the safety and effectiveness of these types of vehicles.” Moye also explained that with 5G technology, Beep is developing systems by which a remote operator can take control of an autonomous vehicle and maneuver it out of an emergency.

Moye said he believes that adoption of autonomous mass transit could also significantly reduce commute-driven emissions.

“If we’re gonna really transform mobility as we know it,” Moye said, “we need to have a convenient, safe alternative to our personal vehicles.”

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Open Radio Access Networks Can Save Energy, Say Panelists at Industry Summit

Broadband players in both the fiber marketplace and 5G space are pushing for energy-efficient networks.

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Screenshot of Paul Challoner, vice president of Network Product Solutions at Ericsson

September 8, 2022 – Open radio access networks allow administrators to utilize software that save energy, said Paul Challoner, vice president of Network Product Solutions for Ericsson, at Fierce Wireless’ Open RAN Summit on Wednesday.

Radio access networks connect personal devices – such as phones and computers – to core networks through radio waves. Open RANs’ components, unlike those of traditional RANs, are “interoperable” – a single network can function with pieces made by different manufacturers.

A crucial part of an Open RAN is the RAN Intelligent Control, a software component which enables users to obtain and run native as well as third-party software.

For instance, to eliminate energy waste during periods of light traffic, these sophisticated controls employ artificial intelligence software to direct signals to designated base stations only . This allows other base stations to hibernate. Traditional RANs lack the software capacity of O-RANs and therefore must run all base stations at all times.

Energy initiatives across telecom industry

Elsewhere in the telecom industry, broadband players are pushing for energy-efficient networks as well. Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks regularly calls for sustainable, net-zero carbon emissions. “We must continue to find ways to do more while using less,” he said in June.

Additionally, the Fiber Broadband Association recently released a report that found that fiber to the home technology creates less CO2 than either DSL or cable broadband. What’s more, the report found that since FTTH users are disproportionately likely to work from home, FTTH also results in less commute-driven CO2 emissions.

O-RAN as a 5G player

Many believe that open RAN technology will play a substantial role in creating an alternative to proprietary telecommunications equipment. As concerns mount about Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei – including its connections to the Chinese Communist Party –O-RAN has emerged as a viable alternative to provide 5G coverage.

To safeguard O-RAN networks, networks must employ a bottom-to-top approach to cybersecurity, said Douglas Gardner, chief technologist for the Analog Devices’ CTO Office Security Center of Excellence, at Wednesday’s Open RAN Summit. Gardner argued that every part of the network – down to the chip level – must be constructed with potential cyberthreats in mind.

Ultimately, Gardner believes that expensive up-front investments in cybersecurity prevent far more expensive breaches down the road: “Good security costs vendors money. Get over it.”

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