The telecoms security bills raised for consideration in the UK parliament recently are really interesting, but not just for the reason that has been the focus of the major news agencies.
The Huawei situation has been front and center of all reporting and as a reflection of the current global political environment, that is only right. The rift between China and the West has probably never been larger and Huawei have found themselves front and center.
However, uncertainty surrounding Huawei has been present for some time now, so it’s possible that mobile operators have already planned for life without them.
Reading deeper, there are other areas of interest. The law is establishing the operator’s security responsibility beyond the exclusion of certain vendors, to network security as a whole, as well as forcing change in the telecom supply chain, driving vendor diversity to combat the security vulnerabilities of monoculture or duo culture networks.
But these goals are not unique to the UK.
The Prague conference and a 5G agreement on security
In 2019, 32 countries attended a 5G conference in Prague and announced an agreement in principle on security. Shortly after the event, the European Union released the EU Toolkit, which was supported by a document from ENISA, the Europen Union’s Cyber security advisers. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the U.S. released a strategy document of late that mirrored much of the EU’s.
Within both papers, and others globally, we see reference to greater regulatory powers, and in the last week the UK has been the first to move enshrining these powers in law, while at the same time setting the bar for fines, £100,000 a day or 10% of revenue.
Even with Brexit looming, the UK will still closely align with the EU and are part of the wider “5 eyes partnership”, so it’s reasonable to expect the fines and laws to be similar and follow closely in these associated states. Additionally, the Trump administration’s “Clean Network” initiative again mirrors the Prague agreement and this is publicly supported by a number of their allies who were not present in Prague – for example, Latin America.
Therefore, while this legislation is specific to the UK, it indicates the direction of regulation well beyond those shores.
OFCOM, the UK regulator, will be given new powers to direct telecoms providers to take interim steps to address security gaps, but this is not restricted to standalone 5G networks. The legislation states who has access to sensitive parts of the core network, how security audits should be conducted, and how customer data must be protected. This will force operators to improve their security protection for all generations, rather than just 5G networks.
The regulation was released in two parts, the second concentrating on diversifying the network beyond the one or two vendors available today. This again mirrors the stated goals of the CISA though they take it further, offering prizes and R&D incentives for innovation to secure the supply chain.
Taking on the issue of security directly by excluding Chinese vendors
This addresses a big issue directed at policy makers when they excluded Chinese vendors. The argument is that exclusion slows the rollout of 5G, so the country will either fail to take full advantage of the move to industry 4.0, or make it more expensive, or slower for consumers to benefit from the new technology.
However, we do also see the opposite effect. The Huawei strategy has accelerated Open RAN, with Dell’Oro Group predicting huge rises in investment accelerated by the decision to limit Chinese equipment, reducing competition. The UK’s decision to create the SmartRAN Open Network Innovation Centre and the support of the NeutrORAN project with NEC should also create commercial opportunity and the incentives to drive innovation and new market entrants.
Ensuring the security for this abundance of new suppliers could be a problem. The program will have its hands full keeping track and vetting these new, likely small and niche vendors. I have no doubt the labs will be able to assure the quality of solutions. But many could be functions never seen before, driven by 5G applications we haven’t thought of yet. So complexity and volumes will put the pressure on labs to certify the solutions quickly enough for the market.
New applications develop much faster than established technologies, so they need updating more often. Interactions and behavior between applications may change as new ideas are developed. So just getting new vendors securely to market is ambitious. Yet this is just the start – you must secure the long-term maintenance and management processes. This means software patching, upgrades, configuration, expansion projects and the many other day-to-day activities a network needs.
It’s a massive task, but the UK government has to be commended for starting to address an issue that will affect every country and every individual for the rest of our lives.
Jimmy Jones has worked in telecoms for such major operators as WorldCom (now Verizon) and vendors including Nortel, Genband and Positive Technologies (since 2017). From legacy telecom exchanges to integration and protocol interoperability testing, Jones changed in 2005 to SIP and Session Boarder Controller equipment. He’s been on the front lines from Tier 3 and 4 wholesale carriers to Tier 1 operators using SIP for peering and access as part of the move to IMS and LTE networks. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to email@example.com. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
CES 2022: 5G, Aviation Crisis a Problem of Federal Coordination, Observers Say
The hope is coordination problems will be relieved when the Senate confirms NTIA head.
LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2022 – The possible near collision of 5G signals and aircraft altimeters emerged out of a lack of coordination on the federal government’s part to bring all relevant information to the Federal Communications Commission before it auctioned off the spectrum that has now been put on hold for safety precautions, observers said Thursday.
This week, Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout of their 5G services using the C-band spectrum surrounding airports after the Federal Aviation Administration raised the alarm for months about possible interference of the wireless signals with aircraft, which use their own radios to safely land planes.
But the issue could’ve been resolved back in 2020, when the FCC proposed to repurpose a portion of the band to allow for wireless use, some said on a panel discussing 5G Thursday in Las Vegas.
“After the FCC had adopted the rules, auctioned off the spectrum, raised over $80 billion and deployment began and then additional information that apparently had not been brought to the FCC before comes over…that’s not good for the country,” said John Godfrey, senior vice president of public policy and acting head of U.S. public affairs at Samsung, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.
“The time to have that information be disclosed and discussed and analyzed is when the FCC is conducting the rulemaking,” Godfrey said, adding the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration should, as federal telecom rep, be spearheading coordination efforts between the FAA and the FCC on telecommunications matters.
“I think it’s their job as the leaders of telecom policy in the administration to facilitate bringing the full federal government to the table in a timely manner,” Godfrey added.
Asad Ramzanali, legislative director for Democratic California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, said that the fallout of the aviation issue has shown that, “Looking backwards, I do think this is a failure. This is a failure in government to be able to coordinate at the right time…when there’s a process, those impacted should be participating — that is the role of the NTIA.”
NTIA head confirmation ‘should be a priority’
And the hope is that such coordination issues can be averted in the future with the confirmation of a permanent head of the NTIA, said Ramzanali. President Joe Biden nominated Alan Davidson in October to be the next permanent head of the agency, which has had temporary figures fill in the role since the resignation in May 2019 of the last full-time head, David Redl.
“That should be a priority,” Ramzanali said of pushing Davidson through. “The NTIA is doling out $42.5 billion of that $65 billion [from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act]. The NTIA is supposed to deal with those types of issues. They have brilliant people there, but this is the kind of leadership that they should be in the middle of.
“And this isn’t a recent NTIA thing,” Ramzanali added. “This has lasted many years, especially in the prior administration where the NTIA wasn’t doing this part of it — coordinating with other agencies.
“I’m hopeful with Alan Davidson presumably getting in soon that we won’t see that kind of issue.”
CES 2022: Educating Consumers About 5G Will Encourage Wider Adoption
Currently, consumers are not being provided the information they need to make the leap, a consultant said.
LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2021 – Educating consumers about 5G is necessary to achieving wider adoption in its upcoming deployment in the United States.
At Wednesday’s CES “Path to A Better 5G World” session, industry leaders discussed how 5G will change the digital landscape by offering new experiences for businesses and consumers.
Sally Lange Witkowski, founder of business consulting firm Slang Consulting, said that companies should educate consumers about the benefits of 5G.
“Some consumers don’t even know 5G exists,” she said. “They believe faster is better,” but said that consumers don’t know about 5G’s wider applications. “Consumers should want to have [5G] because of how innovators and entrepreneurs will use the technology.”
Slang’s research shows that consumers are only willing to pay up to $5 more per month for 5G service. “It’s not about the hype, it’s about the usability,” Witkowski added. She noted that people are living longer and older Americans are growing old without the necessary digital skills to thrive in our new ecosystem.
“A child born today has a one in two chance of living till 100,” she said. Educating consumers about 5G’s benefits can help the elderly prepare to participate in the revolution.
Witkowski also said closed hardware software ecosystems, sometimes referred to as “walled gardens,” prevent consumers from discovering new experiences.
“The really large organizations have a hard time innovating. Big corporations are built to scale. The ability to reach out to entrepreneurs to access creative thinking is important,” Witkowski added. “The pandemic changed a lot [for technology companies]. They are going to have to embrace something they don’t normally embrace,” like the fact that another company may be better positioned to create solutions.
FCC Commissioner Carr Details Steps Needed for 5G, Says Talk of 6G ‘Almost Too Early’
The commissioner also said he thinks Biden will support Big Tech contributions to the Universal Service Fund.
WASHINGTON, December 9, 2021 – Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr says that proper planning on increased spectrum release and infrastructure reform is necessary for the FCC to ensure a smooth rollout of 5G technology.
Carr specifically critiqued the current infrastructure reform approaches of President Joe Biden’s administration, saying that the administration’s current plan seems to be to make large sums of funding available without planning extensively for infrastructure modernization.
At Thursday’s Media Institute event during which Carr spoke, the commissioner also said he thinks it is “almost too early” to start thinking about 6G rollout that newly re-confirmed Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has said is on the table sooner rather than later. Carr emphasized that focusing on 6G too early could distract from planning necessary for 5G’s success.
Regardless, Carr expressed that the U.S. is in a good shape to effectively harness 5G and compete with China’s use of the technology, owing to an American 5G platform that he called the strongest in the world as well as to American innovation in the area.
In terms of what else is unresolved with regard to 5G, Carr says it is not yet clear what the flagship new application development will be with 5G. He believes this may become much clearer as very low power Wi-Fi technology begins to allow for creative uses of 5G.
Big Tech contribution to Universal Service Fund?
Also during Thursday’s event, Carr said that he believes the Biden administration will support requiring big tech corporations to contribute to the Universal Service Fund, citing lead Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s support for the proposal. Carr as well as key Republicans have also demonstrated support for this proposal in the past, which would provide monetary support for a fund that provides basic telecommunications services to remote and low-income communities.
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