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Jimmy Jones: UK Telecom Security Bills Drive Global Regulation and Network Security Standards Beyond 5G

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Jimmy Jones, a telecom cybersecurity expert for Positive Technologies

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 commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

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Celebrating Progress on 5G, the FCC’s Brendan Carr Urges Broadband Mapping

5G crusader Commissioner Brendan Carr voiced pride in the FCC’s focus on 5G over the past four years

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Photo of Brendan Carr from the Tennessee Star

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2021–Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr on Friday celebrated U.S. progress in 5G wireless investment and urged the completion of the agency’s broadband mapping initiative.

Speaking a the Free State Foundation gala luncheon, Carr argued that the United States has progressed in its 5G investments and is catching up to foreign networks. ”Years ago we imaged the U.S. would be left behind in 5G,” he said.

He touted his and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts to “remove the red tape.” Enabling the private sector has paid off, he said: The U.S. has jumped 20 places on the country internet speed index, signaling the installation of more robust U.S. 5G networks.

Further, the FCC should complete its broadband mapping process and take caution with the federal money allocated toward broadband deployment, he said, adding that he asked the FCC earlier this year to complete its map by fall 2021.

“There’s planning that can take place when the maps are completed” he said, reflecting a desire from the public and private sector for better, more accurate broadband maps.

He also said that federal money allocated toward the FCC’s efforts to bridge the digital divide should be used carefully, and that money to connect unconnected Americas should not be wasted.

Carr celebrated American investment in 5G progress earlier this year, calling U.S. leadership in 5G “one of the greatest success stories in of the past four years.” In that time, the FCC opened up more than six gigahertz of spectrum for 5G services.

Former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also gave remarks at the event, expressing concern about the federal Made In America policy’s implications on the telecommunications sector.

The Made in America policy refers to President Biden’s push to increase American made content in supply chains. O’Rielly, who left the Commission in December 2020, argued that the policy limits telecommunications companies to the kinds of products that can be made available to consumers.

The Free State Foundation’s Randy May at the Friday event

He also questioned “what it means to be an American manufacturer” because foreign companies are “in essence, being punished by law” for having “investments in the U.S. with U.S. workers as part of a U.S. subsidiary.”

In O’Rielly’s view, the location of the companies headquarters does not impact its national security risk to the U.S.

The remarks by Carr and O’Rielly were at the 15th anniversary celebration for the free-market think tank. Carr said that the foundation has been an “invaluable resource” and has been cited more than 200 times in FCC decisions.

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FCC’s Rosenworcel On Need to Accelerate Movement Toward 5G and Beyond

The acting chairwoman said the country needs to move quickly to adopt 5G for future technologies.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

WASHINGTON, October 12, 2021 – At the 10th annual Americas Spectrum Management Conference on Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the nation must move rapidly toward 5G to lay the groundwork for future technologies, including 6G.

Rosenworcel stressed the need to use this moment to “build a foundation for new growth and new opportunity in the post-pandemic world by increasing “the momentum toward 5G” and setting the stage for 6G “and beyond.”

She offered five principles for the delivery of 5G across the U.S. She illustrated how the FCC is dedicating more spectrum for 5G in order to demonstrate the viability of mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55GHz bands for private carriers. The FCC is also working on expanding the reach of fiber facilities. Referencing Biden’s infrastructure plan that includes $65 billion for broadband deployment, Rosenworcel noted that “it’s terrific to see that building more broadband is at the heart of the legislative discussions we are having about infrastructure in this country.”

The agency has been putting those words into practice, moving to release spectrum as it began an auction last week for critical mid-band spectrum in the 3.45 Gigahertz band said to be important for 5G. The commissioners from the agency have also talked up the need to focus on the squeezing “every drop” of the mid-band, following the massive C-band auction.

Rosenworcel described 5G as “an essential part of unlocking technologies that we’ve been talking about . . . the internet of things, telemedicine, virtual and augmented reality, smart transportation networks, [and] smart energy grids.” She views these technologies as the future of industry and expands the potential for artificial intelligence.

This was the first time Rosenworcel addressed the conference in her capacity as acting chairwoman, as she reviewed the agency’s progress toward closing the digital divide for all Americans. That includes administering a number of big broadband programs to tackle affordability and accessibility, including the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and Emergency Connectivity Fund, from which the FCC on Tuesday said it committed $1.1 billion in a second wave of funding.

Late last month, the FCC approved 72 telehealth applications to ensure patients have continuous care during the pandemic. Rosenworcel said healthcare centers across the U.S. “are receiving $140 million in support to assist with efforts to expand telehealth,” a service that could connect Americans unable to travel for in-person medical care.

Rosenworcel also described the beginning of the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to help prevent equipment harmful to the nation’s security “from ever reaching our shores and to encourage better security practices across the board.”

Finally, Rosenworcel described efforts to develop international standards for technology to cultivate more international innovation and democratize access to modern communications. The acting chairwoman and colleagues have previously noted the importance of open access technologies, like open radio access networks, for security, innovation and low cost.

Looking to 6G and beyond, Rosenworcel illustrated the need to refocus America’s cyber defense resources on developing strategies for greater protection in cyberspace. She urged conferencegoers to “take the lessons of the past few years to put us on smart course for the next generation of wireless technology.”

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Broadband Breakfast Interview About the Future of 5G with John Godfrey of Samsung

Greater availability of mid-band spectrum has kick-started 5G through better signal propagation, penetration and carrying capacity.

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July 11, 2021—As one of the world’s most prolific technology companies, Samsung is instantly associated with many information and communications technologies, including smartphones and semiconductors. Through both of these, and through other partnerships, Samsung is also driving the pace of change in 5G network equipment and in policy deployment.

In this interview with Samsung Electronic America’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs John Godfrey, he and Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark discussed both the past and the future of 5G.

Godfrey explained that Samsung’s work on 5G goes back a decade. Indeed, now the world is on the precipice of a 5G-connected society through a combination of technological advances and policy choices.

Broadband Breakfast Live Online hosted a six-part series, “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G” in sponsorship with Samsung Electronics America. Links to each episode in the series are posted are at the bottom of this Sponsored Video.

In particular, in the United States, the greater availability of mid-band radio frequency auctions in this spectrum has provided a “sweet spot” of good signal propagation, penetration, carrying capacity, and transmission speeds.

The hope, Godfrey says, is that 5G will subsume all cellphones, globally as well as in the U.S. More than 60 countries have deployed 5G networks today.

“By this time next year, you will not even need to think about whether your carrier has a 5G network or your phone supports 5G,” he said. “It will be so mainstream, thanks to this mid-band spectrum deployment.”

Godfrey described how the existing telecom landscape has changed over the years—and even over the past several months—with more 5G capable devices available than ever.

Samsung has been a part and parcel in this trend, designing affordable 5G phones such as the Galaxy A32 5G, with a price point as low as $200. Though the flagship models are more expensive, as 5G continues to become more common place, the financial barriers to entry to a 5G network will also continue to fall, he said.

While the world is only at the beginning of the 5G era, he said, as the technology becomes ubiquitous, new apps and services will become available. These will be the true test of the 5G era, he said.

As more carriers shift from low-band to mid-band spectrum, then bandwidth throughput will jump significantly.

Further, continuing to open up millimeter wave spectrum for deployment in the U.S. will also facilitate greater capacity for these new innovative services and apps. For example, he said, Samsung now supports 5G in 11 distinct bands ranging from 600 MegaHertz (MHz) all the way to 40 GigaHertz (GHz).

But millimeter wave bands are not a silver bullet either. But it will be extremely valuable in specific areas in the U.S. that have cleared mid-band spectrum for 5G use. That said, the U.S. is unlikely to have millimeter wave networks deployed coast-to-coast.

See “Robert Kubik, John Godfrey and Derek Johnston: After a Decade of Progress, What’s Next for 5G?,” Broadband Breakfast, June 8, 2021

This Broadband Breakfast interview is sponsored by:

Events in A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G” include:

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Hype and the Reality of 5G
    • This opening panel will set the stage for Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s consideration of the policy, technology and practical questions around the 5G wireless standard. What is 5G, and why is there so much buzz about it? How much of an improvement is it over prior generations of wireless? In other words: What is real, and what is hype? How the issues of trusted partners, rights-of-way deployment, and spectrum policy interact? Where is 5G seeing early successes, and what are the stumbling blocks?”
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: National Security and Trusted Partners
    • This panel will consider the global landscape for the 5G equipment ecosystem. It will consider issues in core networks, radio access networks and in handset equipment. How has the global landscape changed? Will 5G benefit from – or suffer because of – a new Cold War with China? How are American companies reacting to federal government initiatives for trusted partners? Where can the U.S. turn for solutions and alternatives to Chinese manufacturers?
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: A Case Study of Transformative Apps in the Enterprise
    • 5G is seeing its first real successes in the enterprise marketplace. To glimpse the future more accurately, Broadband Breakfast Live Online will consider case studies of applications in enterprise environments. What technologies and processes bring 5G success to the business marketplace? What needs to happen to bring 5G successes to the consumer marketplace?
  • Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Wireless Infrastructure, Municipal Rights-of-Way and the 5G Rural Fund
    • To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations — wireless infrastructure facilities — will be necessary. 5G facilities and towers may not be as big as in previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions with municipalities over rights-of-way. How can these conflicts be minimized? What are smart cities already doing to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment? Can the process be improved?
  • Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Adoption and Use of 5G Broadband
    • What are some of the likely drivers of 5G equipment and services? How have existing consumer use cases been received? Are there 5G use cases that could help close the digital divide by elevating broadband utilization among communities of color and low-income populations? What can we expect from 5G technology in 2021?
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Spectrum Policies to Advance Better Broadband
    • More than simply the next generation of wireless technology, 5G deployments make use of radio frequencies from an extremely wide range. For example, some 5G deployment are using mid-band spectrum between 3.4 GigaHertz (GHz) and 6 GHz. But 5G networks also promise tap into spectrum between 24 GHz and 100 GHz. It deploys these millimeter bands using network slicing and other advanced wireless tools. What new spectrum policies are necessary for 5G to flourish?
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