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Experts Say U.S. Needs Tighter Security on 5G Components

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 8, 2021 – U.S. officials seeking to reduce the likelihood of security problems with the next-generation 5G network should look into network components that may include compromised technology from non-Chinese companies, an expert said at a conference late last month.

Alexi Maltas, senior vice president and general counsel at the Competitive Carriers Association, said at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration conference that there is a concern that non-Chinese built equipment contains Chinese components.

The issue is part of a larger concern about the 5G ecosystem that may require stringent standards to flush out the possible security problems.

Some experts have been calling for strict import standards for internet-of-things devices, which pose a number of hacking hazards because they often feature poor out-of-the-box security standards.

The NTIA conference, which addressed the advent of 5G and how to keep it secure, included reflections on global leaders in the next-generation network build and which countries are ahead on ensuring that their equipment is safe.

Gary Bolton, CEO of Fiber Broadband, said the United States government should invest in more research and development and enhance workforce education and training. Policy needs to address competitor countries that engage in unfair trade practices, he said. China’s fast adoption of 5G and similar technologies has caused U.S. carriers to have to deal with Chinese-built equipment issues and have voiced need for dialogue with the U.S. government over security threats.

The U.S. has already moved to hamper Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country’s 5G future. But weeding out Chinese influence will go beyond the visible branding of those alleged spy threats and into what’s underneath the hood that makes it way along the supply chain.

If it’s suspected that carrier equipment is tainted, then the industry and government need to take steps to identify security threats from China, said Tamber Ray, regulatory counsel for the Rural Broadband Association.

Information sharing needs to go two ways, she said: From government to industry and industry to government. If equipment appears “off,” or suspicious, the issue can be resolved sooner than later.

5G architecture requires standards

Another threat to 5G is the architecture, said Edna Conway, vice president of global security, risk and compliance, for Azure at Microsoft. Threats to architecture come in the form of counterfeit components in the supply chain, she said.

To address these security concerns,  government agencies can push out standard guidance or preferably, standard software configuration security networks, she added.

Eric Wenger, senior director in global government affairs at Cisco, said that some threats stem from the openness of 5G. To resolve this concern, he proposed more research on the subject would improve our understanding on how open interfaces impact risk and what steps would be useful to mitigate them.

The U.S. has a strong semiconductor ecosystem with strong operators, but it needs to add more 5G providers because 5G is no longer a telecommunications technology—it has a big overlay with the mobile edge and computing technologies, said John Roese, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Dell.

5G

CES 2023: Commissioner Starks Highlights Environmental Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Starks also said federal housing support should be linked to the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (left) and CTA’s J. David Grossman

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday, touting connectivity assistance for individuals who benefit from housing assistance as well as the potential environmental benefits of 5G.

The FCC-administered Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes monthly internet bills and one-time devices purchases for low-income Americans. Although many groups are eligible – e.g., Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollees – Starks said his attention is primarily on those who rely on housing support.

“If you are having trouble putting food on your table, you should not have to worry about connectivity as well,” Starks said. “If we are helping you to get housed, we should be able to connect that house,” he added.

Environmental benefits of 5G

In addition to economic benefits, 5G-enabled technologies will offer many environmental benefits, Starks argued. He said the FCC should consider how to “ensure folks do more while using less,” particularly in the spheres of spectral and energy efficiency.

“This is going to take a whole-of-nation (approach),” Starks said. “When you talk to your local folks – mayors – state and other federal partners, making sure that they know smart cities (and) smart grid technology…making sure that we’re all unified on thinking about this is exactly where we need to go to in order to drive down the carbon emissions.”

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CES 2023: 5G Will Drive Safer Transportation

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, CES hears.

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Photo of Aruna Anand, Durga Malladi, and Derek Peterson (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – Panelists at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023 on Thursday touted the potential for 5G to make transportation safer by enabling information sharing between vehicles and with infrastructure.

5G is expected to expand connectivity by attaching small cell connectivity equipment on various city infrastructure, including traffic lights and bus shelters. 

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, said Aruna Anand, president and CEO of Continental Automotive Systems Inc., referring to connectivity communications times. Anand argued that making relevant information available to multiple vehicles is key to improving safety.

“We give more information about the surroundings of the vehicle to the car to enable [it] to make better decisions,” Anand said.

Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager for cellular modems and infrastructure at chip maker Qualcomm, described a 5G-enabled “true ubiquitous data space solution” in which vehicles and smart infrastructure – e.g., traffic lights and stop signs – communicate with one another.

Asked for predictions, Malladi forecasted an increased “blend” of communications and artificial intelligence technologies. Anand said 6G is expected to emerge by 2028 and make its way to vehicle technology by 2031.

Both realized and predicted innovations in 5G-enabled technologies have driven calls for expanded spectrum access, from private and public sectors alike. The Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the respective overseers of non-federally and federally-used spectrum, in August agreed to an updated memorandum of understanding on spectrum management

Although relatively new, this agreement has already been touted by officials.

The FCC, whose spectrum auction authority Congress extended in December, made several moves last year to expand spectrum access.

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FCC Permit ‘Shot Clocks’ Provides ‘Predictability’ to Wireless Infrastructure Builds: T-Mobile

Shot clocks are important to industry players, argued T-Mobile’s Tim Halinski.

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Photo of Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC.

WASHINGTON, November 8, 2022 – Panelists on a Federal Communications Bar Association web panel discussed Monday whether benefits of the Federal Communications Commission’s “shot clocks,” which limit how long states and local governments can review wireless infrastructure applications, outweigh the increased pressures they place on state and local governments.

A shot clock’s deadline puts pressure on city officials’ negotiations with providers over the terms of infrastructure projects, said Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC, a telecommunications legal and consulting firm. They also “put a lot of pressure on local governments…to make sure (they) have a reason to deny” a provider’s application if an agreement cannot be readily reached, Werner added.

Tim Halinski, corporate counsel for T-Mobile, argued Monday that shot clocks are important to industry players, although he acknowledged the validity of Werner’s concerns. T-Mobile and other providers benefit from expeditious permitting processes, as they look to accelerate the build out of 5G wireless technology.

“There’s no one size fits all,” Halinski said, “But it’s at least the starting point and provides that predictability in deployment that we need.”

The comments come as the FCC fields comments on new standards that would streamline the division of costs between third party attachers and pole owners. Critics say the financial and time delay burden in getting access to these poles have slowed and will slow the expansion of broadband in the country.

In 2018, the FCC instituted shortened shot clocks for small wireless infrastructure projects: “60 days for review of an application for collocation…using a preexisting structure and 90 days for review of an application for attachment…using a new structure.” The commission said the new, limited timeframes would facilitate the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

The FCC’s revised shot clocks for small wireless deployments was but one portion of the agency’s so-called “Small Cell Order” of 2018, which aimed to promote the expansion of 5G. To accomplish this goal, however, the order sought to eliminate regulatory roadblocks by limiting state and local governments’ authorities over wireless infrastructure permitting and their own rights of way. This tactic drew criticisms from many experts and local officials.

Nonetheless, in August 2020, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the order in City of Portland v. United States.

“(The Ninth Circuit’s) decision is a massive victory for U.S. leadership in 5G, our nation’s economy and American consumers,” said then–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shortly after the ruling. “The court rightly affirmed the FCC’s efforts to ensure that infrastructure deployment critical to 5G…is not impeded by exorbitant fees imposed by state and local governments.”

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