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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

Google, Reliant On Success of 5G, Says It Wants Government-Funded Test Beds for Open RAN

Company says that the next generation of its products depend on 5G progress.

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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2021 — Google made its case for regulators to make room for greater public-private collaboration in the wake of 5G and more research into open radio access network technologies.

Speaking at the FCBA’s “What’s New and Next in Wireless” session on Tuesday, Michael Purdy from Google’s product and policy team emphasized Google’s interest in the emerging 5G landscape, but wants a “collaborative environment” for innovation.

“5G is exciting because of Google’s products depend on 5G,” he said. “[Our] products can’t come to market without it.” Google’s recent product launches include smart-home technologies. Purdy says their products’ benefits are enhanced as 5G is deployed.

Google, like the technology sector at large, is building on the innovation that the “app economy” produced using existing 4G technology and plans to expand their software capabilities with 5G. “The app economy benefited consumers,” Purdy says. “Our lifestyles are going to depend on 5G.” For telehealth, “real time medical advice needs low latency [and] high speeds.”

However, Google hopes for better regulatory conditions during 5G deployment. “We haven’t been as focused on the FCC [for guidance] . . . we want stability to determine spectrum policy.”

Purdy said the company hopes to work collaboratively with government to find solutions for wider 5G deployment. “[We] want to know what position the government takes in creating an open RAN environment.”

The company said it wants government funded-test beds for open RAN, research into development to ensure that “the downside costs are defrayed.” In overcoming these challenges to 5G deployment, Purdy said Google wants the government to foster a “collaborative environment” to develop open RAN. “We don’t want government picking winners and losers in the innovation process” he said.

Purdy added that spectrum sharing between licensed and unlicensed users “can be good for consumers and for industry.”

The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”

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Huawei Avoids Network Security Questions, Pushes 5G Innovation

Huawei’s CTO avoided questions about concerns over its network infrastructure security as countries ban its products.

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Huawei carrier business CTO Paul Scanlan.

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2021 — Huawei’s chief technology officer did not address questions Monday about the company’s network security practices during a session on how 5G drives economic growth, but said the focus should be on the evolutionary technology instead.

Paul Scanlan, Huawei’s CTO in the carrier business group, focused his presentation at the Economist Impact Innovation@Work conference on the promise of 5G technology and ignored concerns about network safety.

“We can service more customers with 5G” to start bridging the digital divide, he said. The pandemic has given the company an insight into customer behavior to better channel its data traffic needs. “5G performs better for the types of services we use now” he says, such as video streaming and user-generated content.

Scanlan avoided specific questions about his company’s technology and steered the conversation toward providing faster speeds for the health care industry. “Give me some use instances where the company has introduced 5G and helped companies be efficient” asked the moderator, Ludwig Siegele. “I’d like to stick on the health care sector, that’s more topical as you can imagine,” Scanlan responded.

“People are missing [innovation in 5G] because of geopolitical issues around the world,” said Scanlan. “Being able to collect the data and analyze it is where the business benefit lies . . . 5G adoption through the [standardized network] ecosystem is very important and we see this with 5G” for interoperability with other companies and providers.

Huawei’s promotion of their telecommunications products continues as the U.S. maintains national security sanctions against the tech giant. The impact of U.S. sanctions results a drop in sales for the company in 2021. The FCC has also recommended that Huawei’s equipment be listed as “high risk” to U.S. network security. Huawei told the FCC it cannot show the company’s equipment is a threat to U.S. networks.

Huawei’s global head of cybersecurity said this summer that President Joe Biden‘s executive order banning investments in Chinese companies is a “policy misstep” that will not only lose the U.S. a huge market, but will just make the company more self-sufficient.

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5G

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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