What is 5G and why the security concerns?
5G represents the promise of a wireless WAN (Wide-area network) future offering the ability to provide 24×7 connectivity for people, places, and things everywhere.
Key elements are expected to be increased capacity, lower latency, and faster speeds. They will use small cells rather than huge, geographically dispersed cell towers that characterize LTE networks and its predecessors.
Small cells are key to the functionality of 5G networks because they provide the increased data capacity that 5G demands. They help providers reduce costs by eliminating expensive rooftop systems and installation costs. Users can expect improved performance and battery life of mobile handsets since less power is required to transmit data to something nearby.
Why has there been concern about Huawei providing the infrastructure?
There have been worries, especially from the USA, about allowing a Chinese company to provide the 5G infrastructure because of fears that it could lead to spying by the Chinese Government on sensitive information.
Huawei, which already supplies equipment used in the UK’s existing mobile networks, has always denied claims it is controlled by the Chinese government and that its work poses any risks of espionage or sabotage.
However, the US has said it will exclude the company and wants its allies, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. To follow suit. So far, only Australia has sided with the US.
The head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has said that a framework would be put in place to ensure the 5G network was “sufficiently safe”.
It is believed that the UK Government has approved Huawei to supply equipment for the UK’s new 5G network, but according to one national newspaper the company would only be helping to build parts of antennas or other infrastructure and would not therefore be involved in the more sensitive aspects of the system.