5G is essential for moving countries forward. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, high-speed internet connectivity became crucial, as nations were obliged to shift to E-governance, and remote working. However, concerns were brought up on the security of the 5G infrastructures. The United States has been pushing its allies to remove the Chinese telecom giant Huawei from its core 5G network claiming serious cybersecurity issues. Thus, implementing legal reform has become a major high-priority for different countries. Inside Telecom has already reported about India addressing the necessity of implementing a legal framework to secure the deployment of the 5G network.
European countries are seeking lawful ways to implement 5G telecommunications. These countries are obliged to secure user’s privacy under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). On July 24, 2020, the European Commission has published a report on Member States’ progress in implementing the EU Toolbox on 5G Cybersecurity. The report is a result of the collective work and the strong determination of all EU member states. The 5G network will be carrying sensitive information. Thus, strengthening the role and power of regulatory authorities, and applying relevant restrictions for suppliers considered high-risk is mandatory, according to the EU press release.
“With 5G network rollout going ahead across the EU, and our economies increasingly relying on digital infrastructure, as the coronavirus crisis demonstrated, it is more important than ever to ensure a high level of security”, said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market. European Union countries have taken measures to secure the 5G network and infrastructures. Sweden has changed the Electronic Communications Act to add a condition permission to “use radio transmitters “which can only be approved if it is considered that radio usage will not cause harm to national security. As for France, under the Law N. 2019-810 approved on August 1, 2019 authorities gain power to restrict or prohibit or impose requirements or conditions for the supply, deployment, and operation of 5G equipment by making it mandatory to get an authorization from the Prime Minister before rolling-out and operating sensitive equipment for 5G (and future technology, e.g. 6G) networks.
The EU report emphasized the challenges expected for the deployment of the 5G network. Member states expect increased exposure to attacks and more potential entry points for attackers within the deployment of the 5G network. Moreover, the dependency on a single mobile operator supplier – a crucial challenge for 5G deployment – will increase the vulnerability to cybersecurity attacks. Thus, the competition between different telecom operators is crucial for the deployment of effective cybersecurity tools for the 5G network.
The current EU Telecom Rule approved in December 2018, requires the EU member states to set security requirements for telecom providers. This law aims to encourage competition, promote new technologies, as well as protect consumer interests.
The United States has been working to promote responsible global development and deployment of 5G. On March 3, 2020, the Congress published the “Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020”. This aims to ensure the security of next-generation mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States and to assist allies and strategic partners in maximizing the security of next generation mobile telecommunications systems, infrastructures and software. Under the act, the President of the United States shall submit a strategy to secure the security of the fifth-generation network and infrastructures, to protect the competitiveness of companies in the United States.
On March 23, 2020, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Act. On the same day, the Administration published the National Strategy to secure a 5G strategy that contains efforts to facilitate the rollout of 5G networks.
Countries worldwide have been taking into account security challenges imposed by Huawei. However, states should work more seriously on setting up national laws to secure a 5G network.
Vietnam welcomes 5G in mid-2021, many benefits ahead
While many countries have postponed their respective 5G rollout efforts due to the global COVID-19 pandemic or its affects on the global economy, Vietnam-based telecoms Viettal has already ran its first successful 5G connection back in May 2019, after receiving its trial license in January last year.
Telecom providers VNPT and Viettel enrolled 5G to test the service in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang this year, Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Information and Communications Nguyen Thanh Hai said.
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) received many recommendations from provinces to allow carriers to deploy the network in their urban areas, industrial zones, and key areas, especially after telecoms providers conducted commercial 5G trials in cities such as Hanoi and HCM City.
As such and based on the testing results, the Vietnam Telecommunications Authority said it would respond to the recommendations by studying and licensing mobile businesses to deploy 5G, prioritizing industrial parks, high-tech parks, and IT to focus on implementing innovative digital technologies.
Director of the provincial Department of Information and Communications noted that “all localities in An Giang are covered by 3G, 4G mobile broadband, and internet subscribers account for 65 percent of the population.”
MIC has ranked the province seventh out of 63 cities and provinces last year in information technology (IT) application and third regarding administration modernization in the Public Administrative Reform Index.
Nonetheless, Vietnam plans to provide 5G coverage nationwide by 2030, offering all citizens broadband Internet connection at low cost, according to the Vietnam authority of communication.
This step could not start immediately and will be dependent on market demand amongst other factors. An example of this is prioritizing major cities like Hanoi, HCMC or Da Nang to deploy 5G due to their need for high-speed services and their denser populations.
The same goes for industrial areas with foreign investments, where smart factories are a necessity.
Digital transformation and e-commerce
In parallel, An Giang will reinforce the application of tourism management and promotions, digital transformation program and infrastructure investment in the postal sector and logistics at large, and e-commerce. It will also strive to set up a concentrated IT zone.
VNPT, MobiFone, and Viettel have been commercially trialing 5G services with their users gaining the possibility to try 5G connections in trialed areas and with 5G-supported smartphones since November 2020.
VNPT and Viettel’s network service trials displayed a speed of up to 1 Gbps, 10 times greater than that of 4G.
Telecom operators are expecting to price 5G services at the same rate as their 4G counterparts and would not require users to change their SIM cards.
Tariff wars stall India’s 5G rollout
India’s cash strapped telecoms sector will continue to suffer, as operators scramble to acquire already expensive spectrum bands which will heavily impact the country’s 5G rollout, a report by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) warned.
The telecoms industry’s struggle is mainly due to a tariff war that has been taking place since 2016, as well as a nationwide farmers’ protests that has damaged telco equipment on the ground.
Although it is one of the leading countries in startup presence, India still does not have a specific date for the adoption of 5G.
“We will pioneer the 5G revolution in India in the second half of 2021,” Reliance Jio, the country’s most profitable telco, said, while others such as Bharti Enterprises have highlighted that proper integration and rollout of the fifth generation of mobile networks will need to 2 to 3 years.
Other players such as Airtel and Vodafone idea consider that India’s telecom’s ecosystem is underdeveloped coupled with unaffordable spectrum rates.
Uneven adoption of 5G
According to CCI, the availability and amount of spectrum up for auction will be pivotal in the telecoms industry’s ability to provide quality 5G services, since scarcity of the spectrum will result in heightened costs, rendering operations inefficient.
“The current financial health of the sector could result in an uneven speed of adoption of 5G by operators. The more profitable ones are likely to be faster off the block. In case this scenario unfolds, it will have implications for the level of competition in the long run,” the anti-trust body highlighted.
The report by CCI further explained that the importance of creating a competitive market for 5G by ensuring allocation of spectrum at reasonable costs, leading to a more balanced revenue stream.
If not, then the poor financial state of the Indian telecoms industry will lead to an uneven approach toward 5G rollout.
The telecom department will conduct a spectrum auction in March placing 2,251MHz of spectrum at a reserve price of Rs3.92 trillion up for sale.
Spectrum in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1,800MHz, 2,100MHz, 2,300MHz and 2,500MHz bands have been put on the block, while the 3,300-3,600 bands, which were suggested by the telecom regulator for 5G, are not included in the upcoming sale.
However, due to the poor financial health of the sector, large portions of the airwaves may remain unsold due to their high prices, echoing a similar situation of the October 2016 auction, where the 700MHz and 900MHz bands did not find any buyers.
The race for 5G: Ericsson, Huawei close in on separate markets
Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson has partnered with Taiwanese operator Asia-Pacific Telecom (APT) to modernize its current 4G network infrastructure, as well as non-standalone 5G-ready equipment and services.
The agreement, which was announced on Monday, will see Ericsson provide high-performing radio access network (RAN) solutions from its 5G-ready Radio System portfolio as well as 5G NSA licenses to do 5G Multi-Operator Core Networks (MOCN).
“Our enhanced 5G platform provides the technological backbone for the nation’s first Multi-Operator Core Network and we will continue to support both service providers with their successful integration and partnership,” Chafic Nassif, President of Ericsson Taiwan, said in a statement.
With the deployment of Ericsson Network Manager, APT will be able to dynamically operate between 4G and 5G networks, with a set of unified applications to securely manage radio access, transport, and core networks in an end-to-end manner.
The contract also covers Ericsson Network Manager, OSS migration services and upgrade, as well as integration with APT’s rival, Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET) on the 3.5GHz frequency band in Taiwan.
Back in September 2020, FET and APT announced a partnership to provide 5G services on Taiwan’s 3.5GHz frequency band through the nation’s first MOCN – where two or more core networks share the same RAN and bandwidth. The collaboration includes 700MHz shared RAN to be used on both 4G and 5G technologies.
“Ericsson continues to accelerate the overall progress of 5G development in Taiwan, supporting both APT and FET to quickly launch new services to market and provide Taiwanese consumers and enterprises with the highest quality communication services,” Nassif added.
Ericsson now has 124 commercial 5G agreements with communications service providers globally, 74 of which have been publicly announced.
Meanwhile across the Pacific, Chinese telecoms titan Huawei has received the green light by the Brazilian government allowing it to partake in the country’s 5G auction due to be held in June.
According to local media quoting sources close to the decision, the government will not restrict the Chinese vendor from aiding in its 5G deployments. The decision is due to the financial burdens for local operators to replace already installed Huawei equipment, as well as U.S. President Donald Trump’s departure from the West Wing.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is considered to be a massive ally of Trump, whose government has frequently lobbied and pushed for financial programs and initiatives to sway Brazilian operators from buying equipment from Huawei.
However, as inauguration day looms ever closer for President-elect Joe Biden, Bolsonaro is looking to backtrack his view that Huawei shares private data with the Chinese government – a claim made by the Trump administration as the trade war between both world powers escalated.
Brazilian telecom operators were all against the Huawei ban to begin with, as all operators snubbed an invitation from U.S. undersecretary of state for economic growth and the environment Keith Krach, an effort to rally support.
Even the Brazil’s vice president, Hamilton Mourao, also stood against the ban, as he told reporters that any company which is able to prove their credentials in maintaining the country’s national sovereignty and data protection will be allowed to supply 5G equipment and services.
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