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The global fight to regulate 5G is happening right now

Yehia El Amine

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Almost everywhere you look, there’s a story about 5G and its impact on humanity from every conceivable aspect.

The fifth generation of mobile networks has dominated tech headlines far and wide, where every telco, tech news outlet, and private tech firm has flooded the Internet with 5G content as far as the finger can click.

No one is challenging the basis of these claims since they’re true.

Ubiquitous 5G coverage will proliferate new services and will be necessary to accommodate the growing Internet of Things (IoT), which provides constant broadband connections to a variety of new devices and applications.

From telcos and ISPs to startups and governments, retailers harnessing the power of machine learning, all business models and operations will be touched by a new era of ultrafast connectivity, and an explosion of devices.

Investors from all walks of life are looking at each and every opening to sync their teeth into a newly connected future that promises major returns, no matter the industry.

Because of that, 5G will not be a niche regulatory issue – all parts of the global economy and political landscape will be affected.

The 5G race is currently in its prime both domestically and internationally; which is why governments around the world are starting to take action to spur deployment while simultaneously looking at regulatory solutions to remedy privacy, security, and safety concerns.

Thus, the impact of regulating the fifth generation of mobile networks will cause a ripple effect shaping how we deal with the technologies of the future, as countries weigh the balance between the public and private sectors.

The UK has been fierce in its attempts to ensue safety on it’s 5G capabilities, and has introduced a new bill giving the government the power to leave out any vendor it deems as high-risk to it’s telecoms infrastructure.

High-risk vendors are being categorized as those who pose large security and resilience risks to UK telecoms. The telecoms security bill aims to forge national security powers to be able to control if a telecoms firm can use materials supplied by outside vendors.

Previous rallies against Huawei in the UK have increased in the past couple of months, with British premier Boris Johnson imposing a ban on the tech titan’s involvement in the country’s 5G infrastructure, while tasking local telcos to remove and replace current Huawei equipment from usage on a deadline set for 2027.

In parallel, a group of British lawmakers published a report citing 5G security concerns relating to Huawei’s collusion and close ties with China’s “Communist Party apparatus,” as they urged the PM to shorten the banning period.

In other words, the UK has publicly declared Huawei to be persona non grata within their future plans.

The bill being studied in parliament also contains security protocols that would fine UK networks of 10 percent of turnover or £100,000 a day for those who do not meet the new standards.

The country’s communications regulatory body, Ofcom, is set to be tasked with monitoring and assessing security protocols among telecom providers.

“We are investing billions to roll-out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country but the benefits can only be realized if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks,” Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden told reporters.

Dowden added that this bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and would allow for necessary action to protect their networks.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS) issued a statement saying that the current “self-governance laws in which telecoms providers were responsible for setting their own security standards, did not work.”

A statement echoed by the country’s Telecoms Supply Chain Review, considered that self-regulation offers little incentives to adopt the best security practices.

The 5G security concerns, which were ignited by the Trump administration’s trade spat with China, includes espionage, sabotage, and blackmail. The U.S. government considers Huawei as a security risk and has urged allies to shun its equipment over fears it could serve as a Trojan horse for Chinese intelligence services.

Ironically, while initial pressure to cut off Huawei and the likes have originated from the United States, there doesn’t seem to be serious talks or bills of regulating 5G networks across the Atlantic Ocean.

While U.S. Congress, from both sides of the aisle, have agreed on the importance of American 5G from a technological standpoint, the importance of protecting these networks from prying eyes and cyberattacks have barely scratched the surface.

There is no doubt that the United States is playing catch-up compared to its competitors such as China, but it’s also playing the same game with its allies.

At least 23 legislative items that specifically mention or address 5G—10 in the Senate and 13 in the House—have been introduced in the 116th Congress. Most are bipartisan and many are also bicameral, meaning the same text is supported by both Democrats and Republicans and has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

But many have doubted the capability of the 116th Congress to be able to forge any response that will realistically change the course of US 5G deployment and security of its networks.

Experts forecast that 5G will remain a private-sector-led initiative in the US; especially since there doesn’t seem to be consensus on whether regulations will address sensitive issues such infrastructure installation, equipment to be used, pricing, security, or privacy.

In retrospect, a Biden presidency doesn’t exactly translate into a more lenient view of Huawei, regardless of the fact that the president-elect will be more consistent in his approach with the East Asian powerhouse.

However, not all of the U.S.’s rivals are technologically flourishing like China.

Russia, on the other hand, has imposed tight exposure limits for radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs), which have been laid out by the country’s Digital Economy Program, which sees much more stringent standards than what’s internationally accepted.

This has pushed GSMA to publicly advise Russia to relax those measures, since these overly strict regulations will hinder the country’s 5G deployment, forcing it to fall behind other countries with regards to its digital transformation.

“While Russia’s standards reflect public concerns about the relative safety of mobile technologies, the GSMA stresses that the risk is extraordinarily low, and that studies have shown that using a mobile phone or living near a base station does not lead to any adverse health effects,” GSMA said in a statement.

The organization specifically cited the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, which published new international guidelines after analyzing 20 years of health research. Those guidelines are far more permissive than Russia’s, which the GSMA argues are not based on medical evidence.

“The updated international safety guidelines were adopted this year by Poland and Lithuania, among others,” GSMA VP and Europe, Russia and CIS Policy and Regulation Head Daniel Pataki, was quoted saying, adding that, “Russia has a critical opportunity to spur growth if leaders enact reforms now.”

Despite the potential hiccups, GSMA expects 5G to account for 20 percent of the mobile connections in Russia by 2025. The organization nevertheless believes that the country’s rules for the operation of radio facilities will slow the growth of the network, as will the country’s bureaucratic approval process for development projects.

Zipping back to the heart of the EU, Germany is currently battling to reach a consensus within the government that a telecoms vendor poses a national security threat in order to exclude its equipment from national 5G networks, according to draft legislation reviewed by Reuters.

The latest version of the IT Security Law follows months of wrangling in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, which has been split over how to craft a political mechanism for judging whether a vendor can be trusted or not.

The consensus will prove vital for the future of China’s Huawei on German land, as the bill attempts to form a bridge between Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is for close trade relations with China, and her coalition partners in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who, led by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, are hawkish towards Beijing.

As governments around the world attempt to set the stage for the next generation of mobile networks, the decisions made now, and in the near future, will most likely shape our interactions with the technological world as we know it.

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Yehia is an investigative journalist and editor with extensive experience in the news industry as well as digital content creation across the board. He strives to bring the human element to his writing.

5G

Omantel successfully tests enhanced 5G at its HQ

Karim Husami

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Omantel has successfully tested on Monday the 5G High Band at its headquarters in Madinat al Irfan under the supervision of TRA.

The 5G test using the mmWave, which successfully concluded recently in association with Ericsson, demonstrated enhanced network capabilities with mmWave bandwidth more than multiple times higher than existing 5G speed.

In a press release issued today, the telco said that “The successful 5G test paves the way for enhanced 5G capabilities for consumers and businesses across the Sultanate. The next step may see 5G greatly enhances user experience at mobile broadband hotspots when using the fixed and mobile internet especially in crowded spaces such as during festivals and events.”

The technology will also enable low-latency industry applications like Augmented Reality (AR), its applications, robots, and other future technologies, according to Omantel.

Dr. Ali Al Hashmi General Manager of Networks at Omantel said, “mmWave 5G technology is a cornerstone of upcoming 5G networks, allowing for faster data speeds and much higher bandwidth than ever before.”

He added: “The success of 5G test with Ericsson paves the way for many more applications as 5G has opened up possibilities of newer, smarter solutions in every area of daily life and business. Omantel is happy to have partnered with Ericsson for this and look forward to exciting new applications as Oman Vision 2040 opens a new chapter in Oman’s ICT landscape.”

State-owned Omantel announced four months ago the launch of its 5G mobile services within the Sultanate, providing users further value and speed, as they place the full potential of the fifth generation of communications into their hands.

The operator had previously setup its 5G rollout roadmap as early back as 2019, with Oman introducing 5G home broadband for certain areas around the country in December of the same year.

Ability to deliver multi-gigabit speeds

The trial demonstrated Omantel’s ability to deliver multi-gigabit speeds to end- user with eight cell carrier aggregation functionalities using Ericsson’s state-of-the-art Street macro mm Wave solution and advanced 5G software features. The trial used a carrier bandwidth of 800MHz at 26GHz.

The last few years have seen Omantel emerge as the leader in 5G network capabilities. Several live field trials, followed by the introduction of Massive MIMO technology in some governorates of Oman to bring high-speed cross-network data transmission for its subscribers laid the groundwork for the official launch of fixed wireless 5G services in Oman in late 2019, followed by 5G for mobile in 2021.

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Ooredoo Oman 5G record for MIMO single user downlink data rate

Inside Telecom Staff

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Ooredoo Oman said it recently recorded downlink speeds of more than 5 Gbps on a commercial 5G Massive MIMO single sector, one of the first such tests in the region.

Demonstrating its technology leadership, 5G Massive MIMO delivers eight times more capacity for home internet compared to 4G, and 20 times more capacity on mobile.

As the latest major milestone in its 5G rollout, the achievement builds on Ooredoo’s continual efforts to improve user experience, drive innovation and position Oman as a technologically advanced society.

Dr. Ahmed Abdullah Al Abri, Chief Technology & Information Officer at Ooredoo, said, “This achievement is a big moment for us as our 5G network continues to take shape. The peak value that 5G technology can offer on a single sector is around 5.7 Gbps and we have managed to achieve 90 percent of it, one of the highest in the region. This ultimately translates to a considerably improved experience for our users and unprecedented development opportunities for the Sultanate.”

As such, some 70 percent of Qatar is now covered by 5G, and with more and more devices being 5G-enabled, according to Ooredoo. “It won’t be long before everyone can experience the incredible power of 5G. We’ve even included 5G as part of the recent revamp of our postpaid plans,” it added.

Among Ooredoo Oman 5G plans are to construct and install around 2,000 5G stations over the next five years, with the potential to benefit everything from entertainment and education to scientific research and healthcare.

We are the pioneers of the commercial 5G network since 2018, the telco highlighted, and we’re working hard to give you access to our lightning speed network anywhere in the world.

As part of the telco ambitious roadmap to continue to build on its promise to take its customers’ internet experience to a new level, Ooredoo Oman 5G home Internet is considered to be a great value for home access, mobile, and business plans, which are currently available now.

Users can benefit from improved network coverage, stability with almost zero delay, as well as incredible download speeds.

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Jio Platforms, Qualcomm to manufacture critical 5G equipment

Karim Husami

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Reliance Industries Limited said that its Jio Platforms has collaborated with U.S.-based chipmaker Qualcomm technologies for local manufacturing of “critical equipment” to catalyze the 5G ecosystem in India.

Both companies previously partnered to develop “open and interoperable” interface compliant architecture based 5G solutions with a virtualized RAN and had last year achieved over a 1 Gbps milestone on the Jio 5GNR solution using the chipmaker’s 5G RAN Platforms.

Interestingly, Qualcomm has recently joined hands with Jio’s archrival Bharti Airtel for the telco’s 5G roll out in India. Under the partnership, Airtel will leverage Qualcomm’s 5G RAN platforms to rollout virtualized and Open-RAN 5G networks in India.

In addition, Jio has already developed an end-to-end 5G stack, including 5G radio and core network solutions. RIL revealed that the telco has already completed testing of its 5G radio and core solution, which will now enable a self-sufficient and cost-effective rollout.

“India is at the forefront of the global digital revolution. Jio is accelerating the rollout of digital platforms and indigenously developed next-generation 5G stack, making it affordable and available everywhere,” RIL said in its annual report, adding that the telecom operator’s radio frequency capacity and coverage for 5G networks is already underway based on 4G data traffic profile.

As such, Qualcomm also invested $97 million in Jio Platforms last year.

Reliance Jio is currently preparing for 5G field trials having received trial spectrum from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The telco will test its own 5G technology but will also work with its 4G partner Samsung along with Ericsson and Nokia.

RIL also revealed that Jio Platforms is also working with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) on standardizing 5G device configurations.

“With 5G technology, Indian subscribers will experience the benefits of higher data rates, low latency communications and enhanced digital experiences across a wide array of connected devices, from 5G-enabled smartphones, enterprise laptops and AR/VR products to vertical IoT solutions,” RIL said.

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