Broadband News

Huawei kit decision arrived at for UK 5G network operators

5G is meant to be the mobile network to rule them all and some claim will be a solution that will avoid the need to actually build large full fibre networks to homes. It is this potential for 5G to be so pervasive that has driven a lot of the debate around the spying risk that using Huawei kit for 5G, though we should say it is sometimes hard to tell if its a spying risk that is being combated rather than a worry that Huawei will end up being the monopoly hardware provider.

The UK Government has now announced that Huawei hardware is banned from the core parts of the 5G network, e.g. those that make the call and data routing decisions and therefore know where individual users and their devices may be. In the periphery that includes the masts and other hardware there is a new limit of 35% of the network. Additionally around sensitive sites such as nuclear sites and military bases Huawei hardware will not be allowed.

The local exclusions for sensitive areas we presume is there to help avoid base stations from logging visibility of persons of interest mobile devices and sending this data to third party that is not authorised to see this location data. Any actual sensitive or secret data should of course already be encrypted and never transferred across any network in an open format even if it is a trusted network. One concern from some corners may have been that it is possible for network hardware to copy this encrypted data and people to then spend time trying to crack the encryption offline. Of course with wireless communications, interception is always a risk but if the actual network hardware can be compromised you avoid the need for local assets to carry out any interception.

Huawei is not the only 5G network hardware provider, there is Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and ZTE that also offer hardware, but one of the differences compared to the 4G roll-outs a decade ago is the way that software is a much bigger part of the puzzle. A lot more tasks are carried out using powerful hardware where the software is making the decisions, where as in the past you would have a larger number of distinct dedicated hardware boxes all playing their individual part and monitoring their behaviour in real world use due to the defined interfaces.

Of course there is no guarantee that network hardware and the software from any provider is immune from compromise, hence why it has often looked like a lot of noise from the USA has been driven by concerns about other countries racing ahead in the software and hardware sphere meaning that their is little or no fully home grown solutions.

Comments

@thinkbroadband Openreach looks set to replace ECI cabs with Huawei https://t.co/AKbcpAqik4 #r4today

  • @bridge_53
  • comment via twitter
  • 24 days ago

As someone that interacts and watches software and hardware progress, the single most worrying thing to me would be if there was ANY Intel hardware in a UK 5G network.
Over the last few years we have learnt that all Intel CPU's are compromised as far as hardware security is concerned, this is still ongoing with new vulnerability's appearing almost weekly.
The cynic in me says that Intel has always been fully aware of this for 2 reasons, first because it has given them a performance advantage over other CPU companies, second because they were told to do it by the NSA so as to allow the NSA into most systems whenever they want.
The rest of the cynic in me also says, that's why Trump/NSA is so determined that Huawei has no part in any 5G network, because that then locks the NSA out off spying on us all.

  • kitfit1
  • 24 days ago

I think the trump administrations attempts to stop other countries using Huawei kit is more to do with the ongoing trade ware the US is waging against China than any real security concerns,is about the only thing Trump really cares about:-money!

  • steve27
  • 23 days ago

I never understood the scare tactics with this. Its just protectionist politics from trump.

We need to trust our security services and they say its fine.

  • ian27uk
  • 23 days ago

"Of course with wireless communctions interception is always a risk but if the actual network hardware can be *comprised* you avoid the need for local assets to carry out any interception." Should that be *compromised*

In the title should that be *arrived*

  • nervous
  • 23 days ago

Protectionist politics for sure.

All traffic should be end-to-end encrypted these days, so it doesn't matter who handles the data.

The one concern I can see, are back doors to disable the network. The solution here is not to ban Huawei, but to have a mixture of manufacturers. I know this has it's own issues, but for redundancy, its a sensible solution anyway.

  • FlappySocks
  • 23 days ago

Dangerously naive complacency in some responses.
There is much about Trump that I do not and could never like. Nevertheless, he is doing exactly the right thing in not trusting the Chinese and, if that protects American jobs as well as American(for American read WESTERN) security, I have absolutely no problem with that either. Like him or not, he is doing his damn job for his country.
On the same principles, I am extremely perturbed that the DUK* Govt is stupid enough to permit ANY Chinese input to ANY of DUK's infrastructure. To permit it is insane.
* DUK = DIS-United Kingdom

  • Tropi
  • 17 days ago

There is a lot of rubbish being talked about Huawei currently. People seem to overlook they are already a main supplier to BT/Openreach for FTTP house modems. Their 5G technology is seen as world leading by those that know. Should the U.K. decide on important digital infrastructure decisions just because Trump says so?

  • B4RN_Volunteer
  • 17 days ago

Of course not - the suggestion is beyond ridiculous. This has nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with the DUK's security and, ultimately,it's identity.
"Already a main supplier ..."
So we hand over even more of our core technology to a foreign power?
That is exactly the unthinking, naive, complacent attitude that ensures we no longer own our own country and why it deserves to be called the Dis United Kingdom. Intelligent responsible leaders should NEVER take risks with either their country's security or its infra-structure.

  • Tropi
  • 17 days ago

I think the UK Government made the correct decision. Its about balancing the UK's need for viable fast broadband access and security and installing the infrastructure safely and effectively.

Like his fragile ego, Trump's political ambition is limitless and if it loses America one job in the tech sector it gives him someone else to blame be it countries or people.

This issue has nothing to do with Donald Trump, and lets be frank here, he needs the resources our GCHQ far more than we need his technical assistance for anything.

  • buggerlugs
  • 17 days ago

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