China Says International Bodies Should Work Together on 5G Security

BARCELONA -- MWC19 -- In what looked like a thinly veiled attack on national governments and security agencies taking matters into their own hands when assessing the alleged security risks posed by Chinese suppliers, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) called for global cooperation to intensify research efforts on ensuring 5G security.

Feng Zhang, chief engineer at MIIT, speaking at the GTI Summit at Mobile World Congress, did not mention Huawei Technologies or ZTE by name, but their treatment at the hands of some countries -- Australia and New Zealand have barred the Chinese duo from supplying 5G kit, while the US, Japan, the UK and Germany are increasingly putting them both under the spotlight -- was clearly a catalyst for his presentation.

"GSMA, 3GPP and other international organisations should intensify research to enhance the security of 5G networks," he said. Feng added that they should work together in a "fair, impartial and transparent environment." (GSMA, organizer of MWC, is a strong supporter of the GTI initiative, which has focused on building TDD-based LTE networks.)

Feng argued that China has proven its willingness to work with others in a spirit of "equality and cooperation" to develop universal standards and diverse ecosystems that are needed for ICT growth in a global economy. "We have encouraged companies from all around the world to work [with us] in a public testing environment for 5G," he said.

How this international cooperation on 5G security might play out in practice is hard to determine. The GSMA, so far, seems only willing to play the role of "advisor." Earlier this month, the association called on European policy makers to consider ways to further secure network infrastructure, but to do so in a "fact-based and risk-based approach."

The GSMA warned: "Actions that disrupt the equipment supply for the various segments of the network (access, transport and core), will increase costs to European operators, businesses and citizens, and will delay 5G deployment by years across Europe and potentially also jeopardise the functioning of existing 4G networks upon which 5G is intended to be built."

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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