Huawei 5G technology - Credit Bloomberg
Security officials are concerned China’s government and Huawei Technologies Company are taking a bigger role in the technical groups, lending a competitive edge to a company under indictment in the US.
Sunday 03, February 2019
(Bloomberg) --The future of the 5G technology that promises to revolutionise telecommunications runs through international bodies with esoteric names such as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project and the International Telecommunication Union.
The organisations set standards for the emerging technology.
As of September, Chinese firms and government research institutes accounted for the largest number of chairs or vice chairs in the International Telecommunication Union’s 5G-related standards-setting bodies, holding eight of the 39 available leadership positions, according to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that advises Congress. By comparison, mobile provider Verizon Communications is now the only US leadership representative, according to the commission.
“Having a socialist government basically in charge right now is incredibly problematic for US goals, and 5G specifically,” Michael O’Rielly, a member of the US Federal Communications Commission, said in an interview. “They have loaded up the voting to try to get their particular candidates on board, and their particular standards.”
Huawei, China’s largest technology company, has been the target of a broad crackdown by US officials, who say the company’s telecommunications equipment could be used by China’s Communist Party for spying. US prosecutors filed criminal charges 28 January alleging Huawei stole trade secrets from an American rival and committed bank fraud by violating sanctions against doing business with Iran.
Huawei denies the charges and rejects suggestions it poses a security risk or is beholden to Beijing. It also asserts the innocence of Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested on sanctions charges in Vancouver and faces extradition to the US
On standards-setting, Huawei has worked with other companies, Andy Purdy, USA chief security officer for the company, said in an interview.
“Industry has been working hard with a lot of visibility as they’ve evolved from 4G to 5G to make sure there is a very strong consensus standards-based approach,” Purdy said.
there is no clear way for a nation to influence standards-setting in a way that would harm US security, Doug Brake, director of broadband and spectrum policy at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said in an interview.
“There is been a lot of consternation over the past few years over Chinese participation in the standard-setting bodies,” Brake said. “You cannot really sneak something into the standard developed through 3GPP since it’s an open process. We should be encouraging China to participate in global standards.”
US officials up to the White House level make no bones about the stakes as communications jumps from the current 4G, or fourth generation, technology to fifth-generation 5G that will feature always-on, ubiquitous connections with billions of sensors and controls. It will connect everything from banks and cars to factories and phones.
The US gained from being a 4G leader, and “and we are working hard to maintain our advantage as we shift to and expand towards 5G," Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump for technology policy, said at a conference 29 January in Washington. “The risk of losing American market leadership cannot be overstated.”
Standards are set by bodies such as the 3GPP -- the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, which unites seven telecommunications standards development organisations -- and the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU, a United Nations agency.
The ITU is headed by Houlin Zhao, the first Chinese official to be elected secretary-general of the group. Richard Li of Huawei is chairman of a group examining emerging technologies and 5G.
“Huawei has been aggressive in standards-setting bodies” and in securing patents that other companies need to honour, Michael Wessel, a commissioner on the US-China commission, said in an interview. “That creates vulnerabilities that have law enforcement as well as the intelligence community on guard.”
US-based chipmakers Qualcomm and Intel are among companies competing to develop 5G technology, as are Huawei and fellow Chinese manufacturer ZTE Corp. Trouble for Huawei could benefit rivals in the 5G network gear market, including Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia, according to a 7 December note note by Bloomberg Intelligence analysts Woo Jin Ho and John Butler.
“I’m really concerned about standard-setting,” the FCC’s O’Rielly said. “Skewed standards that lean toward Chinese companies should be incredibly problematic, because it’s at the expense of domestic and international partners that US companies are involved with.”