Legal reforms aiming to secure the 5G network

Legal reforms aiming to secure the 5G network

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.