About a third of U.S. households lack broadband internet. 5G may change that

This article originally appeared on Digital Trends by Anita George.

A new report that addresses the topic of broadband internet access in the United States features a startling statistic: Almost a third of U.S. households do not have access to a broadband internet connection.

The report was published by market research company The NPD Group. According to a press release published by The NPD Group on Thursday, July 25, the report, known as the Rural America and Technology report, found that 31% of U.S. households didn’t have a broadband connection. In this case, a broadband internet connection would be defined as a connection that provides either a minimum of 25Mbps download speed or greater. The report notes that 31% of households without broadband would work out to “roughly 100 million consumers” who don’t have access to broadband connections and that most of these households are in rural markets.

The NPD Group’s statement on the report also went on to note the effects of not having broadband on these rural communities. While these households may have internet access, it may be at a slower speed which can preclude these consumers from taking full advantage of online activities like telecommuting to work or streaming videos. The press release also included a statement from Eddie Hold, the president of NPD Connected Intelligence, on the impact of not having a broadband connection:

“The so-called digital divide, between those that can or cannot make the best use of the internet, can be clearly felt in rural markets where the lack of broadband impacts everything from entertainment to the educational system. And even the state-level data masks the underlying reality that in the most rural markets in America, less than 20% of households have a broadband connection.”

And according to a map included in the press release (titled “Broadband Household Penetration By State”), approximately only six states have broadband internet connections for 80% or more of their households. The vast majority of the other U.S. states seem to fall within the 60-79% range.

But Hold also noted one silver lining about the digital divide/broadband scarcity issue: 5G mobile broadband may have the opportunity to have a positive impact on these rural communities as it could deliver “broadband to many households that have not previously had access.”

Roughly a third of Americans think they have a 5G phone (they don’t)

This article originally appeared on TechRepublic by James Sanders.

The meaning of 5G appears to have rather diluted, according to a recent report from Decluttr, finding that roughly a third of respondents state they own a 5G capable phone, despite the limited deployment of 5G networks in the US and limited number of 5G compatible phones currently on the market. 

Further, 62% of those who stated they owned a 5G capable phone claimed improvements in their mobile service when using a 5G network. iPhone users were less likely to claim their phones were 5G capable, with 25% of Verizon subscribers, 34% of T-Mobile subscribers, 35% of Sprint subscribers reporting so, while 47% of AT&T subscribers believed their iPhone was 5G-capable, likely due to their branding of LTE Advanced as “5G E,” which resulted in widespread criticism, and a lawsuit from Sprint.

Samsung phone users were more likely to report that their phones were 5G capable, with 30% of Verizon subscribers and 41% of Sprint subscribers indicating such a belief, while 48% of AT&T and oddly, 51% of T-Mobile subscribers indicating a belief their phone is 5G capable.

Likewise, even if you are lucky enough to live in a city with a real 5G network deployment, actually getting to use 5G is somewhat of a challenge, as deployments are still limited to specific neighborhoods in supported cities, and 5G modems are so prone to overheating that phones are dropping back to 4G LTE service to lower temperatures and preserve the longevity of the battery, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which also noted that mobile network operators have taken to cooling smartphones with ice packs or air conditioners during testing.

Presently, T-Mobile is testing 5G on 600 MHz frequencies in Bellevue, Washington, with plans to roll out their nationwide network on that frequency. CNET tested 5G in Chicago on Verizon and Sprint, finding that “Verizon’s mmWave was much faster—it hit a download speed of 713Mbps, compared with Sprint’s 123Mbps—but Sprint’s 5G network coverage… was much better.”

FCC pledges $524 million to expand rural broadband

This article originally appeared on CNET by Abrar Al-Heeti.

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday said it authorized more than $524 million to expand broadband in 23 states. The funding will add internet service to 205,000 rural homes and businesses over the next 10 years, the FCC said. Providers will start to get funding this month.

This is the FCC’s third wave of funding for rural broadband as part of last year’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction, which granted $1.488 billion to support over 700,000 homes and businesses. The agency also authorized funding in May and June to support connectivity in around 100,000 homes and businesses.

The FCC will authorize more funding in the coming months as it approves more applications from the auction’s winning bidders.  

“High-speed internet provides access to opportunity in the 21st century, and the FCC’s top priority is closing the digital divide so that all Americans can fully participate in our connected society,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Today’s authorization of funding is the largest yet from the auction, nearly the double the amount authorized in the first two rounds nationwide, and serving over twice as many rural homes and businesses.”

Among the 23 states receiving support from the FCC’s most recent funding are California, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia and Texas.

In 2016, 24 million Americans (7.7 percent of the population) didn’t have broadband internet speeds, according to an FCC report last year. Pai has also proposed the FCC roll out a Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which would offer around $20.4 billion over 10 years to expand rural broadband. The agency is slated to vote on whether to set up the fund on Aug. 1. 

The latest barrier to 5G speeds? The summer

This article originally appeared on ARS Technica by Ron Amadeo.

Thermal throttling is a fact of life for smartphones. SoCs generate a lot of heat, and when this heat can’t be dissipated, processors react by slowing down and thereby generating less heat. Usually this is just an issue for heavy 3D gaming sessions or a phone directly exposed to sunlight for a long time, like when mounted on a car windshield. In the era of 5G, though, heat is also an issue for your modem.

While the vast majority of people don’t yet have access to a 5G phone or 5G service, PCMag’s Sascha Segan has been flying around the country testing out the carriers’ nascent implementation of 5G. So far, the heat generated by Qualcomm’s first-generation chips is an issue. Segan writes:

On a hot Las Vegas morning, my two Galaxy S10 5G phones kept overheating and dropping to 4G. This behavior is happening with all of the millimeter-wave, first-generation, Qualcomm X50-based phones when temperatures hit or exceed 85 degrees. We saw it with T-Mobile in New York, with Verizon in Providence, and now with AT&T in Las Vegas. It’s happened on Samsung and LG phones, with Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia network hardware.

As we wrote back in December, Qualcomm’s first-generation 5G design is a significant regression from the fully integrated 4G chips we’ve been used to. A modern 4G LTE smartphone packs everything into a single main chip, which houses all of the usual computer components along with the LTE modem. Today’s 5G design requires that same chip, along with a separate chip for the 5G mmWave modem and several more chips for the mmWave antenna modules. The result is that 5G takes up a lot more space and generates a lot more heat than 4G, and when this heat gets to be too much, all that 5G circuitry just shuts off.

Overheating in 85-degree weather sounds a lot more excessive than the heat issues from an extended gaming session. The 5G modem will be on any time you’re simply browsing the Web or doing anything on the Internet, so it sounds like 5G users would run into heat issues more frequently than a mobile gamer. Segan doesn’t sound too happy about the heat issues either, saying, “This persistent overheating behavior just makes me more confident in recommending that consumers wait to buy a 5G phone.”

To make matters worse, some carriers don’t even report when this is happening. Segan writes “AT&T being AT&T, the company leaves the “5G+” indicator on the phone even when it’s dropped to 4G from overheating.” AT&T has been working overtime this year to remove all meaning from the term “5G” by rebranding its 4G service to “5G Evolution,” but “5G+” on an AT&T phone is supposed to actually mean you’re getting 5G mmWave service. Showing customers a 5G indicator and then giving them 4G speeds will certainly cause confusion, but that ship sailed for AT&T customers long ago.

This overheating news is the latest piece of evidence to scream “Don’t buy a 5G phone.” The devices are bigger, hotter, more expensive, and have less battery life than their 4G counterparts. Service is only available in a handful of cities, and even when you are in those cities, 5G coverage is limited to certain blocks. Now comes the news that even when you have compromised your device with 5G hardware and stand at the right address, you might not even get 5G if it’s hot out.

5G in five (not so) easy pieces

This article originally appeared on Brookings by Tom Wheeler.

Throughout the world, ink is being spilled and electrons exercised in a frenetic focus on fifth generation wireless technology, or 5G. The 5G discussion, with all its permutations and combinations, has grown to resemble an elementary school soccer game where everyone chases the ball, first in one direction, then another.

In classic network engineering terms, the “noise” surrounding 5G is interfering with the “signal” about just what 5G is and what is necessary for its introduction. Consideration of 5G is far more serious than the so-called 5G “race” concocted by those seeking to advantage themselves in the business or political market—especially the political market.

There are five often misunderstood facts to know about 5G:

  • 5G is revolutionary because it replaces the hardware components of the network with software that “virtualizes” the network by using the common language of Internet Protocol (IP).
  • 5G is evolutionary as both its new radios and the core network functions are defined as a progression from 4G. Like 4G before it, in most markets 5G will roll out in steps.
  • 5G is not transformational, per se. What will be transformative are the applications that will use the network. The United States was not the first to deploy any of the “G’s” of wireless networks, but nonetheless dominates the wireless ecosystem because of the innovative technologies developed by American entrepreneurs for those networks.
  • 5G is a cybersecurity risk because the network is software based. Earlier networks’ reliance on centralized hardware-based functions offered a security-enhancing choke point. Distributed software-based systems, per se, are more vulnerable.
  • 5G is spectrum dependent. In the long run this means new spectrum allocations. While those are underway, however, the evolution has begun using old spectrum assignments.

“Winning 5G” is not so much a “race” as it is a process. Characterizing 5G as a contest demeans its great technological progress and the policy challenges that progress presents. 5G should be more than a political talking point; the new network represents the need for a meaningful policy strategy.

What is missing in today’s 5G policy discussion is a focused identification of deliverables that go deeper and are more meaningful than the ill-defined “winning” of a so-called “5G race.” To consider this, let’s parse 5G into five (not so) easy pieces:

  • What will it do?
  • What is the technology and what about spectrum?
  • What about cybersecurity?
  • What are the hidden issues?
  • Does first to the tape really matter?

WHAT WILL 5G DO? 

To listen to its proponents, 5G is on par with the genius of Edison. For equipment manufacturers it is a new revenue stream at a time when the 4G market was becoming saturated.[1] For wireless carriers, it similarly offers a vision of high margin network-based applications in place of today’s commoditized carriage of other companies’ data. And for political actors, 5G is the perfect excitement vehicle: something new and better, the promise of which could be theoretically lost without the actor’s decisive leadership.

Perhaps, however, we should listen to Bill Stone, Verizon’s vice president of technology development and planning. Wisely, Stone recently warned, “There is a potential to overhype and under-deliver on the 5G promise.”[2]

There is no question as to the importance of 5G. It is the most significant network overhaul in history because the alchemy of digital technology allows the transformation of what was always done in hardware to become functions accomplished in software. Then, with such a virtualized network, the power of the lingua franca of Internet Protocol (IP) takes over to eliminate the need for specific technology protocols for specific functions.

Yet, while 5G holds great promises, the wisdom of Stone’s admonition should be our North Star. It is time to take a deep breath and realize that 5G is something more than marketing slogans or technology to be weaponized for political purposes.

As a part of the lead up to the 2016 allocation of the world’s first 5G-dedicated spectrum, I told the National Press Club, “If anyone tells you they know the details of what 5G will deliver, walk the other way.”[3] Insofar as all the potential new services 5G could enable, it is an admonition that still stands three years later. 5G will be both evolutionary and revolutionary. At first, consumers will notice only incremental improvements as 5G is used principally for capacity expansion. Over time, however, an all Internet Protocol (IP) based network will open new possibilities.

5G is a vast framework for the networked application of spectrum. When the functions of the network are virtualized in software, the nature of the network is transformed from its traditional role of transporting information between points, to abstracting and orchestrating digital information within an all-digital network. Because it is a software-driven network, 5G may be the last physical network overhaul in generations as upgrades will now be only a matter of replacing software and low-cost, commodity components.

The details of the new applications that will use the network are still in the imagination stage. How they will function, however, is not. The ubiquitous Internet Protocol will be the language of both the network architecture and the applications that run on it. Thanks to IP, 5G will be able to run multiple concurrent application layers—each tied together by IP—as opposed to legacy telecom networks that could only perform tasks sequentially. This capability ignites innovation potential while exposing 5G to the vast array of resources inherent to cloud computing.

Just what collapsing everything to IP (as opposed to the tradition of unique protocols for unique applications) means in terms of applications is up for grabs. It is revealing, for instance, that Verizon is running a crowdsourced “Build on 5G Challenge” contest in which they solicit ideas for 5G products, services, or applications.[4] Answering this question will be crucial to how and at what speed 5G is deployed. As one trade publication put it, “operators are looking for the ‘killer’ 5G app because the cost of rolling out 5G networks is expensive, and the costs won’t be recouped by simply increasing prices for mobile connections.”[5]

While innovators explore the promise of an all-IP world, early mass market applications of 5G will probably be more pedestrian. One industry analyst suggested that, like other internet experiences, the high-speed, low latency realism of 5G might make pornography an early moneymaking application.[6] Another analyst suggested that real time gambling during sporting events will take advantage of 5G’s high-speed, low latency connections.[7]In other words, if previous internet history holds, when consumers slip on 5G-enabled AR and VR headsets, it may not just be for a tour of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

AT&T’s first 5G customers have been businesses that used it as a replacement for their wired local area network (LAN).[8] Verizon’s first 5G customers are what one might call “wireless cable”—a service that delivers high-speed broadband capacity to homes in competition with the local cable company. The ability to handle a multitude of Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices has also been promoted as a 5G deliverable. While most IoT applications don’t require high bandwidth, even at slow data rates, thousands of IoT devices communicating at the same time will require 5G capabilities.[9]

While the all-IP network enables Buck Rogers-like potential, at this point there is one driving force behind 5G: the application of the new technology to expand network capacity.

Thanks in large part to the ever-growing demands for wirelessly delivered video, U.S. carriers are forecast to run out of available 4G spectrum as we approach 2022.[10] Today, for instance, about three-quarters of mobile network data is used for video traffic.[11] Disney, for instance, reports that over 70% of its content is today accessed via a mobile device (up from 40% four years ago).[12]

The Cisco Visual Networking Index forecasts a greater than threefold jump in global mobile video traffic from 2019 to 2022.[13] Buck Rogers will come, but first 5G will be more of the same. As the industry analysts at New Street Research put it, “the primary role of 5G will be to enable operators to continue to add capacity at acceptable costs.”[14]

And it is great capacity: fast, and with low latency (the time elapsed waiting for a response). The obvious use of 5G is to provide capacity to fill the spectrum demands for what we know now: video. There is nothing to be ashamed of here. A study by 5G manufacturer Ericsson found that 5G adoption would come in three phases. The first phase would be premium smartphone downloads of content (usually this is video content) in seconds rather than minutes. This would be followed by 5G home wireless broadband to challenge traditional cable TV (video and broadband delivered video). The final phase Ericsson predicts, is 5G hot zones of ultra-high speed in airports, offices and shopping areas.[15]

While 5G will drive mobile video services, any consideration of what 5G will be must take notice of the immutable lesson of network history: that it is not the primary network that is transformative, but its secondary effects. “If we’ve learned anything in the generational march through wireless connectivity,” the 2016 Press Club remarks reminded us, “it is that we have always underestimated the innovation that would result from new generations of wireless networks.” 3G networks, for instance, were built on an economic model that did not anticipate how the iPhone would change the nature of those networks. The technology of 5G networks far exceeds the technological upgrade from 2G to 3G—yet, looking at what that earlier upgrade unexpectedly enabled, we cannot underestimate what’s next. The immutable law of network history will again repeat itself as the 5G network spawns transformational secondary effects.

WHAT IS 5G TECHNOLOGY AND 5G SPECTRUM?

The technical standards for 5G remain a work in progress. The international standards-setting group 3GPP operates by periodic “Releases” that roughly coincide with network generations. Release 15 includes many key functionalities, which some would consider low-hanging fruit. However, Release 15 has been pushed back by three months into the third quarter of 2019; final release will come mid-2020. The first iterations of Release 16, which will contain key standards necessary for IoT, will not be available until 2020 with the final standard some significant time after. Even after a standard is released, it takes years for it to be widely implemented.

5G is the combination of innovative radio and core network technologies. Everything is now reduced to data, and since IP is the single language of 5G, everything simply becomes an IP app. There are three unique but interrelated factors at the heart of the 5G standard: greater spectral efficiency, greater spectrum pathways, and the distribution outward of core network functions.

Greater spectral efficiency

The greater the spectral efficiency—measured in bits per hertz—the greater a cell site’s capacity. A 5G network puts more bits through a given amount of spectrum by: (1) Optimizing the signal-controlling overhead, (2) Thereby making more of the spectrum available for traffic, (3) Mitigating degrading radio interference, and (4) The use of multiple-input/multiple-output (MIMO) antennas that break a transmission into multiple streams across a common channel. By one estimate, using these technologies expands the spectral efficiency of mid-band 5G by 52% over 4G.[16]

Greater spectrum pathways 

While spectral efficiency gets more throughput for each hertz of spectrum, the more hertz that can be used, the greater the total throughput. This is accomplished by aggregating existing spectrum assignments and/or by the allocation of new greenfield spectrum. The first is a function of carrier spectrum management, the second a matter of government spectrum management.

Existing mobile spectrum assignments are typically 10 to 20 MHz blocks. The larger the amount of spectrum available, the more data that can be driven through it. Thus, a concept that has been the backbone of wireless technology since the earliest days of cellular has been combined with the basic concepts of a distributed packet network to introduce “carrier aggregation” that virtualizes a broader pathway. One channel of spectrum is used to control the other channel(s) that deliver the content; then the information is broken into pieces to be sent over multiple different pathways and reassembled at the destination. In 4G-LTE—the first evolutionary step toward 5G (LTE standing for Long Term Evolution)—carrier aggregation can bond up to five 20 MHz channels into a virtually expanded pathway. By thus decoupling the control of the network from the carriage of data, 5G makes each independently scalable to further increase throughput.

There is, of course, management overhead in carrier aggregation. The optimal solution is to remove that overhead by making available large swaths of spectrum that can carry large amounts of data. Using greenfield spectrum for 5G, up to five 100 MHz channels can be aggregated for speeds up to 20-times faster. This is what makes the millimeter wave high-band spectrum above 6 GHz attractive: the availability of hundreds of MHz in one place.

Unfortunately, however, all spectrum is not created equal. No one has repealed the laws of physics. The higher you go in frequency, the more oxygen eats at the signal to reduce the distance it can travel, and the more that obstacles such as walls, trees, or people can block the signal. While 5G networks are being built in low-band (below 2 GHz), mid-band (2-6 GHz), and high-band (above 6 GHz), the distance the signal can travel moves from miles to meters as you progress up the frequencies. As a result, the higher the frequency, the smaller the cell radius, the more cells required to cover an area, the more infrastructure required to support the cells, and the greater the cost of the network.

Spectrum policy decisions for 5G represent a trade-off between the physics of the frequencies and the ability to have broad channels capable of carrying large amounts of data. Such broad channels are more readily available in the high spectrum bands. 5G spectrum allocations have thus far focused on these so-called millimeter wave bands. The difficulty with this decision, one anonymous White House official told The Washington Post after President Donald Trump held a White House event to tout an upcoming high-band spectrum auction at the FCC, is that “We are winning a race that no one else is running to build a 5G ecosystem that no one will use.”[17] While it is not quite that simple, high-band spectrum will play a part in a 5G future—but it is only a part.[18]

Low-band spectrum has long been the mainstay of wireless service (and was made even more plentiful by the Obama FCC’s transfer of such spectrum from use by local broadcasters to wireless use). Such low-band spectrum has been assigned to networks in smaller size blocks than high band’s assignment. Therefore, even with aggregation, the total spectrum available to carry the data—and thus the data throughput—is less than high-band.

Mid-band spectrum is “Goldilocks spectrum”—the potential for larger blocks that are not too small for higher throughput, while not too high to impose serious propagation constraints. As a result, mid-band spectrum has increasingly become a focus of policy planners.

However, the potential use of mid-band for 5G runs head long into the other controlling factor in spectrum utilization: the most attractive spectrum has long been allocated for other purposes. These spectrum allocations were made in the analog era, based on the behavior of radio waves. However, the characteristics of digital signals allow more efficient spectrum usage, including spectrum sharing. Your home WiFi, for instance, does not interfere with your neighbor’s because WiFi is a “listen before talk” technology in which packets of data can be inserted into milliseconds of unused capacity.

The “listen before talk” capability of digital technology formed the backbone of the Obama FCC’s “Citizens Broadband Radio Spectrum” (CBRS) allocation. This Goldilocks-zone spectrum between 3.55 and 3.7 MHz is a wide swath, but is being used by the Defense Department, principally the Navy.[19] Using digital signal sensing capabilities, however, it is possible to share the spectrum. A tiering of use priorities was negotiated with the Navy getting priority and commercial users able to plug their packets in when not in use (similar to WiFi, this non-usage is often measured in milliseconds).

Just as no one has repealed the laws of physics, however, so are the laws of human nature in full force. Having received a spectrum assignment, most licensees are loath to relinquish what they consider their God-given spectrum rights to digital performance assumptions like spectrum sharing. As then-Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology and Information David Redl told a satellite industry conference: “In this era of competition for spectrum resources, it can be easy to think that we’re in a winner-take-all battle, but that mindset asks us to make false choices that will shortchange America.”[20]

Redl’s remarks were predicated on the on-going reassessment of how to make the so-called C-band spectrum at 3.7 to 4.2 GHz, now licensed for satellite services, available for 5G. Because of this mid-band spectrum’s propagation pattern and the potential for sharing with current users, the C-band holds part of the solution to providing sufficient mid-band spectrum for U.S. 5G networks.

The wireless industry association, CTIA, reports that on average, other countries are making four times as much licensed mid-band spectrum available than the United States. China reportedly plans seven times more mid-band spectrum than in the U.S.[21] In his remarks, Redl addressed the spectrum sharing possibilities in C-band, observing that spectrum policy doesn’t “have to choose between terrestrial 5G and satellite services … These uses are not mutually exclusive; it’s just going to take hard work for them to continue to coexist in a more contentious spectrum environment.”

Network costs are also affected by spectrum choices. As the rest of the world settles in on the mid-band spectrum below 6 GHz for their 5G operations, one can expect there to be scope and scale economies in the production and pricing of mid-band infrastructure and handsets.

Distribution of core network functions 

Thus far, the discussion has focused on the spectrum-based radio access component of 5G. The third factor that makes 5G possible is a reimagining of the core network to which the radio access network (RAN) delivers the signal. While earlier wireless generations had dedicated hardware at their core to route the signals and perform other network functions, 5G has moved those functions into software and put them in the cloud. As the core network functions move to the edge of the network, and as the RAN is reconfigured, the result is lower latency through a shorter path to the required functionality. The virtualization of core network functions are also where the “it’s all IP” opportunities exist to increase network functionality and reduce costs through software virtualization.

Big Bang vs. evolution?

Often, 5G is portrayed as a binary choice: to completely overhaul the network with a onetime Big Bang replacement strategy, or else “lose” its benefits. Unless there are market-superseding government policies to prop up a new standalone network such as may be happening in China, the new network will most likely roll out the same way as 4G; that is to say, incrementally.

Such an evolutionary rollout is prudent for private capital given the absence of proven new sources of revenue to justify the high cost of an all-at-once rebuild. Adding 5G functionality to 4G infrastructure improves the network experience by embracing the capabilities of the new technology but does so in a fiscally responsible manner.

Such a bespoke reality applies to spectrum as well. Different pieces of spectrum will also be used for different applications. AT&T, for instance, is using low band spectrum in less dense “coverage” areas and high band in more dense “capacity” areas. Verizon is taking advantage of how the carrier aggregation capabilities of 5G allow one channel to act as the control channel for data sent over other pieces of spectrum. In the Verizon model, for instance, licensed spectrum is combined with unlicensed CBRS and millimeter spectrum for a 5G experience.

The 5G roadmap is full of options to progress from non-standalone 5G built on an evolution from 4G to ultimately a standalone 5G network. In free market economies, 5G will be a moving picture of evolutionary development rather than a Big Bang.

WHAT ABOUT CYBERSECURITY?

Networks have always been attack vectors. Whether animal paths used by indigenous war parties, or the roads used by Caesar’s legions, networks were the pathway to attack adversaries. So why are we surprised to discover that 5G could be a pathway of attack?

In November 2018, Trump’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) told him, “the cybersecurity threat now poses an existential threat to the future of the Nation.”[22] Three sub-issues attach to address that threat in regard to 5G:

  • Why has our government failed to be proactive on 5G cybersecurity?
  • Is Huawei the totality of the cyber issue?
  • What about the broader supply chain of 5G components and equipment?

The Trump administration cancelled attempts to oversee cybersecurity as an integral part of the 5G standard and rejected a National Security Council (NSC) alert about 5G cybersecurity. Shortly after taking office, the Trump FCC allowed to atrophy an Obama FCC initiative that the 5G technical standard must be designed from the outset with cyber protections. For the first time in history, cybersecurity would be overseen as a network design forethought, rather than an afterthought. The Trump FCC also cancelled a formal inquiry seeking input from our country’s best technical minds about how to provide this 5G security. Beyond these crippling steps, the Trump FCC retracted a white paper about reducing cyberthreats, and even questioned whether the agency had any responsibility for the oversight of network cybersecurity.

While cybersecurity is a topic in the ongoing standard setting process, it is a process in which the equipment manufacturers (including the Chinese) make the decisions. The Trump FCC eliminated the ability for the U.S. government to use the standards process to define what would be acceptable cybersecurity for 5G systems operating in the United States.

Then, in early 2018 a White House National Security Council Report warned about the 5G cyber threat. The administration’s response was to fire the report’s author—an Air Force general who had previously served as defense attaché in Beijing—and deep six the report because the analyst had the temerity to include among proposed solutions a federally-owned backbone network to enhance cybersecurity.

Because of the Trump administration’s lack of initiative, Congress has stepped in. The bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote the FCC Chairman in May that 5G cybersecurity “deserves a more explicit focus and attention” from the agency.[23] Negotiations are also apparently underway to include in the National Defense Authorization Act a mandate that the Trump administration develop a 5G cybersecurity strategy.

The Trump administration’s focus on Huawei equipment is not a cybersecurity strategy, and by melding trade policy with cybersecurity, damages each. Trump told reporters on May 23, “Huawei is something that is very dangerous.” He then went on to add, “It’s possible that Huawei could be included in some kind of a trade deal.”[24] Not only does this confuse cybersecurity and trade, but it also interprets cybersecurity strategy as being centered around Huawei, to the detriment of the kind of comprehensive 5G strategy that is required.

The national champion Chinese company is definitely a powerhouse in the world’s telecommunications infrastructure. It appears the Trump administration has a two-pronged approach to Huawei: keep the company out of U.S. networks, and attack its ability to provide equipment anywhere by denying it access to essential American technology.

Keeping Huawei out of U.S. networks continues a policy established when the Obama administration successfully encouraged major telecommunications companies not to use Huawei equipment. The Trump initiative continues that policy, expanded by an announced FCC shutdown of subsidy support for small rural carriers that had ignored the warnings about Huawei.

The use of Huawei equipment in domestic networks has many facets. One concern is the ability to introduce network vulnerabilities through ongoing software updates. The other is the concern expressed by some that a 2017 Chinese law requiring all citizens and companies to cooperate with the nation’s intelligence agencies applies to activities beyond China’s borders.[25]

“Our interconnected world makes it easy to implant malicious code, so why worry about Huawei?” some people ask. We all know stories, for instance, of using the internet to install malware that affects the operation of, for instance, a hospital’s IT system. The cybercriminal discovers a vulnerability in the hospital’s software and implants its own code to exploit that weakness. Consider, however, the difference between that kind of attack on an activity that is peripheral to the network itself and implanting harmful code in the network and thus garnering the ability to see and affect all the traffic the network handles. Then consider how the cybercriminals had to discover the hospital’s vulnerabilities, compared to the up-front knowledge about the software backdoors in a network because you put them there.

The U.K. government has tried to find a middle ground solution by screening all Huawei software and keeping the company out of the core network. As discussed earlier, however, the 5G core network is virtualized in software and moved to the edge of the network. While it might be possible to build a network monitoring system to identify abnormalities, such a solution would require a measure of good faith cooperation that does not exist today.

The British government’s efforts to monitor Huawei’s software were recently disrupted by the nature of the software itself. In a March 2019 report, the U.K.’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board identified “significant technical issues” that lead to cyber risks when using Huawei equipment.[26] Their discovery: Huawei’s software coding was so sloppy as to be an invitation to hacking. “What kind of sector incentivizes a market where the leader in that market—in terms of market volume—has the security we published in the Oversight report in March?” the technical director of the UK National Cyber Security Centre warned in May.[27]

 Beyond keeping Huawei out of domestic networks, the Trump administration has an on-again, off-again strategy to keep the company out of the 5G networks of other countries by denying Huawei access to U.S. products necessary to its operation. The consequences of an antagonistic foreign policy came home to roost when our strategic allies ignored U.S. cautions about including Huawei equipment in their 5G deployments. The administration’s decision to place Huawei on the Commerce Department’s Entity List of businesses deemed to be acting contrary to U.S. national security interests seemed designed to achieve what couldn’t be achieved diplomatically through the technological crippling of Huawei. American companies may not do business with companies on the Entity List. As a result, microchips from Qualcomm and the Android operating system from Google, among other products, may not be exported to Huawei or its related companies.

At his G-20 meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Trump apparently walked back his Entity List prohibitions in an effort to restart trade talks. Whether this is cybersecurity or a trade war can be debated. Whichever it is (or both), the two issues have become joined. It is important, however, not to let these high-profile activities distract from the fact that banning or crippling Huawei, will not by itself secure the 5G networks. We must be alert to the tweet or headline proclaiming a hollow Huawei-based “cyber-victory.”

Leadership is necessary to create a western alternative to Huawei. In April, Trump proclaimed of 5G, “It’s a race our great companies are now involved in.”[28] But there are no American companies that are manufacturing 5G infrastructure or phones. Motorola, which once dominated the world’s telecom equipment market, is gone, its infrastructure business now part of Nokia. Lucent, the successor to the great Western Electric of the Bell System days, was absorbed into the French company Alcatel which then promptly disappeared into Nokia as well. The principal 5G infrastructure companies, other than Huawei, are now Finland’s Nokia, Sweden’s Ericsson, and South Korea’s Samsung.

“Mr. Trump has been deeply involved, quietly meeting with American telecommunications executives at the White House…only to be told that no American firms make the core switches that will direct 5G internet traffic,” The New York Times reported.[29] Because there is no U.S. flagged infrastructure or device manufacturer, and because of the obvious concerns about Huawei, one wonders why the administration does not lead a western coalition to support suppliers such as Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung?

The development of 2G technology was a Europe-wide policy decision that carried on to affect 3G and 4G. In the face of Chinese government subsidization of a worldwide onslaught by Huawei, however, the United States and its allies seem incapable of a response. It is reported, for instance, that Chinese government-granted advantages were key to Huawei’s recent selection to supply the 5G network for KPN, the Netherlands’ leading carrier. Huawei reportedly underbid KPN’s 4G supplier Ericsson by 60%, in large part because of the state-supported benefits it receives.[30]

Capitalism’s push to reduce costs in order to maximize profits has been exploited by the Chinese state and the companies it supports. It is reported that Huawei “gets hundreds of millions of dollars in annual subsidies and, together with another Chinese firm, is guaranteed a majority share of the domestic market, the world’s largest.” This support includes “loans at below-market interest rates, drawing on a staggering $100 billion line of credit at state-owned banks.”[31] The consequence is that the company  has used advantageous pricing to buy its way into the backbone networks of democratic capitalism.

5G is not just about Huawei. The security of 5G is an ecosystem that must be protected in its whole. The supply chain that makes up 5G runs the gamut from radio networks, to the integrated chipsets in that network, and the devices that will use the network (not just phones, but also billions of IoT devices). Each of these devices then have their own component parts supply chain that introduces risk. And, of course, the services that ride the new network are themselves vulnerable.

Recently, the Defense Innovation Board published a report, “The 5G Ecosystem: Risks & Opportunities for DoD.” Among the report’s observations was how, as DoD moves from bespoke technology to less costly commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, “DoD is facing a future 5G environment where its supply chain will be increasingly vulnerable or compromised.” Because of inadvertent or malicious security vulnerabilities throughout the supply chain, there are numerous cyber weaknesses in the 5G ecosystem.

The 5G supply chain cannot be relegated to a policy backwater. In the closing days of the Obama FCC, the agency published “Cybersecurity Risk Reduction,” a paper that addressed a panoply of network-level cyber threats, including from the supply chain. The analysis observed,

“As private actors, ISPs [Internet Service Providers such as 5G networks] operate in economic environments that pressure against investments that do not contribute to profit. Protective action taken by one ISP can be undermined by the failure of other ISPs to take similar actions. This weakens the incentive of all ISPs to invest in such protections. Cyber- accountability therefore requires a combination of market-based incentives and appropriate regulatory oversight where the market does not, or cannot, do the job efficiently.”

Specifically addressing supply chain risks, the Obama FCC’s paper reported on a FCC partnership with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) to recommend, “The Commission should consider continuing efforts to reduce supply chain risk and the risk from insider threats.”[32] Upon taking office, the Trump FCC retracted the paper. There appear to have been no “continuing efforts” by the agency on supply chain cyber threats since removing that report.

The whiz-bang visions of new technologies growing out of 5G will be seriously impacted if the network—in all its components—cannot be counted on to be secure. 5G proponents make the case for new applications such as “smart cities” where everything from traffic lights to the water supply are orchestrated by 5G. Few mayors, however, will be willing to connect their city if the network or the intelligent devices attached to the network to provide essential services can be compromised because the 5G ecosystem is not sufficiently secure. Bloomberg has reported that this risk extends to the ability to finance government bonds because of a “growing credit risk that cyberattacks pose to states and cities.”[33]

The “risk of inadvertent or malicious security vulnerabilities,” in the words of the Defense Innovation Board, was highlighted by the chief security officer of Canada’s leading wireless provider at an industry conference. Current cyber practices, “don’t really get the job done for … the new level of confidence … that we’re going to be required to produce in order to gain the public’s trust,” Telus’s Carey Frey warned.[34]

The United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre technical director, Dr. Dan Levy, was even more direct, “Security is fundamentally broken in the telecoms sector. There’s no incentive to do security in a broken market,” because “security doesn’t get prioritized.”[35] Failure to prioritize cybersecurity in the 5G ecosystem will retard U.S. investments in smart cities and other IoT technologies. If there is a “race” with China, the failure to develop secure solutions will cede the advantage to such an authoritarian government with its other mechanisms for addressing security. A meaningful 5G cybersecurity program would include a comprehensive, government-led program to assure that 5G security is prioritized across the broad scope of its exposures.

WHAT ARE THE HIDDEN ISSUES?

Just as 5G cyber is far more than the current attention on Huawei, the actual construction of 5G networks is far more than the current attention on spectrum. Yes, it is all about capacity, but other less obvious issues will determine that spectrum’s use.

Antenna siting  

There is an inherent tension between the right of localities to make zoning decisions and the impact of those rights on a national infrastructure like 5G. There has always been a stress between wireless network infrastructure and not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) concerns.

The Trump FCC’s solution has been to adopt rules that largely preempt the rights of localities to oversee the construction of 5G antennas in their communities. Because of the density required for 5G cells, these antennas will be much more prevalent than those used in earlier generations of wireless. The good news is they will also be shoebox-sized as opposed to the oil derrick-like antennas of early wireless.

“We cannot let today’s red tape strangle the 5G future,” the Chairman of the FCC said as the agency preempted the rights of localities.[36] As industry analyst and Brookings Non-Resident Fellow Blair Levin has pointed out, however, it was a giveaway without offsetting expectations for wireless companies. “This effectively transfers $2 billion [in rights of way fees] from cities [and their taxpayers] to carriers.” Levin observed, “In return, the FCC asks carriers for nothing” in terms of deployment commitments.[37]

The issue of antenna siting has been further complicated as some states have sued to overturn the FCC’s order. While states like Texas and Florida have passed legislation embracing the concepts, 25 others, including California and New York, have rejected the idea. The impasse has prompted two U.S. senators, John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to introduce federal legislation establishing standards for public review of antenna siting.[38] It is an issue that must be resolved, but in order to be resolved must rise above winner-take-all outcomes.

Health effects 

For a couple of decades there have been lawsuits alleging adverse health effects from mobile phone exposure. They have been rejected by the courts under the so-called “junk science” standard. Now, the Russian disinformation campaign has embraced this as a means of further sowing dissent in our nation.

According to The New York TimesRT America—the Kremlin’s principal propaganda outlet in this country—has been describing 5G as, “A Dangerous Experiment on Humanity” and warning of adverse health consequences.[39]In the U.S. radiation safety is overseen by the Food and Drug Administration whose scientific analysis concludes, “The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to radiofrequency from a cellphone and health problems.”[40] RT America, however, has been alarming its viewers with warnings “it might kill you.”

Backhaul and fronthaul 

While 5G can solve the capacity problems in the wireless link to the user, there remains a challenge with the capacity to connect the cell site to the greater network. The dense network of cell sites needs to be interconnected. The industry term for this is “backhaul,” the transportation of traffic back and forth between the cell tower and the internet. Simply put, the 5G radio access and core network may be lightning fast, but if there isn’t an equally fast connection to the internet, the 5G experience will be reduced to the characteristics of the weakest link.

A 5G operator’s access to sufficient quantities of high-speed backhaul capacity is critical to the deployment of 5G. Optimally, this backhaul comes over optical fiber cables. Not all 5G providers, however, have their own fiber plant in every market, or in the density that is necessary. Therefore, the 5G providers must lease capacity from either a competitor or a cable television company. The Obama FCC tried to require cable companies to open access to their lines for backhaul, and for all fiber owners to charge a reasonable rate. It was very specifically a 5G-enabling action; unfortunately, it was defeated by the industry. The same issue remains unresolved today: 5G requires access to third party backhaul capacity at just and reasonable rates.

Open networks 

There is another openness-related 5G issue. Will the network itself be open, or will the network owners be the sole determination of who gets on, with what services, and at what prices? This is the heart of the Obama FCC’s Open Internet Rule that was subsequently repealed by the Trump FCC (a decision presently under judicial review).

This is especially important as 5G technology allows what is called “network slicing”—the virtual segmentation of the network for specific applications.

The fog around 5G has obscured consideration of the public interest effect when a network virtualizes itself into multiple pseudo-networks. The ability of a network operator to “segment a network to meet specific requirements around, for example, quality of service or speed, was identified as a key weapon in an operator’s [5G] armoury,” a trade report concluded.[41] The ability of a network operator to “slice” its pathway into parts that can each become an independent monopoly bottleneck only expands the competitive threats of an un-open internet. While the Open Internet Rule made exceptions for network operators to provide “specialized services” using different criteria, absent a basic openness requirement, 5G could end up being the first American telecommunications network since the Pacific Telegraph Act of 1860 without non-discriminatory access.

5G is expensive 

A study by McKinsey & Company said about the cost of building a 5G network, “The numbers look more daunting than previously expected. … Network investments would have to increase by up to 60% with a significant increase in operating expenses.”

McKinsey’s recommendation is network sharing.[42] It is not a new idea: In the early days of cellular, companies would band together to jointly construct a network and share its costs and capacity. Consumers who bought a particular service had no notion it was running on the same network as a competitor brand, but the companies saved money by not building redundant networks and were thus able to reach more customers.

This idea has been catching on in other parts of the world. Multiple European operators are sharing, or proposing sharing 5G infrastructure. McKinsey reports, “Operators have been able to reduce the total cost of ownership by up to 30% while improving network quality.” When it comes to construction, the savings can be even greater. “The cost of small cell deployment can be reduced by up to 50% if three players share the same network,” McKinsey reports.

Let’s be clear, this is not a government-run shared network. But a government that believes in a fast 5G rollout should be encouraging American carriers to make scarce capital go as far as possible, and thus make 5G networks go as far as possible. A government that consistently talks about 5G in rural America should be leading the creation of incentives for mobile operators to share network costs so that they may build out farther and faster into less dense areas.

Private network-sharing agreements work abroad with hundreds of such partnerships.[43] Private network-sharing agreements worked when wireless was even more competitive and entrepreneurial. It makes sense now.

DOES FIRST TO THE TAPE REALLY MATTER?

“The race to 5G is on and America must win,” President Trump said in April.[44] Races are great political tools; no one wants the silver medal, especially when there is a matter of national honor, and possibly national security, at stake. In the 1960s we had the “missile gap” that ultimately turned out to be a specious political concoction. Is the “5G gap” the new politically concocted missile gap?

The United States was not first to deploy 1G, 2G, 3G or 4G. Even today, our deployment of 4G-LTE is far from ubiquitous, and the speed of our networks is slower than others in the world, while the price to consumers is higher.[45]

So what constitutes “winning” the “5G race”? Is it being first to put 5G infrastructure in place? Is it having the greatest penetration across population and geography? Is it low prices that open access to more people? Is it innovative services using 5G?

Prohibiting American companies from doing business with Huawei shone a light on what counts as “winning” in mobile communications these days. The Trump administration put itself in the contradictory position of withholding the “winnings” of America’s technological and services leadership, while simultaneously warning about “losing” a so-called “race.”

 The U.S. “lost” the races to cross the tape first on earlier generations of wireless technology, but that didn’t stop American companies from “winning” to become world leaders. Google’s Android mobile operating system powers 75% of the world’s mobile devices. The Apple iOS operating system powers 23% of all mobile devices. That means that 98% of all the mobile devices in the world rely on U.S. technology.[46] In the applications space, Facebook alone owns four of the world’s top five downloaded mobile apps.[47] Qualcomm is the microprocessor brains of networks and devices, Cadence and Synopsys design software, and millions of mobile apps populate a list goes on and on to establish America as the world leader in mobile technology for reasons that transcend being first across the tape.

What should be worrisome in this regard is how the comingling of the administration’s China trade policy with 5G could affect that ability to lead. Regardless of whether the current Entity List related issues subside, the “genie does not just go back into the bottle,” New Street Research observed, “China’s priority will be striving for tech independence as rapidly as possible.”[48] The risk of the present policy is that by deciding to cripple China’s wireless technology by denying it American components, we have endangered the true American “win” in the telecommunications future: the integration of American know how into products assembled elsewhere.

And while we’re considering the effect of trade policy on the “5G race,” FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel has warned, “Much of the network gear associated with 5G that is developed and used in the United States but assembled or produced in China will be assessed special tariffs of up to 25 percent.” She called it, “a tax on the deployment of 5G infrastructure.”[49]

Ultimately, it is necessary to ask the question whether all the attention being directed to the “5G race” is about national leadership, or is it an attempt to obscure attention from the tough policy leadership required for the much more nitty-gritty issues inherent in 5G deployment?

The importance of the 5G future is something on which we should all be able to agree. Consumers, businesses and the American economy have much riding on that future. Therefore, it is essential that we stop treating 5G policy as a political prop. It is time to move our national policy beyond soundbites passed off as policy.

It’s time to identify the important 5G policy goals and pursue them in a focused manner. It is time to set goals beyond the amorphous “winning” of an ill-defined 5G race. Thus, 5G in five (not so) easy pieces would include our ability to focus on a set of measurable deliverables: (1) sufficient spectrum, especially in the mid-band; (2) cybersecurity as a forethought, not an afterthought, or a trade ploy, or a PR bauble; (3) fair access to networks and facilities necessary for 5G and open access on the 5G networks themselves; (4) the encouragement of innovative business practices to stretch the 5G infrastructure dollar so that 5G service stretches to serve more Americans; and (5) the realization that the American opportunity in 5G is about encouraging and protecting our leadership in global information services.

5G doesn’t just need to be fast — it needs to be free

This article originally appeared on CNET by Roger Cheng.

5G, the next generation of wireless technology, promises to do a lot of things. It’ll allow you to download big games and movies in a flash. It’ll connect all sorts of devices around you, from street lamps to self-driving cars. It’ll enable new fields such as streaming VR experiences and telemedicine. 

There’s at least one more potential impact coming: a hit to your wallet.

Wireless carriers rarely like to give anything away for free. And given the hype and excitement over 5G, it seems like a perfect time to tack another charge onto your mobile plan. 

My advice to carriers? For once, lay off the fees. 

CNET’s test of 5G services around the world, encompassing four countries, 11 cities and seven carriers, found a mixed bag of incredible speeds and wildly inconsistent coverage. In short, 5G is going to be a shaky experience for anyone looking to make the leap, and we advise that you exercise a little patience before buying a 5G phone.

Growing pains are inevitable as new networks spring up, and that’s all the more reason for carriers to resist the urge to charge extra fees for the privilege of accessing 5G services. Early adopters shouldn’t be taxed for the work-in-progress nature of these networks. 

Verizon, for instance, waived the $10-a-month fee for 5G for customers who bought 5G Moto Mod or Galaxy S10 5G — a smart move considering how small a footprint is available. But the company should go the extra mile and eliminate the fee altogether. 

A Verizon spokesman declined to talk about what the company has in store.

Sprint doesn’t charge a fee, but requires you to sign up for its $80 “Unlimited Premium” plan.

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told me back in March that he didn’t think carriers should charge extra for 5G, a point reiterated by CEO John Legere

“You can’t go to a US consumer and charge them a big premium and it works on three street corners,” Ray said.

Hopefully, that won’t change once T-Mobile and the rest of the carriers build out their 5G networks to the point where those growing pains go away. Given the rumored price locks T-Mobile and Sprint are willing to agree to in order to get their merger completed, that’s likely the case.

AT&T, which launched its 5G network for businesses in December but hasn’t made it available to consumers, didn’t provide specifics about the pricing plans for its business customers.

“Our focus is on providing the best experiences at competitive prices,” said a company spokeswoman.

Beyond fees, the carriers should remove the data limitations that call for throttling once you’ve consumed a certain amount of data.  Under 4G, Verizon’s $60-a-month “AboveUnlimited” plan, for instance, gives the carrier the right to limit you if you’ve hit 75 gigabytes of data. T-Mobile’s $50 “Magenta Plus” plan has a throttling limit of 50B before the carrier can slow you down during heavy congestion periods. 

The carriers have been doing the right thing initially. Verizon, for instance, doesn’t have any restrictions when you’re on its 5G network. 

This is something every carrier should consider. If you’re going to be enjoying 5G speeds regularly, you’ll hit those limits pretty quickly. It’s a problem CNET editor Daniel Van Boom faced during his 5G speed tests in Australia.

These requests aren’t radical. When the carriers introduced 4G LTE service, they didn’t charge an extra fee. They didn’t have throttling limits in place either. 

Of course, 4G’s enhanced speed spurred an explosion of data usage — something the carriers have had to manage over the last decade. 

And 5G will serve as the catalyst for new services and applications. But in order to get to that bright future, we need to ensure a wide highway that’s free of tolls. 

That’ll make the little speedbumps we’ve been encountering along the way that much easier to tolerate.

What Trump’s Huawei Reversal Means for the Future of 5G

This article originally appeared on New York Times by Andrew Ross Sorkin.

In an impromptu question-and-answer session late last month at the White House, President Trump was asked about the nation’s efforts to block Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, from doing business in the United States and with our allies around the globe.

“Huawei is something that is very dangerous,” Mr. Trump said. Then, almost in the same breath, he added: “It’s possible that Huawei would be included in a trade deal. If we made a deal, I can imagine Huawei being included in some form or some part of a trade deal.”

Over the weekend in Japan, Mr. Trump appeared to choose trade over national security, suspending the ban on United States companies’ supplying equipment to Huawei as he hopes to reach a trade deal with President Xi Jinping of China. Without providing any details, he declared that American companies could sell to Huawei without creating a “great, national emergency problem.”

He said this even as own secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, spent the past several months traveling the world warning our allies that Huawei is a profoundly dangerous security threat and instructing them to freeze out the company.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, used Twitter to call Mr. Trump’s reversal “a catastrophic mistake” that “will destroy the credibility of his administration’s warnings about the threat posed by the company, no one will ever again take them seriously.” (Mr. Trump followed the same playbook with ZTE earlier this year, banning it and then reversing the ban to placate the Chinese.)

While Mr. Trump may view Huawei as both “dangerous” and a pawn in the trade war, the truth is it may be something else entirely.

Huawei is the most significant long-term competitive threat to the United States’ dominance of the future of wireless technology. And the United States is woefully — even disgracefully — behind.

No matter what the United States does to hobble Huawei — and Mr. Trump’s latest stance will only hasten its rise — it will not alter a fundamental problem that clouds the conversation: The United States needs a meaningful strategy to lead the world in next-generation wireless technology — a kind of Manhattan Project for the future of connectivity.

Don’t take my word for it.

In April, amid the frenzy over the report from Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian election interference, another alarming government report was issued — and largely overlooked.

It was written by the Defense Innovation Board, a group of business leaders and academics that advises the Defense Department. And it was a scathing indictment of the country’s 5G efforts.

“The leader of 5G stands to gain hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade, with widespread job creation across the wireless technology sector,” wrote the board, a who’s-who of the tech world that includes the former Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt, the LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Walter Isaacson, the author and a former chief executive of the Aspen Institute.

“The country that owns 5G will own many of these innovations and set the standards for the rest of the world,” the board wrote.

It added in no uncertain terms: “That country is currently not likely to be the United States.”

It is no wonder. No American company makes the devices that transmit high-speed wireless signals. Huawei is the clear leader in the field; the Swedish company Ericsson is a distant second; and the Finnish company Nokia is third.

It is almost surprising that the Defense Department allowed the report to be published at all, given the board’s remarkably blunt assessment of the nation’s lack of innovation and what it said was one of the biggest impediments to rolling out 5G in the United States: the Pentagon itself.

The board said the broadband spectrum needed to create a successful network was reserved not for commercial purposes but for the military.

To work best, 5G needs what’s called low-band spectrum, because it allows signals to travel farther than high-band spectrum. The farther the signal can travel, the less infrastructure has to be deployed.

In China and even in Europe, governments have reserved low-band spectrum for 5G, making it efficient and less costly to blanket their countries with high-speed wireless connectivity. In the United States, the low-band spectrum is reserved for the military.

The difference this makes is stark. Google conducted an experiment for the board, placing 5G transmitters on 72,735 towers and rooftops. Using high-band spectrum, the transmitters covered only 11.6 percent of the United States population at a speed of 100 megabits per second and only 3.9 percent at 1 gigabit per second. If the same transmitters could use low-band spectrum, 57.4 percent of the population would be covered at 100 megabits per second and 21.2 percent at 1 gigabit per second.

In other words, the spectrum that has been allotted in the United States for commercial 5G communications makes 5G significantly slower and more expensive to roll out than just about anywhere else.

That is a commercial disincentive and puts the United States at a distinct disadvantage.

The spectrum challenge creates a negative feedback loop for manufacturers, which may help explain why no major American technology company has jumped into the fray. But since President Trump issued an executive order that banned the purchase of equipment from companies posing a national security threat — which include Huawei — it threatens the ability of American companies to expand their 5G networks, particularly in rural areas.

United States phone companies like AT&T and Verizon may end up seeking to manufacture their own transmitters given the dearth of options.

Not winning the 5G contest comes with consequences. “If China leads the field in 5G infrastructure and systems, then the future 5G ecosystem will likely have Chinese components embedded throughout,” the Defense Innovation Board wrote. “This would pose a serious threat to the security of D.O.D. operations and networks going forward.”

One of the board’s recommendations is that the Defense Department share its low-band spectrum to accelerate the commercial development of the technology in the United States.

While sharing spectrum comes with its own security challenges, the board raised the prospect of some unique, surprising benefits: “Integration of government and civil use may provide a layer of security by allowing military traffic to ‘hide in plain sight’ as traffic becomes more difficult to see and isolate. Similarly, adversaries might be deterred from jamming this spectrum because they might be operating on the same bands.”

None of this is meant to suggest that Huawei does not represent a national security threat if the Chinese government were to use it to spy on foreign adversaries in the future. (Though, it is worth saying, there is no evidence presented publicly by any American agency that the company’s hardware has been used that way — yet.)

Nor should it be read as an apology for Huawei’s record of stealing intellectual property, which has been well chronicled.

Sharing spectrum should be only the start, however. Policymakers must grasp that the “market” in the United States isn’t working the way it should, especially when state actors like China are supporting companies like Huawei.

If the United States is going to lead the world, Washington needs to think hard about the incentives it provides companies — not only for research and development, where we are still leading, but also for manufacturing the technology that is in our national interest to control as well as what mergers it allows.

One morning in late February, Mr. Trump typed out a message on Twitter: “I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies.”

That is a worthy goal, and an achievable one. But it requires more than the Band-Aid solution that is a trade deal or a blacklist. It requires a new strategy.

Maybe we’ll have one in time for 6G.

How 5G is set to revolutionize healthcare

This article originally appeared on TechRadar by Richard Wordsworth.

5G – or the fifth generation of international mobile phone standards if you prefer – is largely being touted by telecoms companies as the technology that lets you download films faster than you would ever realistically need to. 

However, aside from being able to stream every Netflix show at once, 5G will also change the way we take care of ourselves and each other.

An aging population

“Healthcare is facing a number of substantial challenges at the moment,” says Derek Long, Head of Telecoms and Mobile at Cambridge Consultants . 

“One is an aging population. Another [challenge that] comes with that is first-world ailments and chronic ailments. Not only are the treatments costing more, but they’re also being applied for longer periods of time and for more people. The whole thing is a ballooning cost.”

That health services in the UK particularly are facing challenges due partly to the aging population is a sentiment echoed frequently by NHS (the United Kingdom’s National Health Service) spokespeople. 

Earlier this year, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens launched the NHS Long Term Plan, outlining how the service will cope with increasing demand over the next ten years. 

Over the course of his seven-minute speech, Stevens alluded to the trials of an aging population no less than three times: first saying that the plan would guarantee support for the elderly in the community, second that the UK would see a million more retirees over the next five years and finally that a girl born on the NHS today had a one-in-three chance of living past 100. More people living longer requires more staff, new approaches or (ideally) both.

The plan itself guarantees one new technological solution: the option of online consultations with a GP for all NHS patients that will cut outpatient appointments by up to a third, “saving patients 30 million trips to hospital, and saving the NHS over £1 billion a year.” 

5G, with its faster speeds and lower latency, will make these online consultations possible.

The plan also frames a shift in focus from treatment to prevention; identifying illness earlier, before patients’ needs become urgent (and therefore more costly). By helping to catch problems early, 5G could revolutionize healthcare for everyone in the UK, young or old, with at least one large-scale trial already underway in Liverpool.

“The solution that the healthcare system has taken as a broad philosophical approach is to move away from treating sickness and over to preventative healthcare instead – managing how people are doing and giving them little nudges and tips on how not to get sick,” Long says. 

“And this is probably where 5G is going to come into play, because what we’ll have are wearables that are sensing a whole load of different parameters, whether it’s your blood pressure, your heart rate, your temperature – those sorts of things.”

Wearables could save your life

5G doesn’t just mean faster data transfer. It also means that the costs of transferring data and the devices that use it will fall. 

With a stable 5G connection, enabled devices – whether they’re health trackers or phones – won’t need to physically cram all of their processing power into something that still fits in your pocket. 

Rather, these devices will be able to offload heavier tasks to servers in the cloud which then crunch and return your data to the device – in the same way that computing companies today rent time on cloud-connected supercomputers, rather than mortgaging employees’ houses to buy their own.

“The data production costs of 5G are significantly lower, so you can transport data backwards and forwards [more easily],” says Long. “[But] 5G also gives you the ability to put functionality into the network, rather than having it on the device, which means the device itself can be significantly less complex and therefore significantly cheaper.

“Once you’ve got this in the network and you’ve got [public] APIs and SDKs, you’ll have developers who can look at different algorithms to implement using that data. You’ll see that [something which began as] a blood pressure monitor generates data that can be used for other applications.”

All this data analysis won’t replace your GP– nobody wants the nightmare of a smartwatch that’s constantly checking your heart rate against WebMD and diagnosing you with multiple serious illnesses via screen alerts. 

Rather, these devices will act as early warning systems. If your next-gen health tracker detects a troubling combination of red flags, it could advise that you pencil in a check-up at your local surgery. 

Healthcare professionals are kept in the loop, but wouldn’t necessarily be the first port of call when patients are just feeling a bit peaky, or concerned about aspects of their health that are easily measured by devices – heart rate or blood pressure, for example.

More reliable 5G video appointments could also relieve the strain placed on surgeries and hospitals by older patients currently in need of regular outpatient check-ups.

“A lot of old people with these chronic ailments aren’t people who need to see a doctor, they just need somebody who can check up on them and see if they’re OK or if there’s anything they need,” Long says. 

“That’s the kind of thing that could certainly be done remotely: you have somebody who checks in two or three times a day, they do it by video phone so it’s a little bit more personal than a phone or an e-mail. Then that person could then make a judgement on whether it’s necessary to go round and see what’s going on.”

Fitness wearables have already been around for over a decade, with what we’d recognize as smartwatches appearing some five or six years ago. Specialized 5G health trackers, says Long, could become commonplace in much shorter order.

“My guess is that you’ll see are specific, connected devices which are approved for medical use… within the next two-to-five years,” he predicts. “It could be a blood pressure monitor, or a diabetes monitor – that kind of thing. 

“That will probably come from your local GP or your local healthcare centre and it’ll have a specific application.”

Or to frame it in the terms of your mobile provider: yes, 5G will allow you to download HD TV episodes with the tap of a button. You just probably won’t be able to watch as many of them sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.

5G brings opportunities but also risks

This article originally appeared on The Mercury News by Larry Magid.

There is a lot of excitement, and quite a bit of hype, over the upcoming 5G mobile networks. But there are also some issues that could dampen the rollout that’s just starting.

5G is shorthand for the fifth-generation model networks. It’s part of the evolution of a technology that began in the early 70s and has improved regularly. Its main advantages are very high speeds and very low latency.

A 5G connection would allow you to download a full-length movie in about 6 seconds — a fraction of the time it now takes. Low latency means that you can get an instantaneous response by reducing the delay before the data starts to flow. That can be important in gaming, autonomous driving and robotic surgery, when milliseconds count.

The cellular industry is jumping on the 5G bandwagon, and we’re already starting to see limited service rolling out in some communities. But to use 5G, you’ll probably need new phones, which are just starting to roll off the assembly lines from the likes of Samsung and Motorola with more expected in the coming years from Apple, Google, LG and other phone makers.

But – as good as it may be – 5G has potential downsides.  One of them may be increased prices for both the phones and the service. Verizon is currently charging an additional $10 a month for its limited 5G service in Chicago and Minneapolis. The Samsung Galaxy S10 GE starts at $1,300. The LG V50 ThinQ starts at $1,000. Of course, prices can change over time and could go down as competition heats up.

Another issue is battery life. There are competing claims on this issue with some in the industry saying it will improve while others say that 5G will take an even bigger toll on battery life. Likely it will be harder on batteries at first but get better over time as the network rolls out, making the signals easier to come by. Although, writing in ComputerWorld, Mike Elgin commented that “because 5G connections suck more power, the chips that power 5G will be designed to favor 4G and kick into 5G mode only when the application demands high bandwidth.”

5G could also have an impact on network neutrality. TNW pointed out that European regulators are concerned that 5G could give network operators technological and perhaps social excuses to discriminate in favor of certain types of traffic. One of 5G’s advantages is “network slicing” which allows carriers to divide up the signals into separate “logical networks” to carry different types of traffic. Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, said that this technology will provide “Greater elasticity, robustness, secure and stable operations through the compartmentalization of the network,” and allow for “customizable slices, each optimized for the needs of the services — or segment cluster they are defined to serve.”  That may be great from a technology standpoint, but it means that, similar to toll roads or HOV lanes on California freeways, the network itself will have different lanes for different types of traffic, making it not only easier but more justifiable to discriminate. That will start, no doubt, by favoring life-saving or mission-critical applications like telemedicine and autonomous driving but could easily extend to commercial advantages like favoring traffic from the highest bidder.

In 2017, software developer Bob Frankston (co-author of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program), blogged that “The problem (with 5G) is not with any particular technical detail but rather the conflict between the tradition of network providers trying to predetermine requirements and the idea of creating opportunity for what we can’t anticipate.”

Frankston argues against favoring specific types of applications not only on issues of neutrality but because of their impact on innovation. Imagine if the electric company had a specific type of current for conventional ovens that doesn’t work with microwaves or convection ovens. “This attempt to build special purpose solutions shows a failure to understand the powerful ideas that have made the Internet what it is. Approaches such as this create conflicts between the various stakeholders defining functions in the network.”

One area that I’ve been reluctant to cover is the possible health affects of 5G. I’m reluctant because health effects of cellular systems, other radio technologies and even electric wires are often exaggerated and widely misunderstood. But, as Mike Elgin pointed out in that ComputerWorld article, “5G is different. The technology comes with a requirement that towers be far greater in number and far closer to users.” Neither Elgin nor I argue that 5G is dangerous, but there is widespread concern and some disagreement among scientists. Mill Valley has banned 5G deployment pending further research while the State of New Hampshire has passed a bill to establish a “commission to study the environmental and health effects of evolving 5G technology.”

In response to concerns from members of Congress, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote that his agency “relies on the expertise of health and safety agencies and organizations with respect to appropriate levels of RF exposure. Our current RF exposure limits incorporate recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and other federal health and safety agencies”  He added that the agency places a “high priority on the safety of wireless services and devices.”

Having said all this, I have to admit that I’m still excited about 5G. New technologies can create new opportunities. And, although there will always be naysayers, there are many who see great potential in 5G. I’m looking forward to the rollout, but I think it’s important to do so with our eyes wide open, a willingness to address any possible downsides.and a willingness to back away from any technologies that prove to be dangerous.

Huawei reveals what 5G and ‘smart cities’ will look like in the future

This article originally appeared on Fox Business by Henry Fernandez.

Huawei Technologies gave FOX Business a rare look inside the embattled Chinese company amid the U.S. crackdown. Despite an ongoing trade dispute between China and the U.S., Huawei remains the global leader in the roll out of 5G technology.

Huawei Vice President Joe Kelly said the future of 5G mobile technology will boost the global economy and increase job growth worldwide.

“5G will add 3.5 trillion U.S. dollars to the global economy, will create 22 million new jobs worldwide,” he said during an interview with Connell McShane on “After the Bell” Tuesday.

Kelly sees the manufacturing sector as the biggest benefactor of 5G technology, specifically in artificial intelligence.

“As automated manufacturing robots use 5G to control the automated manufacturing… makes them more efficient because you can change your manufacturing structure in real time,” he said.

Huawei envisions a future where wireless technology creates so-called “smart cities” where 5G transmission are stored indoors at concert venues, retail stores and outdoors in street lampposts.

“So that when you are walking down the street you are also getting 5G services,” Kelly said. “The closer you are to the base station, the higher the speed you are going to get.”

5G will be able to deliver up data speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second at real-time — fast enough to download a high-definition movie in just two seconds to your mobile phone, Kelly said. The Huawei executive added that 5G will give consumers the capability to charge electric scooters, use electric sensors on kids’ backpacks for tracking and even pre-select parking spaces before arriving at a local shopping mall.

“The Internet of things is going to potentially revolutionized everything we do,” he said.