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From Huawei to the Internet Things: A brief explanatory article 5G and the risks to Canadian security



The Canadian 5G build-in plan, which could be deployed around 2020, has been in prime interest in recent months after the Canadian authorities arrested executives on Huawei Technologies in China. Ottawa is now under increasing pressure to block Huawei from developing its 5G technology in Canada because experts warn it would pose a national security risk.

But what exactly are 5G networks? And why are security concerns? Here we (very) briefly explain what is 5G and why it matters:

What is 5G?

Fifth generation of networks or 5G are basically a faster and more reliable version of wireless. They come up with four generations of previous improvements. 2G brought us text messages while 4G introduced video streaming and other options that allowed us to access a range of new mobile services such as Uber and Spotify.

5G is a massive step forward in such wireless technology. Unlike previous networks that basically connected devices through unidirectional interactions, 5G would have countless points of connectivity, creating something that could be thought of as a network sample or what experts call the "network of networks."

If technology is used to the full potential, technology would draw data from virtually any device – from mobile phones to autonomous cars to home appliances (say, for example, smart devices that catalog and organize food stored in a refrigerator). It will also be much faster. Users will be able to download a two-hour film in less than four seconds, roughly from about six minutes (or 26 hours under 3G).

How does it work?

This device connection, also called the Internet of Things (IoT), would require the transfer of huge amounts of data. Existing installations simply can not do this fast increase.

"The bottom line is that this unit that will push more data will require a huge amount of throughput," said Glenn McDougall of Doyletech Corp.

Data in the 5G network will be transmitted through hardware such as satellites, antennas and sensors, as well as top-notch software. Most of this data comes through super-small satellites, which start with companies more and more often and at a much lower cost.

Planet Labs, an American company, is currently launching up to 300 small orbiting satellites capable of photographing the entire Earth's Earth daily (the satellite weighs 12 pounds and is not bigger than bread, unlike the tiny satellites launched by space agencies that had size of a small or larger car).

Who are the players?

Telus and BCE or Bell Canada are working together to build 5G technology together with Huawei. Their Canadian rival Rogers is working together with Ericsson's telecommunications operator Ericsson – Huawei's main rival.

Nokia, Samsung and ZTE in China are other major developers of 5G. Last week, Navdeep Bains, the Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced $ 40 million of new funding for Nokia, operating in Canada.

Modular chipset 5G is displayed after Huawei's presentation in Beijing on January 24, 2019.

Andy Wong / AP

Why is the security risk?

Ottawa is currently reviewing Huawei's offer to develop 5G technology in Canada. Security experts have warned that the Chinese government can use Huawei to capture sensitive data. This is largely due to fears that Chinese companies, especially state-owned companies, are forced to act on behalf of the Communist Party of China if they so request. A similar argument was raised against the proposed $ 1.5 billion takeover of the Canadian construction firm Aecon last year by a Chinese conglomerate that was eventually blocked by Ottawa.

Experts say the huge amount of connectivity and integrated character of the 5G network give hackers much greater access to the system through so-called "back doors." And the risks are much higher: data distortion in the large 5G network would provide which is much deeper than in today's networks.

The New Cold War?

Experts warn that the differences above 5G are just the beginning of a larger technological struggle between the US and China, some called "New Cold War". After years of increased cooperation between governments and technology-building companies such as 5G, other geopolitical problems are starting to disrupt this progress.

In particular, the expanding US-China trade war and the threats of US President Donald Trump to ban some Chinese technology companies from the US supply chain could further divide the global technology scene. It has remained unchanged, which could lead to technological progress between countries being much less uniform and integrated.


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