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Nokia cautions Senators on plans to control technology decisions

One Senate subcommittee is searching for the silver bullet to the network infrastructure conundrum, though Nokia and other industry figures have warned against politicians making procurement decisions.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has been hearing testimonies from various industry figures to examine the security and integrity challenges for telecommunications networks. The objective is to create regulation and legislation which benefits all, except the Chinese, and maintains security principles.

But in the pursuit of national security, some in the industry question whether the US Government is extending its influence too far into the business operations of the telcos. One concern which has been raised is if it would be a sensible decision to legislate what technologies the telcos have to use.

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Roger Wicker not only condemned Chinese vendors and the threat posed by China in the digital economy, but suggested Government should be playing a more active role in the development of standards and deployment of 5G. This is all well and good, until Government starts to make telco decisions for the telcos.

Below, we have taken a few extracts from the testimonies to demonstrate the concern from the telco industry.

Steve Berry, CEO, Competitive Carriers Association:

However, policymakers should not mandate which technologies are used in wireless networks, but instead should encourage research into new, secure technologies to enhance customer choice, innovation, and cost savings. For carriers with existing network infrastructure, additional research may facilitate increased ORAN deployment as well, and it is important that all network operators are positioned to manage additional steps for interoperability across multiple vendors.

Mike Murphy, CTO, Nokia Americas:

In short, there is limited maturity in both ORAN and Radio Access Network virtualization. For this reason, Nokia believes that putting these burdens on rural carriers, the least capable of being early adopters, would be unreasonable and should not be a pre-requisite for federal funding to replace their existing equipment, at this time.

James Lewis, Director of the Technology Policy Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies:

The move to an open, modular approach to telecom will change supply chain dynamics in ways that favour the US (and Japan). The supply chain for telecom will depend on semiconductors, chipsets, and specialized software (including “open source” software), all areas where the U.S. has a substantial lead over China – in some cases there are no Chinese competitors. Estimates of how long this telecom transformation will take range from three years to a decade.

In an effort to combat the attractiveness of Huawei and ZTE technology to small and rural telcos, the US Government has created a Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund of at least $750 million and a Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund of at least $500 million. Through these two financial packages, it is hoped viable and commercially feasible alternatives can be created.

As part of securing funding, there is some suggestion in official documents that implementing Open RAN technologies could be a pre-requisite. Encouraging the industry one direction is fine, but forcing telcos, and in this case the likelihood is small telcos, to adopt a technology which is not yet market ready is a potentially worrying path to take. This position has of course not been written into legislation or regulation, but the opportunity to do so is there.

While it is far from uncommon for Governments to want to shepherd the development of an industry, the level of intervention which is currently feared should not be considered healthy. Bureaucrats work in bureaucracies because they are good at bureaucracy. Engineers work engineering projects because they are good at engineering. The status quo seems perfectly acceptable so why should it change.

Sometimes Government should just be Government, and it should let private industry be private industry.


2 comments

  1. Avatar Olumayowa 07/03/2020 @ 2:04 pm

    It’s unfortunate that the 5G issue had to come up before the US realised the need to pursue improved telecoms tech. The Chinese (HUAWEI) had since been working on it for a long time. Time the US/NATO do not have to develop an alternative.

    I like the honesty in the above write up. It’s simple. This approach to force other companies to develop 5G tech in such short notice just isn’t going cut it. I think it’s a reflex response, upon realizing the magnitude of having such fantastic telecoms tech by a Chinese company and not the US, is what is pushing this agenda.

    That said, if they think back doors are in all the tech we’ve used, trusted and purchased over the years, they should at least give that evidence, rather than give all the various news to make Huawei/China look bad. That’s detracting from the real reason we wanted an alternative in the first place.

    Lastly, us he issue China or Huawei? If we’re saying private companies should run and address the issues in telcoms, then the US government should lead by example and frankly stop pursuing thus avenue to get back at China. The louder the noise US makes, the more obvious it becomes that this issue is beyond just 5G, and that its the failings on the part of the US companies to remain in the forefront of the telecoms tech, is the outright issue here.

    I stand corrected…

  2. Avatar Rick Williams 07/03/2020 @ 3:41 pm

    This was A VERY SERIOUS ISSUE for the leaders of the TELCO INDUSTRY to address. We have witnessed what happens OVER AND OVER AGAIN when GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS STICK THEIR NOSE INTO THE AFFAIRS OF THE PRIVATE INDUSTRY! Most of the time, a decision is PUSHED UPON PRIVATE INDUSTRY WHEN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS STOOP TO THE LEVEL OF THE CLINTONS AND THE OBAMAS. LOBBYISTS ARE ABLE TO GET THEIR BRIBES ACCEPTED AND, JUST LIKE THAT, We have a Company who is directed by GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS TO MANAGE AND SUPERVISE THE IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES JUST BECAUSE OF A BUSINESS’S DEEP POCKETS FOR THEIR BRIBERY FUND AND A CROOKED DEMOCRATIC PERSON WHO IS JUST INTERESTED IN THEIR OWN AGENDA AND BECOMING WEALTHIER!
    If you don’t believe it, then get off of your LAZY ASS AND RESEARCH THINGS FOR YOURSELF INSTEAD OF ALWAYS TRYING TO BE A PART OF THE MAINSTREAM OF SOCIETY! This all stems down to one thing. Our GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO PUSH THE UNITED STATES TOWARDS SOCIALISM! IT IS TIME TO REALIZE WHAT IS HAPPENING IN EVERY SECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES! BASICALLY, WE HAVE TURNED OUR BACKS ON GOD OF WHICH THIS COUNTRY WAS FOUNDED UPON AND BACK GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHOSE ONLY AGENDA IS ONE OF DISRUPTION.
    I deeply respect the CTO OF NOKIA for bringing this attempted interference by the DEMOCRATIC PARTY to again further push this COUNTRY TOWARDS CHAOS.
    JUST LIKE THERE IS SUPPOSEDLY SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE; SO LET IT BE SEPARATION OF PRIVATE INDUSTRY AND STATE!

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