EU member states, with the support of the European Commission and the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, published a report on the progress made in implementing the joint EU toolbox of mitigating measures, which was agreed by the member states and endorsed by a Commission Communication in January 2020.
The toolbox sets out a joint approach based on an objective assessment of identified risks and proportionate mitigating measures to address security risks related to the rollout of 5G, the fifth-generation of mobile networks.
A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said: “The timely rollout of 5G networks is strategically important for all member states as it can open new opportunities for businesses, transform our critical sectors and benefit European citizens. Our common priority and responsibility is to ensure that these networks are secure and, while this report shows we have undergone great strides, a lot of work remains ahead.”
Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton added: “With 5G network rollout going ahead across the EU, and our economies increasingly relying on digital infrastructure, as the coronavirus crisis demonstrated, it is more important than ever to ensure a high level of security. Together with member states, we are committed to put in place robust measures, in a coordinated manner, not only to ensure 5G cybersecurity but also to strengthen our technological autonomy. Today's report reaffirms our commitment and outlines the areas where further efforts and vigilance are needed.”
While work is still ongoing in many member states, the report notes that all member states have launched a process to review and strengthen security measures applicable to 5G networks, demonstrating their commitment to the coordinated approach defined at EU level. For each of the toolbox measures, the report reviews progress made since the toolbox adoption, showing what has already been done and identifying areas where measures have not been implemented so far.
Huawei welcomed delivery of the EU 5G Security Toolbox, which it said " provide much-needed common ground."
Abraham Liu, Huawei's Chief Representative to the European Institutions, said:
"However, we believe a security approach based on labelling specific vendors as high risk has a number of inherent limitations: Huawei’s leading 5G end-to-end capabilities, and innovative products and solutions, are attracting customers worldwide. Through heavy investment and continuous innovation, we are committed to helping carriers deploy 5G networks easily, rapidly and cost-effectively. And we are ready to work with all stakeholders to drive the robust development of the 5G industry"
Independent pandemic review panel critical of China and WHO delays
An independent panel said on Monday (18 January) that Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January to curb the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and criticized the World Health Organization (WHO) for not declaring an international emergency until 30 January, writes Stephanie Nebehay.
The experts reviewing the global handling of the pandemic, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, called for reforms to the Geneva-based United Nations agency.Their interim report was published hours after the WHO’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said that global deaths from COVID-19 were expected to top 100,000 per week “very soon”.
“What is clear to the Panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” the report said, referring to the initial outbreak of the new disease in the central city of Wuhan, in Hubei province.
As evidence emerged of human-to-human transmission, “in far too many countries, this signal was ignored”, it added.
Specifically, it questioned why the WHO’s Emergency Committee did not meet until the third week of January and did not declare an international emergency until its second meeting on Jan. 30.
“Although the term pandemic is neither used nor defined in the International Health Regulations (2005), its use does serve to focus attention on the gravity of a health event. It was not until 11 March that WHO used the term,” the report said.
“The global pandemic alert system is not fit for purpose,” it said. “The World Health Organization has been underpowered to do the job.”
Under President Donald Trump, the United States has accused the WHO of being “China-centric”, which the agency denies. European countries led by France and Germany have pushed for addressing the WHO’s shortcomings on funding, governance and legal powers.
The panel called for a “global reset” and said that it would make recommendations in a final report to health ministers from the WHO’s 194 member states in May.
Sweden begins 5G auction despite Huawei protests
Sweden’s communications regulator began its delayed auction of 5G-suitable frequencies, a move Huawei warned last week would have serious consequences as the vendor still had outstanding legal action contesting its ban.
In a statement, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) said its auction for licences in the 3.5GHz band started today (19 January) with a 2.3GHz sale to follow. It is auctioning 320MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum and 80MHz of 2.3GHz.
Huawei has two other pieces of legal action on the issue outstanding.
In a comment to Mobile World Live issued on 15 January following the failure of its latest appeal, a Huawei representative confirmed its “two main” court cases on the issue were not expected to be ruled on until the end of April.
The company added: “It leads to serious consequences to hold the 5G auction while the conditions for PTS decisions are subject to legal review.”
Sweden’s spectrum auction was originally meant to take place in November 2020, but was postponed after a court suspended the application some of the divisive terms of sale pending a hearing into them.
PTS’ terms were subsequently cleared by the court of appeal, opening the way for the auction to proceeded.
The best of 5G is yet to come
Executives from leading mobile operators have urged consumers to be patient with 5G, explaining more advanced capabilities and use cases will become available as the technology evolves.
Speaking at the recent industry conference CES 2021, Drew Blackard, VP of product management at Samsung Electronics America (SEA), told a panel that many current services including video streaming are merely “better on 5G”.
But he added more advanced “only-on-5G experiences” will become mainstream “more and more as the infrastructure develops” and the technology becomes more widely used.
Blackard noted SEA had “done a lot of development with partners to build out what these can look like”, pointing to a collaboration with AT&T to offer AR experiences for sports fans.
Ice Mobility chairman and co-founder Denise Gibson added “there is an element of patience” to realising 5G’s potential.
She said 5G “is a platform that will evolve”, explaining “it’s not solely about” geographic reach, but also provision of advanced capabilities and services on networks and devices.
Blackard added “partnerships are obviously essential”, noting 5G required “a group, an industry to bring that forward. It’s not a single player that can do that”.
Commenting on the issue Abraham Lui, Huawei's Chief Representative to the EU Institutions, said "In Europe, the best of 5G is yet to come. As 5G deployment gathers pace across the continent, users will appreciate the benefits of this game-changing technology in the near future".
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