Failed Efforts to Warn Allies Away from Huawei 5G Technology Could Backfire on US

The U.S. government’s multi-pronged effort to persuade European allies to bar the Chinese firm Huawei from supplying key elements of state-of-the-art 5G mobile data networks appears to have foundered, raising questions not only about the future of key intelligence-sharing relationships but also about the future of mobile technology in the U.S. itself.

U.S. officials used warnings of potential “backdoor” technology that could give Chinese intelligence services access to critical telecommunications infrastructure to try to warn allies away from Huawei equipment. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went as far as warning allies that the U.S. would have no choice but to restrict the information it shares with key allies.

In the end, the push appears to have been in vain. The EU announced Tuesday that it will allow carriers to move forward with the installation of Huawei equipment. Officials said EU countries’ sharing information about 5G security threats will be sufficient to safeguard their high-tech communication networks.  

Some of the United States’ staunchest allies have made it plain that they do not see the Huawei threat as Washington does. Germany has announced that it will not ban the Chinese firm from its networks, and regulators in Britain have said that they are satisfied that any threat can be mitigated by inspection and monitoring.

Last month, an effort to block Huawei from participating in the 5G rollout in France died in the Senate, and Italy has not only embraced Huawei, but has become the first European country to accept funding from Beijing as part of China’s “Belt and Road” program of infrastructure investment. 

This is not to say that Europe is ignoring potential security threats from Huawei. On March 12, the European Parliament passed a new Cybersecurity Act, creating standards for telecommunications equipment. While it did not single out Chinese firms, the language of the new law makes it clear that equipment from companies located in countries that pose potential security threats will receive extra attention. 

On Tuesday, the EU’s digital chief said EU countries will have until the end of June to assess cybersecurity risks related to 5G, leading to a bloc-wide assessment by October. In the Pacific, U.S. allies in closer proximity to China have been more aggressive in taking action against Huawei. The governments of both Australia and New Zealand have already barred their domestic carriers from using Huawei equipment in their 5G networks. 

Washington’s inability to create consensus among its allies on such a critical issue has puzzled many experts. Key sectors of the U.S. intelligence community identified Huawei as a major national security concern at least a decade ago. However, the concerted effort to go public with concerns about allowing the company to participate in the rollout of 5G technology only came to the fore within the past year — long after many say such conversations ought to have taken place.

“It is late in the game,” said Paul Triolo, practice head for Geo-Technology at the Eurasia Group and China Digital Economy Fellow at the New America Foundation. “I was in Europe last week and I had a German official say, ‘Gosh, I wish we’d had this debate three years ago.’ That’s the problem. The industry has moved in this direction in lockstep for the past seven or eight years and now, you’re throwing, from the sidelines, a big smoke bomb.” 

Industry insiders in Europe reacted with a mix of incredulity and alarm to the U.S. proposals. Vodafone’s chief technology officer, Scott Petty, last week told the BBC that a ban on Huawei wouldn’t just be forward-looking. It would require tearing out the company’s equipment already incorporated into existing mobile networks. “The cost of doing that runs into the hundreds of millions and will dramatically affect our 5G business case,” he told the news service. “We would have to slow down the deployment of 5G very significantly.”

Concerns about Huawei

The rise of Huawei to global prominence, considered a major success story in China, has not come without controversy. The company has a documented history of industrial espionage, and benefits significantly from close connections to the Chinese government, which provides various subsidies generally unavailable to Huawei’s foreign competitors. There has also long been suspicion, bordering on certainty in some sectors, that the company cooperates with Chinese intelligence services. 

“I mean they are clearly malicious actors — I don’t think there’s any doubt about this,” said Trae Stephens, a former U.S. intelligence officer, and a founder of Anduril Industries, which sells technology to the U.S. departments of Defense and Homeland Security. “The evidence has been presented over and over and over again. The intelligence community doesn’t make spurious accusations that have no backing.”

The certainty with which current and former U.S. officials accuse Huawei of being a pawn of Beijing makes the decision to wait until the last minute to try to block the firm from the 5G rollout hard to understand — especially given how long the company has been on the intelligence community’s radar. 

At least as early as the first years of the Obama administration, officials were expressing concern about allowing Huawei to provide sensitive infrastructure to the U.S. telecommunications industry. By 2012, that had hardened into specific warnings. 

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in 2012 completed a year-long investigation into Huawei and ZTE, a smaller Chinese telecom firm, and left no doubt about its members concerns. Among other things, the investigation concluded that “the risks associated with Huawei’s and ZTE’s provision of equipment to U.S. critical infrastructure could undermine core U.S. national-security interests.”

However, in the intervening years, one thing the U.S. never did was present clear and convincing evidence that Huawei was conspiring with the Chinese government in terms of ongoing espionage.

Even after the Chinese legislature passed a new law requiring companies operating in the country to cooperate, if asked, with intelligence-collecting agencies, warnings from the U.S. were all prospective — claims about what Huawei might do in the future, rather than evidence of actual espionage.

Fractured 5G future

While the late push by the U.S. to keep Huawei out of the rollout of 5G worldwide may have failed, years of warnings about doing business with the company have not gone unheeded in the United States. While Huawei equipment is not officially banned in the U.S., the 2012 report from the House Intelligence committee got the attention of domestic carriers, and Huawei has been all but shut out of the market. 

A law signed by President Donald Trump last year blocking government agencies from purchasing any equipment from the company only made it more difficult for the firm to play in the U.S. market. 

However, even without access to U.S. markets, Huawei remains the largest provider of telecommunications infrastructure equipment in the world. It also spends lavishly on research and development: It’s R&D budget was nearly $14 billion in 2017, more than twice as much as either of the two other major 5G players, Ericsson and Nokia, spent that year. 

The combination of these two factors means that Huawei products are not only being used worldwide, but that they are often the most advanced and innovative equipment available. 

Huawei, according to Paul Triolo of the Eurasia Group, is the “most competitive, lowest-cost, high performance, high-service and, critically, high-innovation” company in the mobile telecommunications infrastructure market. 

This has some experts concerned about a future in which the U.S. walls itself off from the technology that the rest of the world is adopting.

Lester Ross, the partner-in-charge of the WilmerHale law firm’s Beijing office, said he believes the U.S. effort to stymie Huawei in Europe and at home will only “intensify” the company’s drive to expand to other countries around the world. 

“So if the United States and perhaps a few other countries are just left then to be islands in an ocean of Chinese-led telecommunications infrastructure, what implications does that have for the world?” he asked.

Michelle Quinn contributed to this report.

Facebook Blocks More Accounts Over Influence Campaigns

Facebook said Tuesday it shut down more than 2,600 fake accounts linked to Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo and aiming to influence political sentiment in various parts of the world.

It was the latest effort by the leading social network to shut down “inauthentic” accounts on Facebook and Instagram seeking to influence politics in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Facebook said the accounts blocked in the four countries were not necessarily centrally coordinated but “used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy for the company.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people,” Gleicher said in a blog post.

“In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.”

Gleicher said Facebook — which has made similar moves in recent months — was making progress in rooting out fake accounts but noted that “it’s an ongoing challenge because the people responsible are determined and well-funded. We constantly have to improve to stay ahead.”

Links to Iran

In the latest action, Facebook said it removed 513 pages, groups and accounts tied to Iran and operating in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kashmir, Kazakhstan and various areas of the Middle East and North Africa.

Similar to other manipulation campaigns, the users posed as locals and “made-up media entities” and posted news stories about topics including sanctions against Iran, tensions between India and Pakistan, issues in the Middle East and the crisis in Venezuela.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review linked these accounts to Iran,” Gleicher said.

Links to Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo

Another 1,907 accounts linked to Russia were also blocked. These sought to influence sentiment related to Ukrainian news and politics, the situation in Crimea and corruption.

Facebook said 212 Facebook accounts originating in Macedonia and Kosovo were shut down for misrepresenting themselves as users in Australia, the United States and Britain and sharing content about politics, astrology, celebrities and beauty tips.

Other issues

Earlier this month, Facebook said it blocked online manipulation efforts in Britain and Romania from users seeking to spread hate speech and divisive comments.

In January, Facebook took down hundreds of accounts from Iran that were part of a vast manipulation campaign operating in more than 20 countries.

The Good, Bad and the Unknown of Apple’s New Services

It took a while, but finally — and with the carefully curated help of Oprah, Big Bird and Goldman Sachs — Apple has at last unveiled a new streaming TV service, its own branded credit card and a news subscription product.

The moves have been largely expected and so far don’t appear to drastically alter the competitive landscape the way Apple has done with previous products such as the iPhone and the iPad.

Still, the announcements represent an important step for the company as it seeks to diversify how it makes money amid declining sales of the iPhone, even if by themselves they are unlikely to turn Apple’s big ship either way. But it’s a way to keep fans sticking with Apple even when they aren’t buying a new iPhone every year.

Monday’s announcements lacked some key details, such as pricing of the TV service. Here’s a rundown on what Apple unveiled — what’s good, what’s not so good and what we still don’t know.

APPLE TV PLUS

The good: Oprah, Jason Momoa, Big Bird, Steven Spielberg and a host of other stars have lent themselves to original Apple shows that range from documentaries to science fiction, drama and preschool television programming. The focus on “quality storytelling” is consistent with Apple’s image and analysts say is likely to produce some hit shows.

The bad: Even so, “it will lack the full range and diversity of content available through Netflix, Amazon and others, and that is set to limit its appeal,” said Martin Garner, an analyst at CCS Insight. Apple also joins a crowded market and it’s not clear how many more monthly subscriptions people have the money and the bandwidth for.

The unknown: Apple hasn’t said how much it’s going to cost.

APPLE NEWS PLUS

The good: The price, $10 per month, looks like a good deal compared to separate subscriptions for newspapers and magazines (Apple will include more than 300 of the latter, including The New Yorker and Sports Illustrated). Apple is touting “richly designed articles” that let people read publications tailored to Apple devices in all their glory. Apple has also included privacy protections, and says it will collect data about what people read in a way that it won’t know who read what — just how much total time is spent on different articles.

The bad: While The Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal have signed on, other big-name news publishers, such as The New York Times, have not. Nor have, in fact, most other major U.S. newspapers.

The unknown: It’s not entirely clear how much news you’re getting for your money. The Journal, famous for its business and industry coverage and commanding nearly $40 a month, will make “specially curated” general-interest news available for Apple customers, for example. Other stories will still be there — but Apple says users will have to search for the articles themselves.

APPLE CARD

The good: Security and privacy, two areas Apple prides itself on, are a clear focus. The physical version of the card has no numbers, and the digital version lives in your Apple Wallet on your phone, where it’s protected by Face ID or Touch ID so even if someone steals your phone they won’t be able to use the card to buy things. Apple says it won’t get information on what you buy with the card or where or for how much. There are no late fees.

The bad: The rewards (2 percent cash back for all purchases using the digital version of the card, 1 percent using the physical version and 3 percent cash back at Apple stores) are nothing to write home about. The card is meant for Apple users, so if you aren’t, it’s probably not for you.

The unknown: What sort of credit score you need to get approved, as well as exact interest rates.

APPLE ARCADE

The good: Apple’s new game subscription service, which will launch this fall, will be free of ads and in-app purchases, which can quickly add up and have become common in mobile games. Apple promises more than 100 games, and they will be exclusive to the service, so there will be plenty of fresh adventures.

The bad: The service will only be available on Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TVs. That could be frustrating for those who don’t own Apple products.

Unknown: Apple said all games would be available with one subscription, but did not say how much it would cost or when exactly the service will launch. It has partnered with a few well-known game creators, including Hironobu Sakaguchi of “Final Fantasy” fame, but it’s unclear how well all the new games will work or how fun they’ll be to play.

Grassroots Tech Group Takes Startup Approach to Fight Brexit

Software engineers, entrepreneurs and product managers huddle in small groups, brainstorming ideas and scrawling thoughts onto Post-it Notes on a wall. The project leader exhorts them to “think of products around these themes.”

It’s not a startup but a grassroots band of volunteers from London’s tech industry developing websites to prevent Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union that has fallen into complete disarray. They hope to put public pressure on politicians to give people a second vote. While the group is small, their engagement in politics underscores the concerns among businesses and entrepreneurs who stand to suffer from tariffs and border checks.

“I’ve never been a political person before, really,” said German-born venture capitalist Andreas Cser. A longtime London resident, he joined the group, Tech For U.K., after he found Brexit made Britain less welcoming for foreigners and exposed the “incompetence and brazen political hypocrisy” of its political leaders.

Cser, whose firm, Automat Ventures, invests in companies that use artificial intelligence, helped connect Tech For U.K. to computer scientists. “What I know about is how companies develop tech products,” and how they scale them up, he said.

Since its launch last year, Tech For U.K. has rolled out a dozen mobile-friendly websites. They help users automatically send anti-Brexit messages by postcard or voicemail to their politicians or spotlight the EU’s benefits to Britain. Volunteers donate their time and the group also gets limited funding from anti-Brexit campaign group Best For Britain, which vets the digital tools before they go live. The latest, launched on the weekend, lets Facebook and Instagram users add an augmented reality “Stop Brexit” button to photos and videos.

Britain was due to depart the EU on Friday but the process has been delayed after Parliament rejected the Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the EU. The House of Commons took control late Monday of the stalled process and plans to vote this week on alternatives to May’s deal.

One of the group’s goals is to rally support for a second referendum on Brexit. There’s no majority for that in Parliament, but a big march in London on Saturday to demand one suggests momentum is growing. A retired academic’s online petition went viral last week, receiving over 5.6 million signatures in favor of revoking Brexit altogether.

With many outcomes to Brexit still open, Tech for U.K.’s aim is to persuade those on the fence about the benefits of EU membership and give people who are opposed to leaving a way to express their views.

“At the end of the day, it’s for those who might change their mind,” said Kiyana Katebi, founder of an IT consultancy.

Katebi helped develop the group’s first site, MyEU.uk , which shows people EU-funded projects in their neighborhood based on their post code. The site had around 100,000 visitors in the first two days after its September launch.

Another site, Finalsay.app, let British residents leave a voice message for their parliamentary representative with their “final say” against Brexit. Hey MP! lets people automatically send postcards to their lawmaker asking for another vote.

It Costs EU reveals the portion of income tax going to the bloc while EU Worth It shows the amount of EU funding British districts receive, to counter claims Brits pay too much to the EU.

Can I Move To Barcelona simply explains how Brits can still move to the Spanish city, or dozens of other EU destinations, under the bloc’s freedom of movement rules — a benefit that likely ends across the British border if Brexit happens.

The group, while small, says they’ve have had an impact on sentiment but didn’t provide any numbers on site traffic or messages sent.

“The point is to ask people the question: Do they really want this?” and then show them how Brexit will affect them, said Mike Butcher, Tech For U.K.’s co-founder.

About 200-300 people have joined the group, Butcher said. They work on the projects on evenings and weekends and collaborate remotely.

The group is using technology to counter what they see as misinformation surrounding Britain’s EU membership that may have contributed to the 2016 referendum vote result to leave.

Since the referendum, Brexit opponents have raised concerns about the influence of Russian meddling and the role of social-media advertising using data harvested from Facebook.

“One of the reasons that we lost in 2016 was that (the pro-Brexit camp’s) digital game was far superior to the people fighting to stay in. We’re playing catch-up,” said Eloise Todd, CEO of Best For Britain.

On the other side of the argument, pro-Brexit groups flourish online, with names such as Get Britain Out, Stand Up 4 Brexit and Leavers of Britain using social media to promote their views.

More than 1,100 U.K.-based tech executives signed Tech For U.K.’s open letter last year to May, warning that Brexit risks making it harder to hire tech talent and crimping funding from Europe. But for many volunteers, Brexit’s impact on the country transcends those concerns.

At one of the group’s recent weekly evening meetups, in a tech company’s basement meeting room in Central London, the crowd of about 20 split into three groups.

They ran through ideas and themes. Would Brexit make it harder for European musicians to play at Britain’s Glastonbury music festival? Could they build a site to get people in Ireland to write letters to relatives in Britain? Would microbreweries still be able to get imported hops?

“We just need to think about various members of the public, what might tick their buttons,” startup founder James Tabor told his group. “This is about getting into the minds of the general public.”

Ethiopian Official: Plane Crash Report Due This Week

An Ethiopian official said a preliminary report on the plane crash that killed 157 people on March 10 will be made public later this week.

Mussie Yiheyis, spokesman for the government’s transport ministry, told The Associated Press Tuesday that a date has not yet been set but it will be released later this week. He said that a high ranking government official will announce the preliminary result.

The final report may take months to complete but a preliminary report may be released “anytime soon,” said the spokesman.

On Monday, Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said the pilots of the plane that crashed on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, had trained on “all appropriate simulators,” rejecting reports that they had not been adequately prepared to handle the new aircraft.

Chances of UN Banning Killer Robots Looking Increasingly Remote

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots warns chances of achieving a U.N. treaty banning the development, production and use of fully autonomous lethal weapons, also known as killer robots, are looking increasingly remote.  Experts from some 80 countries are attending a weeklong meeting to discuss the prospect of negotiating an international treaty. 

Representatives from about 80 countries have been meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems since 2014.  They have to decide by November to begin negotiations on a new treaty to regulate killer robots. 

Nobel peace laureate Jody Williams says Russia has been in the forefront of a group of countries, including the United States and Australia, trying to block movement in this direction.  At the opening session, she tells VOA that Russia argued for drastically limiting discussions on the need for meaningful human control over lethal autonomous weapons.

“It is very unlikely as they finish up this year that there will be a mandate to meaningfully deal with meaningful human control, which is fundamental in our view to how you deploy such systems,” Williams said. “There would be no utility in continuing to come here and hear the same blah, blah, blah over and over again.” 

Williams said the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots may have to resort to civil activism to get an accord banning killer robots.  She said such tactics successfully achieved international treaties banning land mines and cluster munitions outside the United Nations framework.

But for now, the activists are not giving up on persuading U.N. member countries to take the right course.  They said delegating life-and death decisions to machines crosses what they call a moral red line and should not be allowed to happen.  

They said they have strong support for their stance from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In a statement to delegates attending the meeting, he warned of the dangers of giving machines the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement.

He called this morally repugnant and politically unacceptable.  He said these weapons should be prohibited by international law.

 

 

Apple Spotlights Services with TV, Gaming and Credit Card Offerings

Apple attempted to reintroduce itself on Monday as an entertainment and financial services company that also makes iPhones as it launched a streaming television service, a credit card and an online gaming arcade.

The world’s second-most valuable technology company lifted the curtain on a television and movie service called Apple TV+ that will stream original television shows and movies to a television-watching app for users of its 1.4 billion gadgets worldwide, as well as owners of smart TVs and other devices.

But Apple, known in the tech industry for keeping its products secret until they are finished, left out key pricing details for several of its new services, unnerving investors and sending its shares down slightly.

The move could be seen as a first step to challenging streaming video leaders Netflix and Amazon, although Apple is taking a different approach by offering paid “channels” from HBO, Starz and Showtime alongside its own content.

Its revamped app for subscribing to channels from others will come out in May, but Apple’s own original shows will not arrive until autumn, with pricing not yet announced. Apple said both its TV+ shows and the new version of the TV app will be available in more than 100 countries.

Apple also introduced a credit card, a video game arcade, and added hundreds of magazines to its news app at an event at its Cupertino, California, headquarters.

As Apple struggles with saturated markets and sales of its iPhone fall, the company is turning more of its attention to services that provide regular subscription revenue.

Hollywood celebrities helped debut the revamped television offering. Apple has commissioned programming from Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

Throughout the presentation, Apple executives stressed privacy protections for consumers as they shop and consume content across a range of Apple phones, iPads or other hardware.

They also emphasized content that would appeal to young audiences, potentially setting the stage for a rivalry with Walt Disney Co. Winfrey announced a global book club.

The company, second only to Microsoft in market value among tech giants, led off the event with an announcement that its free news app will now come in a paid-subscription version, called Apple News+, which curates a range of news articles and will include 300 magazines including National Geographic, People, Popular Science, Billboard and the New Yorker. Apple said it would cost $9.99 a month.

Apple also introduced a titanium, laser-etched Apple Card backed by Goldman Sachs Group and Mastercard that can track spending across devices and pay daily cash back on purchases.

Cook also said Apple Pay, its digital wallet, will soon be usable on public transit systems in Portland, Oregon, Chicago and New York City. Apple Pay will be available in more than 40 countries by the end of the year.

Crowded Field

With its new media push, Apple joins a crowded field where rivals such as Amazon.com’s Prime Video and Netflix have spent heavily to capture viewer attention and dollars with award-winning series and films.

The big tech war for viewers ignited a consolidation wave among traditional media companies preparing to join the fray.

Walt Disney Co., which bought 21st Century Fox, and AT&T, which purchased Time Warner Inc, plan to launch or test new streaming video services this year.

Revenue from its “services” segment – which includes the App Store, iCloud and content businesses such as Apple Music – grew 24 percent to $37.1 billion in fiscal 2018. The segment accounted for only about 14 percent of Apple’s overall $265.6 billion in revenue, but investors have pinned their hopes for growth on the segment.

The company also introduced Apple Arcade, a game subscription service that will work on phones, tablets and desktop computers and include games from a range of developers.

Apple said the gaming service will feature more than 100 exclusive titles from gaming partners such as Annapurna Interactive and that the service will arrive this autumn.

But as with its original content service, Apple did not say how much its gaming service will cost consumers. With details about the new services missing, Apple shares fell 1.7 percent on Monday.

Ethiopian Airlines Chief: ‘Many Questions’ Remain About Boeing Aircraft

The head of Ethiopian Airlines said “many questions on the B-737 MAX airplane remain without answers” and he pledged “full and transparent cooperation to discover what went wrong.”

“Until we have answers, putting one more life at risk is too much,” CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said Monday in a statement.

“Immediately after the crash and owing to the similarity with the Lion Air Accident, we grounded our fleet of Max 8s. Within days, the plane had been grounded around the world. I fully support this,” Gebremariam said.

A March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash and Indonesia’s Lion Air crash in October were both Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. Everyone on board the two flights was killed.

The Ethiopian Airlines flight data recorders revealed that there were “clear similarities” between the two doomed flights.

Gebremariam asserted that his crews were “well trained” on this aircraft.

“We are the the only airline in Africa, among the very few in the world, with the B-737 full flight Simulator,” he said. “Contrary to some media reports, our pilots who fly the new model were trained on all appropriate simulators.”

“In a nation that sometimes is saddled with negative stereotypes, accidents like this affect our sense of pride,” Gebremariam said. “Yet this tragedy won’t define us. We pledge to work with Boeing and our colleagues in all the airlines to make air travel even safer.”

 

US Official: China’s Race to 5G Raises Global Security Concerns

Michael R. Wessel is a commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a U.S. government organization that investigates the national security implications of trade and economic relationship between the U.S. and China.

He recently discussed with VOA his concerns about China’s race to 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity being built worldwide. With a 5G network, users will be able to send and receive more data in less time, which could have implications for self-driving cars, smart cities and other technologies.  

 

Q: How much does it matter which country is first to fully functioning 5G?

 

Wessel: It does matter. First mover advantage is crucial in any new technology, but it is particularly important in 5G because it is foundational for cutting-edge innovation and applications including smart cities, network manufacturing, and integrated warfighting capability.

When standards are created, controlled, and sold by other countries, there is enhanced pressure on the U.S. to adopt those standards, which would have significant economic and national security costs.

For example, U.S. 4G leadership contributed to around $125 billion in U.S. company revenue from abroad and more than $40 billion in U.S. application and content developer revenue, and created 2.1 million new jobs from 2011-2014. And, from a national security perspective, the “control” of technologies raises unacceptable risks.

Q: How far ahead is Huawei or China on 5G?

 

Wessel: China’s leadership in 5G depends on how we define competition. Some U.S. companies are already offering 5G devices and are running pilot projects in select cities, so they have beat China to the punch. However, Chinese investment into 5G is vast.

 

As of early February 2019, Huawei owned 1,529 “standard-essential” 5G patents, the most of any company, according to data-analytics firm IPlytics. By comparison, Qualcomm, a U.S. company, owned 787 standard-essential patents. All Chinese companies together own 36 percent of all 5G standard-essential patents, while U.S. companies (Intel and Qualcomm) own 14 percent.

 

In terms of 5G network build out, China is also racing ahead: China Tower, a monopoly created by the Chinese government to build the country’s 5G infrastructure, said it would likely cover the country by 2023. One estimate said China Tower built more sites in 3 months than U.S. did in 3 years. In the United States, the process is likely to take much longer, with each company handling its own networks, and will need to negotiate with local governments for tower locations.

Q: The U.S. is urging its allies to not work with Huawei in building their 5G networks out of concern that the Chinese technology giant could give the Chinese government access to the new network for spying. Some countries such as Germany say they won’t rule out working with Huawei. Why is this a problem for the U.S.?

Wessel: We tend to focus on the economic cost and not consider the national security cost of something as significant as a nationwide 5G network rollout.

Huawei products, services and activities have already raised significant concerns and our allies have to consider how much more investment they are willing to make into their technology.  

No amount of risk mitigation or false attempts at transparency are adequate. The problem is Germany and other allies have already incorporated some Huawei equipment into their tech infrastructure. Much like a virus, our allies can choose to inoculate themselves against this danger now, or run the risk of painful and costly treatment later. Unfortunately, this is a great risk to intelligence-sharing among allies and partners.  

US House to Vote in April to Reinstate Net Neutrality Rules

The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives will vote in April on a bill to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules repealed by the Federal Communications Commission under President Donald Trump. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said in a letter to colleagues on Thursday, seen by Reuters, that lawmakers would vote on the “Save the Internet Act” during the week of April 8. 

The bill mirrors an effort last year to reverse the FCC’s December 2017 order that repealed rules approved in 2015 that barred providers from blocking or slowing internet content or offering paid “fast lanes.” 

The reversal of net neutrality rules was a win for internet providers like Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., but opposed by content and social media companies like Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. 

and Alphabet Inc. 

The bill would repeal the order introduced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, bar the FCC from reinstating it or a substantially similar order and reinstate the 2015 net neutrality order. 

Republicans oppose reinstating the 2015 rules that grant the FCC sweeping authority to oversee the conduct of internet providers. 

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, voted in May 2018 to reinstate the rules, but the House did not take up the issue before Congress adjourned last year. The White House opposes reinstating the net neutrality rules and it is not clear that proponents will be able to force a vote in the Senate.