Huawei & 5G : A Simple Risk Analysis Even Politicians Can Understand

“The actual decisions will need to be country specific. With any luck, the European nations will use Nokia or Ericsson, while other countries may be wise to simply hold off on upgrading to 5G. But many will undoubtedly chose Huawei. I only hope they make the selection with their eyes open.”

Nicholas Weaver — University of California at Berkeley

Claude Elwood Shannon (April 30, 1916 – February 24, 2001) was an American mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as “the father of information theory”. Shannon is noted for having founded information theory with a landmark paper, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, that he published in 1948.

April 22 2019 — How much is a country willing to bet that Huawei will resist Chinese government pressure? Given that the U.S.’s National Security Agency is known to sabotage equipment in transit, bribe companies to deploy sabotaged standards, and compel cooperation of U.S. companies in intelligence activities, it would be naive to expect any less of China. Further magnifying the risk is that Huawei may actually be a state-owned company. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Nicholas Weaver is a senior staff researcher focusing on computer security at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California, and a lecturer in the Computer Science department at the University of California at Berkeley.

Dr Weaver just penned the best risk analysis of Huawei (& 5G) I have read so far. It is very simple and deadly accurate. His thoughtful piece reads:

“This leaves three options for countries considering what to do about 5G. First, a country can decide to buy Huawei equipment and save a considerable amount of money in doing so. The risk is simply that every high-level political figure and executive may have their calls monitored by Chinese intelligence. This may actually be a worthwhile trade-off—after all, the damage done by Chinese spies would have to be weighed against the potentially billions of dollars saved from purchasing Huawei equipment. That trade-off just needs to be acknowledged when making purchase decisions.

The second option is to purchase equipment from Huawei’s European competitors, Ericsson or Nokia. These manufacturers are more expensive than Huawei but provide the greatest political assurance: None of the major spying nations can exert the same pressure on Nokia (Finnish) or Ericsson (Swedish) that they can on domestic companies.

The final option is simply to avoid the hype. The claims about 5G being “20x faster” than preexisting 4G are effectively disingenuous marketing as real-world performance rarely reaches the theoretical peak bandwidth but, rather, is limited by the shared communication spectrum. 4G systems are already effectively at the “Shannon limit”— that is, the limitation on the ability to transmit information within a given amount of radio spectrum at a given power. 5G can’t break fundamental laws of nature. Instead, 5G’s greater performance comes from three factors: The first is that 5G adds additional frequencies, providing a greater number of potential channels. These are a major improvement but have limitations, including being significantly more sensitive to rain. The second is improved antennas, which allow a single base-station to talk more efficiently to multiple handsets. The final improvement is smaller cells, so that each tower is providing coverage for a smaller area. All but the additional frequency bands apply just as easily to 4G networks.”

The author concludes that an optimal strategy may be simply to improve 4G by increasing the density of 4G cells:

“If each cell can move the same amount of traffic, this will substantially improve the total throughput that the network can support. It will also speed most individual connections as most users never experience the full bandwidth on 4G because it is shared with other users. Smaller cells reduce the sharing, giving all the users more potential bandwidth.”

I will add two quick comments. Last week, the European Parliament voted in favour (304 against 207) of the older ‘proven’ technology of WIFI to let the cars of the future talk to each other, instead of the new 5G telecom network.

The logic is not hard to follow. WIFI has been tested by car manufacturers for 12 years already and is, therefore, a proven technology. Moreover, WIFI is not bounded by patents like 5G and it does not need a telecom subscription.

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One last thing… Last year, the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) found “clear evidence” that cell phone signals increased the incidence of malignant tumours in the hearts of male rats over the course of a two-year study.

It is therefore expected that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) will issue a stronger statement on the risks caused by non-ionizing radiation.

RELATED POST: Havana Syndrome — The Cover-Up Has Begun [UPDATE]

Currently (since 2011), IARC classifies RF/microwave radiation as 2B: possible carcinogen. If IARC decides to classify RF/microwave radiation as 1 (known carcinogen) or 2A (probable carcinogen), many countries will be forced to adopt more severe environmental law. (Such IARC review could take 3 to 5 years to be completed.)

Interestingly, the best strategy proposed by Nicholas Weaver is compatible with such constraint because increasing the density of 4G cells allows for less power emitting antennas.

At this point, it seems that we would all be better off without the 5G hype and the Huawei conundrum. Will politicians do the right thing?

REFERENCES

A Risk Analysis of Huawei 5G by Nicholas Weaver

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Huawei & 5G : A Simple Risk Analysis Even Politicians Can Understand

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