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What is 5G?

5G is the next generation of wireless communications technology, after 2G, 3G and 4G mobile broadband. It is expected to provide faster connections with much higher capacity and very fast response times. It will allow many more users and devices to access fast internet connections and large amounts of data at the same time.

5G involves some new approaches to network architecture and design, which raises both new security challenges as well as opportunities.

The technical security considerations for 5G network design are explained in a blog post written by the NCSC’s technical director (Dr Ian Levy) in January 2020.

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology POSTbrief on 5G technology (24 July 2019) provides further background information about 5G technology.

The Library briefing paper on 5G (September 2019) provides information about Government policy on 5G roll-out.

Government decision on high risk vendors

On 28 January 2020 the Government announced its decision on “high risk vendors”, including (but not limited to) Huawei, in UK telecoms networks. This completes DCMS’s  review of UK telecommunications supply chains.

The Government, on advice from the NCSC, decided that:

  • High-risk vendors are to be excluded from sensitive “core” parts of 5G and gigabit-capable networks
  • High-risk vendors are to be excluded from sensitive and safety/critical locations such as Critical National Infrastructure
  • High-risk vendor access to non-sensitive parts of the network is to be limited to 35%[1]

The Government’s decision was accompanied by technical reports and a blog post from the NCSC explaining its security analysis and advice, including:

  1. security analysis for the UK telecoms sector
  2. blog explaining the work that went into the analysis
  3. Guidance to UK Telecoms operators on the use of high risk vendors

The Government stated it would “seek to legislate at the earliest opportunity” to put this decision on a statutory footing and provide powers necessary to enforce/implement this decision. Implementation of the decision by operators is currently voluntary.

[1]     DCMS, New plans to safeguard country’s telecoms network and pave way for fast, reliable and secure connectivity, 28 January 2020

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