Use trusted vendors for safe, secure 5G, says US commission head

US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai says people must benefit not only from a strong network, but also a secure one.

KUALA LUMPUR: The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said countries looking to lead in 5G development and deployment should consider a risk-based framework to better understand the equipment and services that go into their network.

Its chairman Ajit Pai explained that a risk-based framework meant ensuring that companies supplying such equipment were trusted vendors operating under the rules of the respective nation which abides by the “rule of law”.

He said the country must have an independent judiciary and intelligence laws that required secret compliance from sources, while the equipment was free from “bugs and potential backdoors”.

Pai also said the equipment and services must be offered on a level playing field which did not require government subsidies or hinge on unfair trade practices.

“I am not singling out any country, or company, but there is an importance to make sure that the equipment and services that go into your 5G networks come from trusted vendors.

“That is the best way we think, to make sure the people in your country benefit, not just from strong, but also safe and secure networks,” he told reporters after meeting stakeholders from both the private and public sector, including his counterpart Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission chairman Al-Ishal Ishak.

Pai revealed that security concerns were among the topics raised during the discussion, noting that it was an issue that was going to be present “with billions more connected devices coming into the network”.

“It’s not just something the US government but also the Malaysian government have given some thought to,” he said.

In April, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said 5G technology was poised to be the cornerstone of Malay­sia’s march into the new age and a vital foundation for the country to remain relevant and competitive.

A month later, Mahathir said the country would make use of Huawei’s technology “as much as possible”, although nations like Japan and Australia were avoiding it.

Huawei is at odds with the FCC, with the Chinese tech giant recently suing the commission over a ban on the use of federal subsidies to purchase its equipment.

Pai said that both the US and Malaysia were confronting similar concerns apart from ones related to security.

This included ensuring the building blocks for 5G networks were going to be in place, such as the spectrum used for 5G communications as well as the infrastructure policies necessary to build the 5G network for the future.

Asked about Malaysia’s readiness to address 5G concerns, he said that based on his conversations with MCMC, the nation had “solid experts” at all levels to address some of the key building blocks for 5G, such as the spectrum bands.

“MCMC is a strong agency to the extent that the FCC could provide assistance, and we did offer to share information in any way,” he said.