Whether we like it or not, China’s major telecom provider, Huawei, is infiltrating the global telecom market.
Last week, the Trump administration banned American companies from doing business with Huawei. Shortly after, Google cut ties with the company.
But does the door to potential spying by the Chinese government still remain open?
While some of the biggest domestic telecom firms like AT&T and Verizon Wireless have promised to avoid Huawei equipment in their 5G wireless networks, this doesn’t rule out rural carriers. Huawei also plans to roll out their own operating system next year, meaning reliance on American companies will be negligible.
“We are going to have to figure out a way in a 5G world that we’re able to manage the risks in a diverse network that includes technology that we can’t trust,” Sue Gordon, Deputy to the Director of National Intelligence explained in a recent Washington Post article.
Huawei’s momentum will be hard to stop, and that means we need a better way to encrypt our vital communications. This is the perfect opportunity for quantum telecom, to become part of the solution. Quantum telecom is simply the process of communicating securely over long distances by harnessing the power of quantum physics, through Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).
The Huawei Cybersecurity Threat
Chinese tech giant Huawei was founded in 1987 by a former Chinese People’s Liberation Army officer, with the support of the Chinese government. It has grown to be the second-largest smartphone maker as well as a global leader in 5G wireless networks.
A 2012 US House of Representatives’ report called the company a national security threat, while U.S. intelligence agencies (NSA, CIA, FBI, etc.) have articulated the same cybersecurity concerns, urging U.S. citizens not to use Huawei products and services. Considering that the Chinese government heavily subsidizes the company, the cybersecurity concerns are not unfounded even though Huawei officials strongly deny allegations of any ties to or influence from the Chinese government.
U.S. Efforts to Manage the Threat
Stemming from the concern that Huawei will use its products to spy for China and steal intellectual property, the U.S banned government agencies and contractors from buying Huawei products and services in the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In May, the Trump administration also banned U.S. companies from doing business with the Chinese telecom company.
At the same time, the U.S. has been lobbying hard (but rather unsuccessfully) to get our allies to follow suit. So far Australia and New Zealand have taken measures to restrict the use of Huawei products, but England just signed an agreement with the company allowing it to help build “non-core” components of the UK’s 5G infrastructure. Moreover, the European Commission decided recently not to warn European Union member nations against contracting with the company; and NATO likewise chose not to impose a blanket ban on the company for its member nations.
What is the Answer? Developing Technology to Safeguard Our Networks
While Huawei continues spreading through telecom markets overseas, the company is fighting the U.S. ban and has sued the US government, stating that the ban is unconstitutional. Whether it will be successful in fighting that battle remains to be seen, but Huawei’s influence and the threat it poses will remain.
Carriers all over the world are getting ready to move from 4G LTE to 5G this year, promising ultra-fast data speeds and allowing more data to travel on wireless networks. Unfortunately, this also opens the door wider to individuals who want to steal the data off those networks. The challenge will be for U.S. telecom providers to prevent any espionage on foreign 5G networks from reaching into domestic networks.
A quantum communications network like Quantum Xchange’s Phio may just be the answer to that challenge. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) offers unbreakable encryption of data which will safeguard against the prospect of quantum technological power and its ability to decrypt data; but it could also be applied to the security threat posed by Huawei as 5G networks come online.
We certainly can’t wait to find out what Huawei’s intentions are. The imperative to act now, to manage the risk now, is clear.