Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

QUAD and the Telecom network security

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Network security collaboration in QUAD countries

QUAD

Context

  • The advent of 5G provides the Quad or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue of the United States (US), Japan, Australia and India, a unique opportunity to demonstrate how democracies can engage in effective technology collaboration.

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Background: The Huawei and QUAD response

  • Huawei’s connection with Chinese Communist Party: Recognising the risks that companies like Huawei, which is connected to the Chinese Communist Party, pose to telecommunications networks, each member country of the Quad has taken steps to ensure secure and resilient access to 5G.
  • Australia’s measure: Australia, for one, banned Huawei from its 5G rollout in 2018 and did the same with ZTE, citing national security concerns.
  • US concerns: For its part, the US has been raising concerns about Huawei since 2012, and doubled-down on its efforts in 2019 by adding Huawei to the Entity List.
  • Japan creating Open RAN: Japan, meanwhile, a long-time leader in the telecommunications space has accelerated its efforts to create ‘Open Radio Access Networks (Open RAN)’, which promote vendor diversification and competition for better solutions.
  • India 5G and conflict with China on border: India took what it called a “step towards the new era” by deploying its first 5G services in select cities in October 2022; it is aiming to extend the network across the country over the next few years. India is unlikely to include Huawei in its networks, given the clash with Chinese forces in Galwan Valley in June 2020 and concerns about vendor trustworthiness.

QUAD

QUAD alignment on securing 5G telecom networks

  • Agreement in first meeting: During the first in-person leaders’ meeting in September 2021, Quad countries agreed to “build trust, integrity, and resilience” into technology ecosystems by having suppliers, vendors, and distributors ensure strong safety and security-by-design processes, and committed to a “fair and open marketplace”.
  • Memorandum of cooperation on 5g suppliers: Later, at the fourth meeting in May 2022, partners signed a New Memorandum of Cooperation on 5G Supplier Diversification and Open RAN, and reaffirmed their desire to “collaborate on the deployment of open and secure telecommunications technologies in the region.”

Why QUAD must cooperate on Network Security?

  • Fast emerging telecom technologies: For one, virtualised (software-based) networks will be the norm in the next 10 years, by which time 6G networks will begin to rollout. Early attention to security issues for emerging telecommunications technologies will help ensure that there is sufficient focus on security in the runup to 5G rollouts.
  • Interoperable software’s need to check: The Quad’s advocacy of Open RAN networks or network architectures that consist of interoperable software run on vendor-neutral hardware is another reason why there is a need to focus on software supply chain and software-based infrastructure security.
  • To ensure the comprehensive network strategy: Critics of Open RAN solutions often point to security concerns to argue against deploying these technologies. A comprehensive 5G security strategy is necessary to ensure trust in these networks.5G networks are critical infrastructure and it is imperative for states to ensure their security.
  • For instance: In 2018, Australian officials were the first to warn the public of the risks posed by untrustworthy vendors on 5G networks. Officials from the other Quad countries have followed suit and, along with key partners such as the European Union and United Kingdom, there is a clear consensus on the fundamental importance of secure and resilient communications networks.

How QUAD will be a key player in Talent Development?

  • Bridging the gap of talent pool: Nations across the globe are suffering from a talent shortage in the technology domain. With heightened demand for high-skilled workers, like-minded nations must cultivate and share their expertise with one another to bridge critical gaps.
  • Quad Fellowship: this, the Quad created the Quad Fellowship, which will support 100 students per year to pursue STEM-related graduate degrees in the United States. This could be an effective way to grow the talent pipeline in a way that fills current and emerging needs.
  • Restructuring programs that can fulfil the current and future demand: Many nations have started to consider changes to immigration policies for high-skilled talent. Australia, for example, has raised its permanent immigration cap by 35,000 for the current fiscal year, and Japan is planning to expand its programs soon.
  • Creative ways of QUAD countries to recruit talent: Shortage of talent pool that all Quad countries are experiencing as they seek creative ways to grow their technology talent pool. Indian companies, for example, are beginning to recruit in rural areas to address significant tech worker shortages that may stymie a growing start-up ecosystem.

QUAD

What QUAD need to do?

  • Ensure close coordination: While these commitments are significant, maintaining momentum requires close coordination of resources and policies. No one country can build resilient, open, and secure telecommunications networks on its own, particularly as countries deploy 5G and think ahead to 6G.
  • Adhering to the goals and principles: To ensure that operationalisation moves forward in line with the Quad’s stated principles and goals, the member countries must work together in four key areas: standard-setting; security; talent development; and vendor diversity.
  • Develop a recruitment framework for telecommunications: Quad countries have an opportunity to set a precedent for other democracies by rethinking what it means to be “qualified” for a position. Companies can look beyond degrees during the hiring process and focus on relevant skills by jointly developing assessment criteria for worker readiness and performance.
  • Incentivise 5G deployment in underserved areas: To ensure that talent is not left out of the candidates’ pool for tech jobs, Quad members can agree to prioritise secure 5G deployment in rural regions. Lack of access to reliable information and communications can be a significant barrier to entering the workforce, and expanding 5G deployment is a critical aspect of broadening the talent pool.
  • Enhance public-private partnerships: As Quad countries build their infrastructure and talent pools at home, they must also think about other countries that only consider cost when choosing Huawei and other untrusted telecom providers. As such, the Quad could leverage public-private partnerships to bolster the presence of trusted companies in new locations. By using coordinated, strategic financial incentives, they will also have an opportunity to train and educate third country governments on the threats posed by untrusted 5G vendors. Consequently, they will contribute to broader network security and resiliency as 5G is more widely deployed.
  • Provide R&D incentives: The governments of the Quad countries should offer incentives to promote ongoing work in hardware, software, and security improvements, specific technologies such as high-band technology and end-to-end network slicing, and research areas including telehealth, energy research, and agriculture. A broad base of enabling technologies and applications would encourage new entrants into the market.

Conclusion

  • Quad countries are well-positioned to accomplish plenty together. Of the many areas where they can progress, securing 5G is particularly promising due to the clearly stated objectives that Quad countries share. The Quad countries have the potential to provide a secure, flexible and open 5G network model to the Indo-Pacific and nations seeking democratic alternatives for their telecommunications infrastructure.

Mains question

Q. It is said that QUAD countries are well-positioned to secure the telecommunication network in the world. Discuss.

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