Networked security: 5G and supply chains

While the geopolitical contestation in emerging technologies will continue, the importance of strengthening policies towards network security cannot be ignored.

This article is part of the series — Tech in the New Decade.

The rollout of 5G networks and the question of choosing a reliable vendor has become one of the most contested debates in recent history. A range of economic, geopolitical, technological and security related factors are shaping global and domestic decisions on this question. The significance of this decision lies in the fact that 5G is crucial to developing fourth industrial revolution technologies and will be the backbone of critical information infrastructure across countries. As such, the network will process swathes of sensitive data for individuals, governments, and businesses alike. However, unlike previous generations, the technical features of 5G increase risk of vulnerabilities and cyber threats, which could prove damaging unless they are managed properly through complete supply chain security.

At the centre of the debate lies tech giant Huawei — a company well positioned to supply advanced and cost-effective 5G equipment but is regarded with suspicion because of its close ties with the Chinese government. Countries like the US, Australia and the UK have either banned or limited Huawei’s presence in their networks, citing risks of espionage and surveillance. While this may be the reason on paper, Washington’s stratagem is motivated by a growing distrust of Beijing and seeks to prevent China from gaining geopolitical heft by being the first mover of the technology.

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