The Czech Republic, US pledge cooperation on 5G network security

The joint document states that suppliers should be assessed for “undue foreign influence”

This week, the Czech Republic and the United States signed a joint declaration pledging cooperation on 5G network security and establishing a strict framework for assessing foreign equipment providers. Signed by Czech prime minister Andrej Babis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the document states that suppliers should be assessed for undue foreign influence, regardless of ownership transparency and commitment to intellectual property rights, or which are subject to legal regimes that enforce transparent corporate practices.

“Protecting communications networks from disruption or manipulation and ensuring the privacy and individual liberties of the citizens of the United States and the Czech Republic are vital to ensuring that our people are able to take advantage of the tremendous economic opportunities 5G will enable,” the declaration said.

The U.S. government has been on a mission to influence as many countries as possible to ban Chinese telecoms equipment vendors Huawei from their 5G networks, on the belief that it is a security risk to use comms equipment or software from a company with a close relationship to, and under the jurisdiction of, the Chinese government.

Huawei has rejected such allegations, but that has not stopped a number of countries from either banning the company outright or allowing only limited participating in their 5G rollouts.

For its part, the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) previously warned that the use of products by Huawei and fellow Chinese vendor ZTE may risk 5G network security.

The CTU has had some recent shakeups though, with the CTU chief Jaromir Novak resigning in January, claiming that changes made by the government to the planned 5G auction risked delaying the rollout of next-generation networks and were likely to result in court disputes.

That auction is set to cover frequencies in the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands, and will, according to the CTU, boost competition in a market that has long been plagued by high prices, irking both customers and politicians.

However, Novak feels that changes made by the government shifted the conversation, putting too much emphasis on national roaming in the 3.5 GHz band, which would allow customers to switch among operators as if they were traveling. This, he states, could not be used across the whole country and he fears this, and other changes, will put off bidders.

“I cannot sign under auction conditions that in my deep conviction will not improve the competitive environment in the Czech market,” Novak said in a resignation letter, “They will jeopardize the target of rapidly introducing 5G networks and they will likely lead to a number of court disputes.”

The 5G auction was planned for January but was delayed to sometime later this year to accommodate the changes.

 

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