News Feature | December 8, 2020

The Week in 5G: 12/8/2020 — Finland, Sweden Face Huawei Ban Fallout; South Korea 5G Rollout A "Blueprint" For Other Nations

By Ed Biller


Finland, the home of telecommunications giant Nokia, approved a network cybersecurity bill this week that bans equipment “within the network’s key assets if there are strong grounds to suspect the use of such equipment would endanger national security or defense,” reports Bloomberg.

Lawmakers stated the law does not specifically target China’s Huawei and ZTE, with one politician remarking, “We should ensure we don’t take action that closes doors for Nokia as a result of any backlash.” The concern is that cutting off Chinese firms’ opportunities in Finland could result in a backlash where Nokia loses opportunities in China’s 5G equipment market.

In next-door Sweden, where telecoms regulator PTS banned the use of equipment from Huawei and ZTE by 5G spectrum auction participants in October, the next auction has been postponed until Huawei’s courtroom battle against the ban is settled, reports Reuters. Even as the court battles play out — Swedish telecom operator Tre, which already has inked deals with Huawei, filed its own lawsuit — Huawei has expressed interest in “pragmatic discussions.”

“We are even willing to meet extraordinary requirements, such as setting up test facilities for our equipment in Sweden, for example, if they want to,” Kenneth Fredriksen, Huawei’s Executive VP, Central East Europe and Nordic Region, told Reuters.

In the United States, which is preparing for a transition to Joe Biden’s presidency, The Brookings Institute explores how the incoming administration might prioritize several aspects of 5G. The article’s authors believe the Biden-Harris administration will “likely continue to accelerate spectrum availability for 5G commercial use,” but will inherit ongoing global supply chain headaches and a Federal Communications Commission that has focused on urban network rollouts while seemingly overlooking rural and poorer populations.

Also in the U.S., a collection of airlines and aviation industry associations are arguing for postponement of a spectrum auction slated to start this week. The C-band frequencies up for grabs are currently used by satellite providers and some aviation safety experts claim reassignment of these frequencies could result in interference with the electronics on aircraft, potentially leading to crashes, reports Transport Topics.

RTCA Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit that studies technical issues involving aviation, produced a 217-page study detailing potential hazards, but it has been shrugged off by the FCC. Terry McVenes, president of RTCA and a former safety chief for the Air Line Pilots Association, said it could take years to design and replace altimeters in response to the auction.

Meanwhile, a recent report by network analysts RootMetrics shows South Korea’s 5G rollout has surged “far ahead” of any other nation and could serve as a blueprint for those hoping to catch up, writes Jeremy Horwitz of VentureBeat. The keys “to performant 5G” are widely deployed mid-band networking gear, made easier by a major domestic vendor (in South Korea’s case, Samsung) and government coordination (versus places like the U.S., where various local regulations often inhibit infrastructure buildout and complicate large-scale rollouts).