May 5, 2021
The following is the April 23, 2021 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, National Security Implications of Fifth Generation (5G) Mobile Technologies.
From the report
National Security Concerns According to a DIB assessment, China is the current leader in sub-6 technologies and is likely to deploy the world’s first 5G wide-area network. Chinese companies, which often receive government subsidies (e.g., subsidized land for facilities, R&D grants), are therefore well-positioned as global 5G suppliers. Huawei has signed contracts for the construction of 5G infrastructure in around 30 countries, including Iceland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
Some experts are concerned that vulnerabilities in Chinese equipment could be used to conduct cyberattacks or military/industrial espionage. These experts claim vulnerabilities were introduced through the poor business practices of many Chinese companies. However, they note that vulnerabilities could also be intentionally introduced for malicious purposes. China’s National Intelligence Law, enacted in June 2017, declares that “any organization and citizen shall, in accordance with the law, support, provide assistance, and cooperate in national intelligence work, and guard the secrecy of any national intelligence work that they are aware of.” Some analysts interpret this law as requiring Chinese companies to cooperate with intelligence services, including compelling installation of backdoors to provide private data to the government.
Other analysts argue that the risks posed by Chinese telecommunications equipment vary depending on the equipment’s location within the cellular network architecture. Most cellular networks are broken into two groups: the core network, which provides the gateway to the internet and ensures devices meet the provider’s standards, and the radio access network, composed of the cellular towers that broadcast and receive radio signals. These analysts state that, while the risks posed by Chinese core networks are significant, the risks posed by Chinese radio access networks could be managed. Other analysts have argued that having any Chinese equipment in the network could pose potential security concerns. Such concerns have prompted some analysts to argue that the United States should limit intelligence sharing with any country operating Chinese-supplied 5G equipment.