Romania should consult better regarding 5G

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Dr Detlef Eckert, Deep Digital Consulting, Belgium

 

The good news: 5G is on. The less good news: Roll-out in Europe is slow. The reality: Europe remains entangled in geo-politics instead of accelerating 5G deployment.

Romania needs a top notch 5G infrastructure. Security must be a priority, but without mixing up protection measures with geo-political matters. This makes digital policies incoherent. Against this background, the proposed ICT law lacks proper reflection and consultation.

The draft law has an immense impact on the Romanian economy. Just 7 days for the Chamber of Deputy to decide is way too short and should be at least extended to 30 days.

In addition, such a law needs to be notified to the European Commission, which apparently has not been done. This omission puts in doubt its legitimacy.

The text shows significant gaps how to implement the propositions. Here are a few considerations:

  • 5G is not a monolithic block. It comprise sub-networks, i.e. access, transport and core, and many components provided by multiple vendors and integrated and managed by operators. The core network is the most sensitive part as it stores and processes data, user identification, gateways, billing and cryptographic keys. In particular the generation, storage and protection of these keys should be a focus point, which is hardly mentioned in the debate at EU level.
  • It is a misrepresentation to assume that the 5G network alone would result in industrial transformation. When 5G is switched on, nothing will happen for the industry besides better communication. Industrial applications need significant  investments in edge computing and intelligent software. Does Romania want to establish an all encompassing authorisation scheme?
  • Occasionally one hears the argument that the 5G radio access network (RAN) cannot be separated from the industrial applications and might constitute a risk not present in 4G. However, based on 3GPP specifications 5G RAN can be perfectly detached from the edge network and the core functions hosted within. The biggest challenge is not in separating the RAN but to secure the applications running on 5G networks. This is the task which deserves much more attention.
  • It is unclear how to implement the provision of the role of foreign governments. When European countries make divergent decisions it will emerge as protectionist measures, probably incompatible with WTO rules.

Regulation can cause significant costs, delay 5G roll-out and may not even be effective. My advice is not to make hasty decisions. Therefore, the Chamber of Deputy should organise a public debate to discuss the provisions in a transparent manner.

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