With whom to build 5G? We should test the technology ourselves

Digital infrastructure plays an increasingly important role in building the economy. The coronavirus pandemic showed how crucial telecommunications is during widespread remote work. The spread of the 5G network goes hand in hand with these trends, offering businesses new opportunities. Unfortunately, the confusion at the auction and excluding important players from the construction of infrastructure may delay the start of new technology in Poland.

In the ideal world, the decision on partnership in the construction of 5G would be made after analyzing objective premises. The goal should be to build an efficient, secure and cost-effective network that will be able to send data quickly at critical times.

Let's take a look at the tech race in the context of 5G.

Technology can be measured in several ways at the level of entire companies. One of them is spending on research and development. Huawei has invested $ 18.9 billion in this segment. only in 2019. This is exactly 15.3 percent. revenues. Nokia and Ericsson have a similar approach to investment. Both companies spent 21.2 percent on research and development, respectively. ( 4.41 billion euro ) and 18 percent. ( $ 4 billion ) in 2019.

However, money can be spent with varying degrees of effectiveness. After all, companies can invest in technologies that turn out to be a dead end after years of research. Investments then turn into sunk costs. That is why it is worth looking at the number of patents in the 5G sphere.

Huawei has a total of 56,492 patents, of which 56,000 was recently opened to the open-source environment when Huawei joined the Open Invention Network (OIN). The most important of them concern the 5G network. The same company also leads the patent race for patents approved and filed. The advantage over the second Samsung is 352 patents, and over the third ZTE 586 patents.

The game is between Chinese and Korean companies.

The first are the authors of nearly every third patent application, the second - every fourth. Further in the ranking we have European players - Nokia and Ericsson, and finally American, Intel and Qualcomm.

The number of patents owned shows which companies are the most advanced in the technological race. It also gives some idea of ​​the implementations. If a company in its product will have to use the technology of another supplier, this will increase the cost of implementation, because you will also have to pay for intellectual property. Therefore, companies that have more key patents can, in theory, offer a more attractive price. And if we are already with money:

The cost of excluding Huawei in Europe would be billions of euros

According to the Oxford Economics Institute , excluding Huawei from the European market would affect our wallets. This would reduce competition and reduce innovation.

Economic theory shows that the restriction of competition leads to higher prices. It can therefore be assumed that excluding a large player from the 5G competition will lead to higher investment costs and delaying the start of the technology

- we read in the report.

How much would it cost the Poles themselves? Researchers estimate that costs could rise to 120 million euros over the next decade. However, a wider picture must be taken into account, namely the possibility of stimulating the economy and creating new business models. We do not have some of the solutions on the market yet, because we lack technology that is widely used. One example is real-time VR transmission or even Google Stadia, which despite the use of landline connections, disappointed players. The same applies to autonomous cars. In their case, every hundredth of a second is important to human life, so it is difficult to estimate how useful we are to reduce the delays that 5G technology will bring.

The report estimates that the delay in starting 5G will reduce Poland's GDP by up to EUR 2.2 billion in the worst-case scenario by 2035. In addition, due to price increases, 3.3 million Poles (i.e. nearly one in ten of us) will lose access to the benefits of the 5G network before 2023.

The institution has prepared several scenarios for the development of the situation. In the worst of these, delays in providing 5G technology may reduce European GDP by $ 85 billion. by 2035. The most optimistic scenario assumes losses of USD 12 billion.

Huawei 5G antenna during testing.

Costs also include replacing the infrastructure

First, a small historical outline. Huawei appeared in Poland in the middle of the last decade and since then has cooperated with brands such as PKO Bank Polski, mBank, ZUS, KGHM, Tauron and the Ministry of Finance.

In 2007, Huawei started cooperation with Play to build a 3G network. A year later he was building the LTE1800 network with Polkomtel as part of Aero2. Later, cooperation with Orange came on the 450 MHz CDMA network and T-mobile on the radio network. Many of these initiatives involved doing something for the first time, even on a global scale.

The first in Europe was cooperation with Orange on the LTE 1 Gbps (CA) network in 2015 or three years younger with Play on the 10G microwave network. The first in the world was the Play network marked as 5G Ready using CloudAir technology, which allows dynamic sharing of the same bandwidth between different technologies.

Due to cooperation with Huawei and other suppliers, Poland is currently in second place in terms of mobile network penetration in Europe (data from the European Commission, Digital Scoreboard from June 2017).

Many of the 3G or 4G antennas currently in use are based on Huawei technology, so excluding this provider from our market would not only mean a reduction in competition in the context of 5G, but also the need to disassemble antennas of older technologies and buy completely new ones.

Huawei 5G antenna during testing.

Is there anything to be afraid of?

The 5G dispute is political, not scientific. Researchers have not proven the harmful effects of Huawei technology, e.g. at the level of espionage.

Tests carried out by the Spanish certification authority CCN (Centro Criptologico National) testify completely differently. In May, the Spanish issued a certificate of Huawei's 5G software at the highest level of 4+. In order to receive it, specialists had to look at the source code. Huawei allows each institution to look at its records so that it is possible to check programs supporting 5G transmission on their own.

This is the entrance to the room, where you can look at the Huawei source code at the company's headquarters in Dongguan.

Could Poles also write a similar text? Since March, you can answer yes to this question. There is already a laboratory in Warsaw in line with the Common Criteria standard, which sets technology testing standards.

On March 5, it inaugurated operations at the headquarters of the Institute of Communications - National Research Institute. It will be able to verify Polish implementations in technical terms. This is exactly the step Piotr Muszyński was expecting, who for 16 years at Orange, went the path from the director dealing with customer relations to the vice president responsible for strategy and transformation. During the June conversation in Spider's Web he said :

We need good regulations, procedures and processes, or - in more detail - e.g. an obligation to share the source code of implemented solutions, which we would be able to analyze ourselves in terms of cybersecurity risks. Then we will be more prepared for possible attacks. We must be able to examine the hardware and service software of each supplier and operator with no security holes (back door).

Now we hope to independently verify the security of applied solutions. Especially in terms of such strategic technology as 5G. Huawei is already conducting talks with the Institute of Communications, which are to result in the start of tests. In the future, we could also check Nokia or Ericsson's devices and software in a similar way, and on this basis make decisions about admitting foreign companies to our markets.

Such objective analysis would be a much better choice than vague populist opinions. Whichever solution - Chinese, Swedish or Finnish - would be better: more efficient or safe, it would go to Polish antennas. It is important that we can make the right decision based on facts.

* The material was created in cooperation with Huawei.

Who to build 5G with? We should test the technology ourselves


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