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From Huawei to the Internet of Things: A Brief Explanation of 5G and Canada's Security Risks

Canada's plan to set up a 5G network that could be deployed around 2020 has become rapid in recent months, after the Canadian authorities detained a senior executive in China's Huawei technologies. Ottawa is now under increasing pressure to block Huawei from its 5G technology development in Canada, as experts warn that it will pose a national security risk.

But what exactly are 5G networks? And why security issues? Here we give you a (very) brief explanation of what 5G is and why it is important:

What is 5G?

Fifth Generation Networks, or 5G, is essentially a faster and more secure wireless connection. They come after four improvements of the past. 2G introduced us text messages, but 4G introduced video streaming and other options that gave us access to new mobile services like Uber and Spotify.

5G marks a huge leap in such wireless technology. Unlike previous networks, which essentially connected devices with one-way interactions, 5G would have countless connection points, creating something that could be considered a grid model, or what experts call a "network of networks."

When the technology is used to its fullest extent, it obtains data from almost any device – from mobile phones to autonomous cars to home devices (for example, a smart device that catalogs and organizes food placed in your refrigerator). It will also be much faster. Users will be able to download a two-hour movie in less than four seconds, from about six minutes (or 26 hours under 3G technology).

How does it work?

Such connectivity of devices, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT), would require a large amount of data transmission. Current installations simply cannot manage such a rapid accumulation.

"The bottom line is that this disc, which is more data acquisition, will require tremendous throughput," said Glenn McDougall of Doyletech Corp.

Data on the 5G network will be transmitted using hardware such as satellites, antennas and sensors as well as advanced software. Much of this data will be obtained through the use of super-small satellites, which companies are starting to use more and more at a much lower cost.

The US company Planet Labs is now launching 300 small satellites in orbit, which will be able to take pictures of the entire Earth's coast every day (satellites weighing 12 pounds and not larger than the bread box, unlike the stellar satellites used by space agencies to start what was small or bigger) size car).

Who are the players?

Telus and BCE or Bell Canada are working together to build 5G technology with Huawei. Their Canadian rival Roger works with Swedish Telecoms Ericsson – the main competitor of Huawei.

Nokia, Samsung and ZTE in China are the other major 5G developers. Last week, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economy Navdeeps Bains announced $ 40 million in new funding for Nokia, operating in Canada.

The 5G modem chipset is displayed after Huawei's presentation in Beijing on January 24, 2019. t

Andy Wong / AP

Why the security risk?

Ottawa is currently reviewing Huawei's offer to develop 5G technology in Canada. Security experts warned that the Chinese government could use Huawei to intercept confidential data. This statement is largely due to the concern that Chinese companies, especially public companies, have a duty to act on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, if so requested. A similar argument was made against the proposed $ 1.5 billion acquisition by the Canadian construction company, Aecon, last year by the Chinese conglomerate, which was eventually blocked by Ottawa.

Experts say that the high number of connections and the integrated nature of 5G networks gives hackers much more access to the system through the so-called "back door". And the risks are much greater: a data protection breach in the 5G network will provide a set of data that is significantly deeper than today's networks.

New Cold War?

Experts warn that chapters over 5G are just the beginning of a wider technological struggle between the US and China, some of which have called "the new cold war". After years of greater cooperation between governments and businesses, technologies such as 5G have been created, security challenges and other geopolitical challenges are beginning to undermine this progress.

In particular, the expanded trade war between the US and China and the threat of US President Donald Trump to ban some Chinese technology companies from the American supply chain could further divide the global technology scene. It remained unchanged, which could create a world where technology development between countries is much less united and integrated.

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