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may 2019

5G in Europe:
Time to Change Gear!
Part 1

Théophile Lenoir
Fellow - Misinformation and Digital Policy

Théophile Lenoir est chercheur associé à l’Institut Montaigne. Il a développé pendant quatre ans (de 2017 à 2021) le programme de travail de l’Institut Montaigne sur les questions numériques. Ses intérêts portent sur les technologies de la communication et les transformations de l’espace public. Il est notamment le co-auteur pour l’Institut Montaigne de la note Information Manipulations Around Covid-19 : France Under Attack (juillet 2020). Il a aussi travaillé avec la Visiting Fellow Alexandra Pavliuc, doctorante au Oxford Internet Institute et auteure de la note State-backed Information Manipulation : The French Node (février 2021), et a coordonné la rédaction de plusieurs rapports, dont Media Polarization "à la française" ? Comparing the French and American ecosystems (juin 2019). 

Théophile effectue un doctorat à l’Université de Leeds, sur les controverses autour des mesures de l’impact environnemental du numérique, pour mieux comprendre ce que recouvre la notion d’objectivité en politiques publiques. Il est diplômé de la London School of Economics et de la USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, où il a suivi le double programme Global Media and Communications.

Avant de rejoindre l’Institut Montaigne, Théophile a travaillé au sein de start-ups à l’intersection des médias et de la technologie (un outil d’analyse et une plateforme de contenus), à Londres et à Los Angeles.

2G in 1991, 3G in 1998, 4G in 2008... 5G in 2020! The latest generation of networks is almost here, and it is more than an incremental progression compared to 4G. 

Why? Because 5G represents a technological leap: it will radically change industrial production processes, public services, medicine as well as the management and distribution of water, gas and electricity, among others. It is also at the origin of new consumer services, and will therefore encourage the emergence of major players and a new digital ecosystem. While the field of application that 5G opens is unprecedented, it is not without risks.

This work was written by Achour Messas, Member of the Executive Board and Partner at Mazars, as well as Julien Huvé, Laurent Inard and David Luponis, Partners at Mazars. It was supervised by Gilles Babinet, Advisor on Digital Issues at Institut Montaigne.


Discover Europe and 5G: the Huawei Case - Part 2

5G, a breakthrough technology

While 3G and 4G have changed the lives of individuals thanks to the development of smartphones, 5G primarily concerns economic actors, and specifically industries, by creating new ecosystems and usages. 

5G is a breakthrough technology. This means that it will enable the transformation of many sectors of the economy through three factors: 

  • Unprecedented responsiveness (thanks to high-speed access and low latency - delay in data transmission over a network ) for demanding applications (telesurgery, autonomous cars, smart grids, industrial automation, etc.);
  • A decentralised structure, which enables the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) , used in augmented reality, mobility, industrial production, or energy.
  • A slicing capability according to usage, which will accelerate the development of cloud computing (the processing of data on servers in a different location than the one where the data are generated).  

This technology will enable the massive deployment of the Internet of Things, which will play an essential role in the field of mobility, augmented reality, industrial production and energy networks. With the use of edge computing (the processing of data in a location close to the one where the data are generated), operators will be able to provide new offers to the general public and manufacturers, such as the service of driving autonomous vehicles or assisted maintenance thanks to augmented reality. 5G will also provide answers to the challenges of territorial connectivity and access to public services.

5G in Europe: Time to Change Gear! - part 1

What are the risks of the deployment of 5G?

5G and sovereignty issues

In the era of cloud computing, and tomorrow of edge computing, virtualised infrastructures are becoming increasingly important for operators. This implies significant storage and processing of data which are not subject to any regulatory framework - except the GDPR. In a market dominated by American players and Chinese infrastructure, Europe and France are at risk of dependence and vulnerability.

5G and security

With 5G, entire business sectors and new uses will be highly dependent on the network’s availability, providing hackers with a new playing field. 

  • Will it be possible for an equipment manufacturer to shut down a whole network ?

Today, the risk concerns the possibility or not for an equipment manufacturer to insert a backdoor into the computer code. In the most extreme scenario this would allow the manufacturer to shut down the network remotely. It is not possible to check whether or not a back door exists: as with any telecom product or information system, the code is updated regularly. As a result, even regular access to the code is ineffective in ensuring that security is mastered. Moreover, systematically validating it before each use is unrealistic. Trust in the selected equipment manufacturer is therefore essential. 

  • Will it be possible for an equipment manufacturer to spy on the data?

Theoretically, equipment manufacturers can spy on the data transiting through their products. However, operators retain at all time visibility over the data entering or leaving their core network (even if the core network is decentralised, as is the case with 5G). They can therefore see any data leaks in their equipment. Given this background, we can only encourage the development of tools to monitor data flows through their network equipment.

Our proposals to address these issues

Encourage the harmonisation of European regulation
In detail

Coordinate actions to ensure high-level requirements across all member states of the European Union. This will allow operators to compete with large actors heavily supported in domestic markets, to minimise costs and to avoid any delays in the adoption of 5G, by defining, amongst other things, the entities able to authorise the deployment of 5G in Europe.

Use the issue of 5G licences as an economic lever to accelerate network development and security
In detail

Use the issue of 5G licences to allow States to control and secure the deployment of 5G networks and set objectives. It is important to keep in mind that expensive licences will generate high revenues for the State but also higher costs for operators. This will therefore translate into a slower development of the 5G economy.

Develop the sharing of passive infrastructures
In detail

This is one of the solutions to lower the investment costs shouldered by the operators. The savings can be used to monitor and secure the network and quickly develop infrastructures in order to meet the objectives set by the government.

Support the development of European R&D
In detail

Design a strong European policy with strict competition regulation to guarantee equal market rules inside and outside Europe.

Encourage the development of a French and European ecosystem based on 5G usages
In detail

Build links between technology enterprises, industrial actors and operators to foster the emergence of tomorrow’s digital leaders.

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