The 5G Telecommunications Equipment Security Standards: Way Forward

Published August 15, 2022, 9:54 AM

by MB Technews

By Allan S Cabanlong, PECE, ASEAN Eng.

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

Technology maturation and technological evolution are closely related concepts when discussing technological innovations. In the idealized model of technology development that was theorized by Richard Foster, technology performance is plotted against R&D efforts over time. As technology is developed, being fundamentally new and with little R&D and technological capacity, it is predicted to first go through a slow growth period. However, as time goes by and more R&D is invested into the technology, it sees rapid or even exponential growth. Massive changes in technological performance are also seen in the rapid growth period. As time goes by, R&D efforts will have all been exhausted and technology will have been fully exploited. Thus, at that point, there will be very little or no improvements at all— technology reaches its maturation period. Technology maturation is the period in the technological life cycle where technology growth typically slows down or plateaus.

On the other hand, technology evolution is the process where technology disruption happens, or an existing technology evolves to make way for a “new” one. At some point during the life cycle of existing technology, a breakthrough or revolutionary technology comes in and disrupts the status quo. It may happen at any point during the life cycle even before the current technology matures. Because this “new” technology spins off from an existing one, the technological performance is expected to be higher than when the current technology first started. Going back to the life cycle that we have been talking about, the “new” technology is expected to go through the same process, however, this time the chances of success are greater because it sprung out from existing technology. In the telecommunications industry, the evolution from 4G to 5G has demonstrated improvements in speed, agility, and security; it is because competing telecommunications equipment manufacturers, driven by International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reference standards, need to achieve and comply with the 5G specifications set forth by the ITU. True enough, standardization plays an important role in this evolution as it provides the guiding principles for the development of fast, economical, and secure telecommunications services for the Filipino people. 

Nearly every aspect of our life is framed, guided, and normalized by standards and their growth. For instance, IT standards govern compatibility across diverse digital devices and platforms, and standardizing the production of various equipment enables uniform replication. Standardization in telecommunications, ICT, and cybersecurity encourages best industry practices emphasizing safety and quality control. The standards reflect the ideals, goals, and obligations that we as a society project upon each other and the world. Keeping abreast of the most recent standards can stimulate innovation and security processes, boost the market value of research and design efforts, and facilitate international trade and commerce, which in turn stimulates additional innovation.

The acknowledgment of the importance of having unified cybersecurity standards that would ensure a nation’s cybersecurity is pivotal in achieving a cyber resilient nation. The recent document published by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on the importance of having a clear policy on the adoption of equipment security standards, such as the Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme (NESAS), to prevent cyber risks in the telecommunications space is a first step in achieving the goal of a cyber resilient nation. 

Amid these developments, one of the usual challenges is its implementation and the continuity of programs that would strengthen our country’s cybersecurity. Sound and doable telecommunications equipment security standards must be continually recognized to address cyber risks. It is believed that telecommunications equipment and infrastructure could be the conduit of cyber risks if it does not conform to any internationally recognized equipment testing security scheme like NESAS.  The NESAS has addressed these challenges in the 5G equipment testing areas; thus, the majority of 5G manufacturers have adopted said scheme to deliver a safe and secure 5G space. Therefore, it is now in the hands of the DICT to deliver clear policies and direction as regards the implementation of the equipment security testing in the country to achieve a cyber resilient nation.