back to article There are already Chinese components in your pocket – so why fret about 5G gear?

A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions becomes desperate for a commodity supplied by a distant power. The country's leaders try diplomacy, which is rebuffed. They legislate repeatedly to limit supply, but demand is so high that borders become completely porous. In a final attempt to regain control …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

    Yeah, and I can perfectly well win the Lottery. I think the chances are about the same.

    Sorry, nice article, but with Trump and his gang in charge expecting a reasonable policy is like asking a toddler to climb the Everest. Nothing reasonable has come out of the White House since the orange buffoon entered it, and nothing reasonable will come out of it until he leaves.

    Meanwhile, yeah, it's chaos and infinite misery.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

      And on a smaller scale our lot are also about divisiveness. Yes a coherent policy could be put together but not in current circumstances.

    2. Benson's Cycle

      Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

      I think you overestimate Trump. In terms of what actually happened, Obama wasn't really a lot better and Bush was pretty dire. The difference is that Obama was too intelligent, and Bush too under the thumb of his nannies, to spill the beans.

      The problem for the US, bluntly, is that a series of unfortunate trends have started to converge. One is that the long period of the dollar being the world's reserve currency backed by oil, which you need to fight wars and build the MIC, is slowly coming to an end.

      Another is that as the US has exported a lot of manufacturing - not all, but quite a lot - it has become more dependent on litigating IP. Which is all very well, but it doesn't educate enough of its citizens to the IP-generating level, and the Koreans, Japanese, Central Europeans and the inhabitants of certain Chinese urban areas are very happy to fill the gap.

      And the third is that US control of oil is threatened by a number of factors - Iran and certain South American states; the gradual shift towards gas, of which Russia has vast reserves, and the rise of renewables, threatening in the long run to obsolete both oil and gas.

      The US is thrashing about, trying to maintain control by economic and shooting warfare, destabilisation of independent minded governments, and trying to force other countries not to use products made with foreign IP. They destroyed BlackBerry and Nokia in the phone industry, now they are trying for Huawei but they have run into a country a lot bigger than either Canada or Finland.

      Nothing reasonable will come out of the White House till the US has its Suez moment. How that will happen, I dread to think.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

        You're out of date on those trends, and your anti-Republicanism is blinding you further.

        First, the US is currently a net oil exporter. This is a direct result of eliminating the restrictions on oil exploitation that were created early in the Obama administration when fracking first became economically viable. The proven US reserves are quite large, and even in high school almost forty years ago, I understood that these reserves represented a grand strategic limit on Middle Eastern oil power. (What I actually said on this issue, "Doesn't it make sense to let them sell us oil when it is cheap, while we hold ours for when it is expensive?" I did not recon with advancing technology making our oil cheap as well.)

        The US has indeed exported far more manufacturing than is wise at a grand strategic level. One of the weaknesses of an open economy is that there is little that the government can do to prevent this if it wants to keep the economy open. Note that president Trump is the first to address this concern in quite some time. Not that I agree with his methods on this issue, but he is the first to do more than to make a couple of statements on the campaign trail somewhere.

        Renewables are not capable of producing the amount of energy required to fuel a vibrant economy. There are hard limits on things like erg/m^2 received by the sun. If you don't like oil (who does, I mean, really?) we have fission until fusion is ready. Note that the price of thorium has gone positive, which means that smart, rich people are betting that fusion is coming online.

        And that will be _good_ for the US, as it will reduce energy costs.

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

          You are entirely missing my point. What the US wants is not so much to be an oil exporter - though the ability to survive the closure of the Straits is obviously helpful - but to control the world supply of oil so that it can cut it off to anybody who dares resist. The petrodollar feeds off of that.

          Why do you think the US is threatening Germany and trying to stop Nordstream 2? Control of gas supplies. Now gas is rising, the US wants to extend its control to that as well.

          Saddam became a threat when he started talking about selling oil in Euros. Up till then, the relatively cheap exclusion zone was containing him, but the threat to the dollar could not be tolerated.

          Currently the dollar is held up by two factors; the link to oil, and the desire of people to believe it has value despite the debt explosion and QE. If either of those goes, the dollar will decline.

          Thorium, fusion, ergs (really?), what have these got to do with global politics? Very little.

          1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

            Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

            > Why do you think the US is threatening Germany and trying to stop Nordstream 2

            Because the US is concerned that a key ally, and one that it spent many thousands of lives creating, may become dependent on a rabid dictator.

            This is not unreasonable.

            1. DeKrow

              Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

              So, what you're saying is "out of the frying pan into the fire"?

            2. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

              “Because the US is concerned that a key ally, and one that it spent many thousands of lives creating, may become dependent on a rabid dictator.”

              —-

              A rabid dictator. Yes, it’s true, the USA doesn’t have a monopoly on those kind of leaders.

            3. Benson's Cycle

              Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

              "A rabid dictator".

              I suggest you stop watching "Fox News" and get out a bit more.

              Putin wouldn't survive a repeat of the 1990s. Anybody who bothers to follow actual events in Russia will realise that his strategic plan is to be a major energy supplier to the countries linked by Belt & Road. For it to work, Russia has to be a reliable trading partner.

              Germany is not Ukraine. In burgernomics terms Russia and Germany have similar size economies and many common interests. And anyone who follows to any degree what Putin actually says and does will realise that he is a somewhat authoritarian president, but far from a rabid dictator.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

                "he is a somewhat authoritarian president, but far from a rabid dictator."

                Should we settle on "kleptocrat"?

        2. Benson's Cycle

          Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

          Also, with regard to renewables

          Who am I to argue with the US government? The bit of it that isn't watching CNN and screaming?

      2. DeKrow

        Re: "It is perfectly possible for the West [..] to decide on a coherent policy"

        Very long bow to draw saying that the US destroyed Nokia and Blackberry. Do you have any citations for this claim?

        My understanding has been, for a long while, that Blackberry and Nokia failed because they didn't adapt to the Android / iPhone generation. They were leaders for their time, but failed to see the big new wave coming and wiped out.

      3. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Nokia

        Benson's Cycle: They destroyed BlackBerry and Nokia in the phone industry

        To be fair to Nokia, Nokia did a good job of doing that themselves. Nokia was in a sorry state when the iPhone came along and it was thanks to their shoddy, outdated products that the iPhone found such a welcome. I, for one, don't miss Nokia.

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Nokia

          Given that Android is a far more prevalent OS worldwide than IOS, your claim is rather off. I was a Nokia user for many years, but the device that lured me away, was neither Android, nor IOS, as neither existed at the time, it was a QTEK 9090 running Windows Mobile, three years before the first iPhone. I had several Windows Mobile devices, before switching to my first droider, a samsung Galaxy Note.

          1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

            Re: Nokia

            Now it is, but back in 2007-2008 when Apple showed the world that phones could be very different, it wasn't Android that set the world ablaze, but Apple's iPhone. I'm not saying that Android or the devices that use it are any better or worse than Apple's overpriced iPhone.

            I was a Nokia user for many years and reflect on the progress Nokia made between, say, 1998 and 2008. The latter phones weren't much better (on almost every metric) than the earlier ones. Maybe I mishandled my phone, but the handsets didn't last any longer than two years. It took ages for the phones to have even a rudimentary camera built in and they were big and bulky.

            1. AJ MacLeod

              Re: Nokia

              Remind me what was so new and unique about the iPhone when it was released to undeserving mortals? As I recall, everything it did was already available from other manufacturers; the only difference I can think of is that Apple applied their marketing / brainwashing expertise and suddenly the great unwashed suddenly decided they needed a phone like that too.

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Nokia

                I'm under the impression that the iPhone was the first mobile phone to feature a capacitive touchscreen, based on the Fingerworks technology; and while multi-touch touchscreens had been around for decades, that made it the first to provide a really satisfactory one on a mainstream consumer mobile device.

                Personally, I don't like touchscreens, so I wasn't interested in the iPhone. But I don't know of a competing phone available at the time which had a reliable touchscreen that supported a gesture set similar to Apple's. (I'd be interested to hear if there were any.)

                That said, I agree that Apple's advertising (I find it annoying, but it seems to strike a popular chord) and marketing to tastemakers was largely responsible for the initial success of the iPhone.

                1. AJ MacLeod

                  Re: Nokia

                  I admit I had to do a quick search for the info but the LG Prada had a capacitive touchscreen before the iPhone was released - not very long, but it was out there nonetheless. I still hate touchscreens as much as I did back then, even if they are far less bad now!

                  Apple's record on actual innovation is pretty bare considering the size and history of the company... I can't recall anything at all significant that they were the inventors of. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that of course, but it's irksome when their marketing and devotees make such a big deal of how innovative they are...

  2. kernel_panic

    Great piece, but...

    .- "Huawei is heavily subsidised by the Chinese state" sounds like a statement right out of the textbook our pals across the pond are reading.

    In any case I'd add "potentially" or "possibly" to that sentence to make the article logically sound, unless you know something we peasants don't! ;-). By all means I think they've received tax breaks but they're no different to those any company - including foreign - would receive for e.g. R&D within a special economic zone like Shenzhen. Just sayin'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great piece, but...

      "Huawei is heavily subsidised by the Chinese state, Western suppliers do not have equivalent support."

      If the author changed that to read "Most western suppliers" it would be more accurate.

      Also, before 2019, there were no foreign companies in any special economic zone because foreign companies have been prohibited from operating in China. Every company in China, until very recently, was either a Chinese company or a joint-venture between a minotiry-holding foreign company and a majority-holding Chinese company.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great piece, but...

        Meanwhile Amazon is paying zero taxes and is constantly being caught spying on users to the point that people have stopped caring.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not only Amazon

          Meanwhile Amazon is paying zero taxes and is constantly being caught spying on users to the point that people have stopped caring.

          Don't forget all the other usual suspects

          Google

          Facebook

          Microsoft

          etc

          US centred spying and data slurping is a $2T business. The Chinese are mere amatuers in comparison.

          1. vaporland

            Re: Not only Amazon

            The Chinese are mere amateurs in comparison.

            hardly. they've got their eye on 1.4 billion people + world; the usa is 330 million + world

            and the trains aren't the only thing that runs on time in china

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Great piece, but...

        No idea if you're right or not, but could you explain the corporate structures that Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson used to have offices in Beijing, Shanghai, etc...?

    2. Stuart Halliday

      Re: Great piece, but...

      Funny how no one minds when you buy an item from China and it costs you £1 to post it to you.

      I fear most of our items are now supplied by China and when they stop supplying them, we'll get a serious wake up call as we realise we've no home market.

      We need to create a new cheap production market. How about Africa?

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: Great piece, but...

        @Stuart Halliday: "We need to create a new cheap production market. How about Africa?"

        China is already there, building infrastructure projects and waiting for the crippling finance terms to kick in.

  3. Steve Todd

    “A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions”

    Sounds pretty much like a definition of the US today, as does much of the rest of the first two paragraphs.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: “A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions”

      The US or the UK both appear to be having the same problem..

      To Brexit or not to Brexit.

      To Trump or not to Trump.

      Everyone will lose in the end because the political dichotomy that has become the contemporary norm is just a means of ensuring that the populace remains in permanent conflict....

      1. hostman

        Re: “A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions”

        ... meanwhile in France, the police are literally attacking protesting firemen.

        UK is now a sea of calm, with Corbin hung out to dry and Boris ruling the land!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: “UK is now a sea of calm"

          Only until the RMT gets its way and the Railways are Nationalised. Then they'll call everyone out and gridlock the country. They have had people in France observing the way their strikers are oganising.

          1. gerdesj Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Re: “UK is now a sea of calm"

            "and the Railways are Nationalised"

            Did you not notice the sheer size of Boris' majority? The Conservatives are not fans of nationalisation.

            The NURMT will continue to look after their members' interests as best they can as always (quite right too) but messing with national priorities will not be within their gambit for this Parliament, if it ever was.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Union_of_Rail,_Maritime_and_Transport_Workers indicates some controversies wrt nationalisation.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: “UK is now a sea of calm"

            >Only until the RMT gets its way and the Railways are Nationalised. Then they'll call everyone out and gridlock the country. They have had people in France observing the way their strikers are oganising.

            Given that Northern are losing the franchise at the end of March, it is quite likely that widespread strike action in that region would actually improve the service to usable levels.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: “UK is now a sea of calm"

              I was never a fan of British Snail, especially back in the days when I used to commute on the Chiltern Line but right back when privatisation happened it was obvious that separating the infra-structure from the service provider was a bad mistake. Not having control of the rails it runs on has certainly been one of Northern Rail's problems. None of its underlying problems are going to go away in March and the new operator is going to inherit them although eventually the new rolling stock is going to get delivered.

        2. Jason Hindle

          Re: “A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions”

          "UK is now a sea of calm, with Corbin hung out to dry and Boris ruling the land!"

          And with Rebecca Long-Nobody likely to win, this Labour member thinks Boris could be on the Iron Throne for some considerable time.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: “A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions”

            "Boris could be on the Iron Throne for some considerable time"

            You don't think he'll do a Blair and step down just before consequences happen? In Blair's case it was an economic policy that powered a housing bubble that in turn powered huge indebtedness. In Boris's case it's going to be the economic reality of the British business's home market being just the UK and maybe a whole new Irish problem when the Irish Sea border becomes a reality.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: “A country torn apart by nationalism, corruption and warring factions”

              Boris does seem to be something of a "doing it for the lulz" PM. I wouldn't be surprised to see him wandering off when clouds begin to gather on the horizon.

  4. The Man Who Fell To Earth
    FAIL

    Standards?

    I can build a widget that meets any standard you want, and is plugin compatible with your widget, yet I can have as much secret sauce in mine as I want. And I can make it so anyone accidentally activating that secret sauce is an arbitrarily low probability. All the standards do is set a minimum bar for my widget to appear to be the same as your widget.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Standards?

      The standards allow for your plugin to be replaced by any other standards compliant plugin if and when your secret source is discovered. Local compilation makes your secret sauce harder to slip in via a binary blob.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Standards?

        I did laugh at:

        > that box X from Huawei can be replaced by box Y from Ericsson, that management systems are as interoperable as the data and control planes

        On paper it might be true, but I really doubt an Ericsson RAN can be adequately managed by a Huawei OMC (or vice versa). Basic functionality, maybe, but give up all hope of configuring all the parameters of the many different algorithms

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Standards?

      From the article: Things like software updates and security patches can be mandated as auditable, with source code disclosure and local recompilation made part of the cost of doing business. "No binary blobs" shall be, if not the whole of the law, certainly one of its commandments.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Standards?

        At this point, it's really not. Standards bodies* have really failed to care about whether the standard they promote is at all open. They define standards that require patents that a specific company holds and is unwilling to release or license freely, thus giving that company an effective monopoly on compliance and, since establishing a monopoly deliberately is often illegal, a stable income stream from the other people trying to produce competitors. Standards bodies will decide issues of technical significance based on which companies hold the majority voting blocks in the standards body at times, considering the merits or demerits of a technical solution only if a suggestion is so bad that it must be opposed. We cannot rely on standards bodies to require openness as they currently are, nor can we expect governments made of people who don't know what source code is to know how important it would be for them to do so.

        *I am speaking generally, but there are in fact a few standards-choosing organizations that don't operate in this way. Unfortunately, all the ones dealing with telecommunications on OSI layers 1 and 2 do seem to work like this almost all of the time, and plenty more in other fields are willing to do exactly the same thing.

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Standards?

          Sounds like you read IEEE-754 (the standard for floating point, published in 1985).

        2. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: Standards?

          If there's any IPR in a 3GPP standard labelled as "must/shall" (aka standards essential patent), then it has to be licensed as FRAND. Might need a lawsuit to decide what monetary value that is, but the principle stands

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Standards?

            Jut because a standard incorporates some IP, doesn't magically make that IP licenseable under FRAND.

            There have to be agreements in place with the owner of the patent for that to occur. If the owner of the IP refuses the FRAND agreement, the standards body can't force it to agree to allowing its patents to be licensed as FRAND.

            1. JetSetJim Silver badge

              Re: Standards?

              ...err, in 3GPP all the companies that participate in the standards have to agree to this. Perhaps this doesn't stop a company that doesn't participate from doing this, but then the standards body will actively work around the patent in this case.

            2. MarkMLl
              Stop

              Re: Standards?

              The bottom line is that we should be asking ourselves: if we can't make it, should we be using it?

              International telecoms and cross-manufacturer operability were long ensured by CCITT standards, and I'm pretty sure that they weren't beholden to FRAND agreements. If some technique is so obtuse that somebody can claim that it's protectable by patent then it's probably not the sort of thing that we want in an international standard, even if it would appear to be desirable to keep the teenagers happy.

              And while 99% of 5G will probably be teenage chatter and porn, it's the 1% which is business and emergency services that really matters.

              MarkMLl

              MarkMLl

    3. kernel_panic

      Re: Standards?

      Correct.

      It is also possible that a meteorite shaped like a man's privates obliterates the UK as I type, which is why it's fundamental that any risk assessment conversation includes the likelihood dimension. Is it possible? yes it is. Is it probable? well...

      1. GrahamRJ

        Re: Standards?

        The country is currently being fucked up by the giant cock in Number 10. Getting shafted by an interplanetary prick would be a welcome change.

        1. eldakka Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Standards?

          There's a giant male chicken in no.10? That explains a lot!

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: Standards?

            Boris Chicken-Boo!!?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45bUOIK2cAo

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Many US semiconductor makers are heavily subsidised by the US defence budget and have been since they were founded. So do Germany and France to some extent. The UK doesn't do this and we wonder why there is no domestic telecom equipment industry

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      We do, however, keep some particularly niche shipbuilders afloat. It's all part of the plan to invest in our 19th century priorities.

    2. Daedalus Silver badge

      Please. The British are proud of their reputation as a nation of shopkeepers.

      But soft! When I briefly return to the motherland I see stuff marked as "Made in USA" which I'm pretty sure isn't sold in the USA as made at home. China, Vietnam, yes, but rarely USA.

      "Dere's shumpin funny goin' on 'ere" - The Famous Eccles.

    3. Mark 110

      Theres no domestic telecoms industry because Marconi made all the wrong decisions.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        you could try convincing Qualcomm or Motorola to open a U.K. subsidiary...

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Opening an EU subsidiary in the UK would have beenfeasible. Nissan, etc. did that for cars. Unless the subsequent trade negotiations result in Brexit meaning nothing more than being out of the rule-making process and nothing else that sort of thing isn't going to happen for the foreseeable future.

        2. JetSetJim Silver badge

          QC has at least one UK subsidiary. Motorola used to have one that had something to do with wireless infrastructure, but it went the way of the dodo when NSN bought that bit of the business. Doubt they'd be interested in getting back into that space now, as all the patents are with someone else (Google, IIRC)

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      I disagree when you say "heavily subsidised" - I would be more inclined to saying there ARE government contracts with these companies for the Department of Defense and whatever the DoD equivalent is for Germany and France [this is NOT the same as "subsidised"].

      But this brings up something else: WHERE is the actual INVENTING happening? I don't see a communist country (China) having a whole lot of really innovative ideas. Sure, you'll find a few, and I'm sure China's engineers are as smart as any other around the world. BUT... the "overshadowing communism" environment is directly opposed to freedom and creative thought. It's like that proverb "The nail that sticks up gets the hammer." In an OPPRESSIVE society (and COMMUNISM *IS* OPPRESSIVE) creativity and innovation is *STIFLED*. Not in every detail, but as an overall effect.

      Meanwhile, it seems that various engineers in the UK have been focusing on things NOT in the telecom industry, like ARM cores [as one example]. Engineering companies put effort where it makes economic sense, after all, and if there's just TOO MUCH competition in the internal workings of 5G, then "smart money" is likely to invest its time/effort elsewhere...

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        [this is NOT the same as "subsidised"]
        It is when they are paying a premium for getting that product from the local company rather than going for an equivalent cheaper foreign alternative.

    5. Richard Jones 1
      FAIL

      The history of UK telecommunications equipment makers s is a well known history of missed chances and following blind avenues. Our equipment was built to GPO standards that largely if not totally ignored the rest of the world's domestic needs. While the standards were robust, they were rearward looking. GEC built up a handsome cash pile from their various enterprises under Weinstock, but perhaps became over concerned at not spending anything. Later cash was splashed about but not to any great benefit and, when it was gone there was not a lot to play with or play for. Plessey joined with GEC in 1988 but it was essentially two corpses aiming for a joint funeral, which then happened after their name change to Marconi. Attempts to purchase UK equipment for use in overseas locations was not a success and when the need moved onto more complex and future facing kit the field was rapidly reducing. For a while the Japanese offered good value, generally reliable kit, but they too were left behind. Ericsson filled the gap, Nokia's hardware division also offered useful kit but the new runners from the Far East, China and Korea were also there. Nortel were once in the market, but marketing wagged the dog rather than producing market leading capabilities they produced unbelievable stories and proposals that suggested they had not read the specifications. Where they had read them, they objected to some deliverables. That was not what most customers wanted to hear. Since the greatest proportion of 5G patents are now held by Chinese companies it is no surprise they have a leading position, demonstrating the presence of high quality brain power coupled with advanced, low cost manufacturing, no doubt in part paid for by profits from all those Chinese made mobiles, such as iPhones and computer parts and idiotic IOT crap that the rest of the world laps up.

  6. SVV Silver badge

    those concerns might also edge towards paranoia

    Better to be safe than sorry, therefore it would be wise to completely ban and destroy all of the following, which may contain Chinese made components : luxury cars, private jets, all smart devices, golf carts, Facebook, selfie sticks, and all use of computer equipment by politicians and their advisors in case they get spied on.

    * Oxford comma used in this comment to generate controversy and draw attention as it has been recently discovered to be the most potent way of ever doing so.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: those concerns might also edge towards paranoia

      Actually that's a good use of the Oxford comma. By preceding the "and" which introduces the last item of the list it distinguishes it from the "and" ("politicians and their advisors") which forms part of that last item.

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: those concerns might also edge towards paranoia

      Citation needed.

      On the subject of the Oxford comma.

    3. Mark 110

      Re: those concerns might also edge towards paranoia

      Ban cars and roads. People are dying everyday.

      Ban food. People might eat too much and need care & support.

      You can't just ban stuff cos risk. Good article. Just ensure source code access and nothing iis being slipped in via a blob.

  7. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    >...Western suppliers do not have equivalent support. That's something worried politicians can do something about.

    To do so flies in the face of free market economics, you commie

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Manufacturing

    I don't really understand the Huawei argument, given that most things are manufactured in China why would they put spy chips in their own equipment? I mean state surveillance is important to the Chinese government but I am sure they have better ways than chips in switches (i.e the great firewall). If they really wanted to spy on the West, why would they not put their top secret spy chip on the Cisco's (other network vendors are available) that they manufacture? I am sure they can make them look like a little resistor and pass any QA that Cisco or others do (if they do any QA at all)

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Manufacturing

      If they wanted to do so, their spying software on Huawei gear would run on the main chip, and/or have its own chip which is inserted into the main plans. Either way, it would not be possible for an incredibly nervous engineer to entirely disassemble one and prove that someone had been fiddling with it during manufacturing, which they could do to a Cisco device with added hardware. For this reason, we've required Huawei's code to go through a bunch of audits. I think there was some logic to doing that, and we did find some worrying things, but we didn't find evidence that they are doing this. Based on this, increasingly shrill denunciations of Huawei as insecure sound hollow; either they haven't bothered reading any of the investigations and are attacking the company out of paranoia or desire to have an extra bargaining chip in a trade war, or they know something important they're unwilling to tell us about.

      1. Mark 110

        Re: Manufacturing

        But anyone can examine a network device and read the packet headers going in and see if theres unusual packet headers coming out. Beyond my technical capability but academically I know thats how a network device works. Shouldn't be too hard to monitor.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Manufacturing

          But in reality, if that's all you have, it's actually pretty difficult to monitor. Especially if the theoretical malicious party knows you'll be doing it and keeps quiet most of the time. It can send small chunks of data every once in a while. If you've whitelisted specific destination addresses, that might not work, but otherwise they can stand up many endpoints that can receive encrypted data, and they can hide it in various ways. This is especially possible if users can connect and use the main internet through the device, as they can have a user obtain a connection and open a channel that looks legitimate through which other data is sent. This doesn't apply to the most sensitive of networks, which would be isolated from the internet anyway, but it does apply to things that can eventually go online. That said, we don't have reason to believe anyone including Huawei is doing that.

          1. Stuart Halliday

            Re: Manufacturing

            Heard of WOL?

            Wouldn't surprise me if there's a magic packet that turns on a dormant piece of silicon or simply kills it.

          2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: Manufacturing

            The odd "ping" with a few bytes of added payload...

            Fake RST packets with added payloads...

            But the best, because you don't have to specify a specifc remote server: Hiding data in spurious dns requests!

  9. Fazal Majid

    Denial of service is one threat. All the others can be addressed with end-to-end encryption, which is becoming the norm on the Internet and should already be for sensitive government operations. Telephony for the general public is practically unencrypted, but that's because our spooks like it this way and have made sure that encryption remains inconvenient if not illegal, and thus they are responsible for this vulnerability.

    As for standards, they are built on a baroque foundation of legacy telco crap designed by C-team standards committees, leading to grossly vulnerable protocols like SS7 (in addition to the laughable lack of security, the network also crashes if it is pushed above a certain traffic threshold). In practice, because they are so sloppily specified, interoperability requires access to the other vendor's equipment, which they make sure is not available to potentially disruptive new entrants. In the case of 5G, the 4G already deployed is predominantly Huawei, and since modern networks are essentially software-defined, they can mostly be upgraded but Huawei will do so only if you stay with them.

    It would be best if 6G were totally software-defined to work on white boxes and got rid of the legacy ITU cruft, but chances are low.

    As for telcos monitoring their network traffic, the author's naive faith in their technical competence would be charming if it weren't misplaced. Read Bert Hubert's excellent paper on how they have been so hollowed out technically through outsourcing:

    https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/5g-elephant-in-the-room/

    1. Mark 110

      GCHQ have equipment handily placed in Telcos network cores. Thats what they do.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      No idea who Bert Hubert is, but most tier 1 operators I've met do a decent job of ensuring traffic comes and goes only to known destination points. Almost too good, at times. Once asked for a connection from one box to another from an operator and they obeyed the letter of the request and only have me a unidirectional connection

  10. Mike 137 Bronze badge

    The real isse?

    According to the UK Huawei cyber security evaluation centre oversight board the kit is pretty low standard stuff anyway due to "Huawei’s underlying build process which provides no end-to-end integrity, no good configuration management, no lifecycle management of software components across versions, use of deprecated and out of support tool chains (some of which are non-deterministic) and poor hygiene in the build environments[...]"

    One wonders whether this level of competence would make espionage feasible.

    1. Roml0k

      Re: The real isse?

      > One wonders whether this level of competence would make espionage feasible.

      I wonder if that level of competence makes espionage plausibly deniable.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: The real isse?

      That gels with my experience of them. Build it fast and fix faults in the field

  11. FlossyThePig

    So now China has taken over the bogeyman mantle that used to be reserved for Russia.

    Of course the spooks from the land of the orange panda want to be the only ones to have access to all the "secret" data.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US Spooks

      All they need to do is to ask the likes of Google and a plethora of other US based companies for the data. They have it all already don't they?

  12. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    Opium Wars..

    .. were not as simple as the author suggests - there were a number of factors involved:

    Britain wanted tea, but didn't have enough silver to buy it (the Chinese didn't particularly value gold - their currency was almost entirely silver-based. This was partly solved by the British stealing tea plants and exporting them all over the Empire - which is how India became such a major source of tea).

    China had a vast demand for opium since the whole country was wracked by internal division caused by the breakdown of the Imperial system at the time. Starvation and poverty was rife - which meant that the market for opium got vast because people wanted escape from a rigid system.

    The British (and French and Russians) were happy to exchange opium for tea - it was cheaper than silver since it could be made easily in India and places like Afganistan. Much cheaper than paying in silver..

    China tried to stop the import of opium because it was bad for the economy to have their worker classes drugged out of their minds.

    The UK/French/Russian alliance didn't like having their drug industry infringed upon so fought the Imperial Government - which the Imperial Government lost because they didn't have access to modern weaponry.

    Because the mperial Government lost so much face (aka "Mandate of Heaven") more and more internal revolutions started to occur leading to millions upon million of deaths from war, starvation and brutality and, eventually, the overthrowing of the Chinese Imperial system and the abominations of Chinese civil war and external invasion (Manchukuo etc) that lead to yet more deaths.

    It's really, really not a pretty story - but it's one repeated time and time again throughout history (albeit with different products involved).

    1. Mark 110

      Re: Opium Wars..

      Ta - always wondered.

  13. AndrueC Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Maybe one day we'll have grown up to the point where borders are nothing more than the edge of administrative regions and no-one cares where people/jobs/things are located. I know it's a pipe dream but we're getting increasingly closer to the point where regional pride/protectionism is something we cannot afford.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Unhappy

      You say that in an age where everyone is being divided on an almost individual level. Indeed, some people are learning that they should hate themselves ffs.

      Until people learn to spot the programming and de-program themselves we'll never get there - and they're currently programmed to treat all such comments as conspiracy nut-job territory - even though the tin-foil-hatters of yesteryear were right all along it seems.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urglg3WimHA

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Haven't seen that for ages, good reminder :D

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      We don't seem to be headed in that direction; I can name several nations that would like to separate from groups they were a member of and regions that would like to separate from countries they were a part of, but I can name only a few countries trying to join groups and I can't think of any countries trying to merge into one. With increasing globalization, there are also fewer reasons for them to want to do so. If you like to read academic-style nonfiction, I recommend the book The Size of Nations (Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore) and their follow-up papers on this topic. While they have the same style of goal, they discuss the pressures that can make it more difficult to arrive there.

  14. EastFinchleyite

    Trade War

    This isn't about security; that is a figleaf. If it was then we would not allow any imported technology into areas that we deem a security risk unless full disclosure of all technical, hardware, and software were included. US technology would be banned entirely as it is on the record that the NSA is trying to get their national system providers to put backdoors in their kit. No more Cisco et al.

    It is about a trade war. We are going to look damn silly as and when Uncle Sam does a deal with China and the trade war is off. Maybe not under Trump but he isn't going to last long; 5 years max and probably less. Then Chinese kit will be considered safe once again. How will our politicians explain that?. I suppose they will dust of the WMD excuses and move on to their next G&T.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Trade War

      Absolutely agreed. Now the US is saying that they cannot share "intelligence" with the UK authorities for fear that it will be leaked to China via the Huewei kit. What rubbish!!! No reputable intelligence agency is going to send reports over any public network in the clear no matter what kit is used in the network. Any sensitive information would undoubtedly be end-to-end encrypted, meaning that there's no problem no matter how insecure the network is.

  15. sandman

    Drugs

    I was listening to the Huawei debate in the House of Commons and seriously wondering a) What drugs some MPs were on, and b) where can you get them. I've rarely heard so many speeches grounded on so few facts.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Drugs

      I believe in some countries it's all sold under the generic brand name "Kool-Aid".

      As to "so few facts" - Welcome to our post-truth world.

      You'll feel better about it once you're drinking what they're drinking.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Drugs

        "You'll feel better about it once you're drinking what they're drinking."

        Tap Water?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drugs

      They all know what they're doing is a charade, all that matter is that they can have it put to paper that the decision was 'debated'. They don't even need to make it seem convincing because few people will even pay attention.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Drugs

        "They don't even need to make it seem convincing because few people will even pay attention"

        My wife is going to meet up with her niece for the first time in years tomorrow, and as it's going to be in a major town with a strong Chinese presence my wife thought to give her to the option of calling it off due to the Coronvirus outbreak.

        Response: "The what-virus?"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drugs

      Ah! I see you didn't watch the House Democrats present their "impeachment" case in the Senate!

    4. Mike Richards

      Re: Drugs

      'a) What drugs some MPs were on'

      No sure it was drugs so much as a handy retainer from the US Embassy. I would not be surprised if Pompeo and US Ambassador Woody Johnson were pulling the strings on the likes of IDS and Liam Fox. And the US will be doing all that it can to engineer a backbench rebellion when the necessary legislation comes to the Commons.

  16. Daedalus Silver badge

    Tribble with standards

    Standards are not proof against sabotage or criminality. They tend to contain "extensibility", which can mean anything, or be too constricting, which leads to backdoor workarounds that aren't formally part of the standard but everybody uses anyway. I have achieved fame in certain quarters by creating an interpreter for the LIS2A2 medical message standard that works better than most others (thank you, flex and bison) but gets downvotes for not letting people get away with their little fudges.

    The worst situation is when a standard is misinterpreted by its originators, leading to a clunky outcome that works as long as everyone sticks to it. Windows 3.0 had a color palette operation that was actually described wrongly by Microsoft, but worked. If you looked closely at the operations and tried to work it the way it was originally intended, you didn't get good results because the "violations" by other tasks borked your palette.

  17. TheProf
    Joke

    Biff, bash, boom

    " if the people using it all have smart TVs in their rooms busy relaying everything they hear back to Beijing."

    I have all the Transformers films playing on a constant loop on my snooping TV. I expect the Chinese to surrender any day now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Biff, bash, boom

      Damn, my friend... That's got to be a violation of the Geneva Convention or some UN rule of warfare. Something. That's just plain cruel. :D

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Biff, bash, boom

        If he wanted to destroy them rather than just make them surrender he'd have played all the twilight films one after the other on repeat.

    2. Mark 110

      Re: Biff, bash, boom

      Shouldn't you be playing 'Pacific Rim'. More their culture . . .

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the US eventually goes to war with China, and they will

    It will interesting to see how many British service personnel our "leaders" will be willing to sacrifice to support our "ally".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When the US eventually goes to war with China, and they will

      If we end up in a situation where we're actually at war with China we're all in the shit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When the US eventually goes to war with China, and they will

        We already are. And that's without being at war with China.

        Most people just don't realise it yet.

  19. FlippingGerman

    I recently read some talk of "not being reliant on foreign powers for technology" - well guess where *all* of our electronics come from already? Sure, Maybe Cisco or Intel designed them, but they're all Made in China (I concede that exceptions may exist).

    I don't disagree with being careful with national infrastructure (remind me who paid for Hinckley Point C?), but I'm not a fan of paranoia or protectionism.

  20. Mr. Flibble

    https://berthub.eu/articles/posts/5g-elephant-in-the-room/

    1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      From a grand strategic view, I've long been mystified that the EU was not taking steps to be cyber-independent. From the view of the individual actors, it is depressingly obvious.

      Still, this gem from the article is too good not to quote, "Similarly, most American service providers have managed to retain far more expertise and are able to run their networks much more independently of their vendors. US providers may leak less customer data, but to compensate, they flat out sell it."

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    prudent operators

    > Wholesale expropriation of data will show up in traffic analysis, of the sort that prudent operators will be carrying out anyway.

    What’s the word for when coffee comes shooting out your nose?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: prudent operators

      What’s the word for when coffee comes shooting out your nose?

      Wasteful?

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: prudent operators

      Keyboard ->

    3. Psmo Bronze badge

      Re: prudent operators

      Nasal Decaffeination?

      Uncomfortable?

  22. DrXym Silver badge

    Shouldn't it be obvious?

    A compromised network is FAR more harmful than a compromised phone. Or even a brand of phone.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...the divided and confused will lose, the determined and focused will win.

    Er, by this reasonable benchmark the US and UK are done, stick a fork in us. MAGA and Brexit demonstrate this beyond the need for further proof (though just wait a year and you'll have that in spades.)

  24. vaporland

    NSA is behind this...

    ...they can't implant spyware into Huewei gear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: NSA is behind this...

      Not even at Customs...?

  25. martinusher Silver badge

    Supplier ve Provider

    Huawei supplies equipment to providers. This equipment is specified, tested, installed and monitored by the provders. The providers are the organizations that need to manage the kit, determine how its used and monitor its operation and that includes watching out for and manging unnecessary or unwanted data collection. Its the same for any other product -- when we buy something like a car, a machine that can not only kill others but also us, we assume its manufacturerd to a standard that makes it relatively safe so any problems with its operation are nearly always the fault of the purchaser/operator.

    The only problem with Huawei as a company is that its "not American". Its rise is a consequence of US business practice -- first, it served markets that were too small for the big companies to concern themselves with. Then those companies decided that outsourcing 'white boxes' was cheaper than making their own kit and they outsourced first the manufacturing and then the development, content to collect royalties on IP as their primary business model. Unfortuantely while they were FDH ("Fat, Dumb and Happy") on previous generations Huawei was working on newer technologies so the inevitable happened -- they got caught wrong footed. So now its "not fair", "its a security risk" or whatever else the PR people and lobbyists can dream up.

    The UK did exactly the same thing with its industry, only a generation or so earlier.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop being rational

    It could get you killed or sacked.

  27. Missing Semicolon

    Networks are not really standard

    Most networks have grown from small beginnings, so each installation is a different mix of hacks, shortcuts, and cost savings. Many networks have ripped out multi-vendor infrastructure and gone single-source to cut interoperability problems. Huawei send a huge number of staff to make sure any integration issues are ironed out. This isn't cheap, and most other providers can't do it . How do Huawei afford it (and their labour-intensive development process)? They also apparently offer good credit deals for cash-strapped operators. Huawei have access to large amounts of soft finance, and a hugely low-cost labour force. Essentially this is unfair competition - no Western company can compete. Huawei should be excluded on trade grounds anyway, never mind security.

    1. BenM 29

      Re: Networks are not really standard

      "Essentially this is unfair competition - no Western company can compete. "

      Just saying "it's unfair, we aren't playing with you any more" is the resort of a petulant toddler... wait... where does the anti-Huawei drive come from?... hmmm let me think....

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A few years ago, Friday, October 14 was World Standards Day. Or, at least, it was World Standards Day in *some* countries. However, in America, the celebrations were held on October 11th. In Finland, World Standards Day was marked on October 13th. Italy planned a separate conference on standards for October 18th.

  29. David Gosnell

    Trade spat

    This is not, and never has been, about technology and security. It's just a silly trade spat that the orange buffoon expects all his allies to side with him on.

  30. Peter2 Silver badge

    If we can wean the politicos off the drugs of nationalism and divisiveness, even in this one matter, we can carry on in that vein.

    Look mate, western politics is inherently divisive. It's been divisive for so long that the term expressing the concept for what they do is written in bloody latin; divide et regina, or Divide and Rule. (also known as divide et imperia; divide and conquer)

    In western style democracy political power is gained by splitting the country up into say warring factions and playing each faction off against the others. You get votes by promising 3 such factions that you'll fuck over the other 2 factions. This has (as noted, the concept was first written in latin and was possibly old at THAT point) been an inherent part of western political systems for at least two thousand years. It is not possible to change without changing our political system radically.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Which then makes you wonder, what about other parts of the world? Or is what we're seeing fundamental to the human condition?

      IOW, will a better political system require a better human first?

  31. mmonroe

    Apple

    My iPad box says "Designed in California" and "Made in China". Who knows what extra spying bits those nasty Chinese fitted, or what those nasty Yanks designed in the first place. Time to chuck it and go back to safe, secure pencil and paper.

  32. Tessier-Ashpool

    Shhh...

    Don’t mention companies who slip a secret undocumented co-processor in their chips. Wouldn’t happen in the West, would it? I mean, Intel, for example would never do such a thing...

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Shhh...

      You forgot to mention that the undocument co-processor had a fixed password (empty) and that it's not normally possible to disable it.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020