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Keep Politics Out of 5G International Standardization

5G Global Standards Ecosystem

For the past hundred years or so, the world’s vendors of communication networks and services have collaborated—largely among themselves—with great success. That paradigm continues today for 5G with the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and an ecosystem cluster of related organizations where industry and affected government agencies worldwide successfully work on a massive scale.

The work is fully open, consensus-based, focused on neutral global specifications, and balanced among all the partners in the world’s three major regions. The Partnership structure, work and participation are all there for anyone to see and analyse.

The U.S. private sector was a major part of the Partnership’s formation decades ago and shares in its success. A third of the hundreds of meetings a year are hosted in the U.S., and its companies and some government agencies play major roles in developing needed 5G studies, requirements, and standards.

Years ago, during the Cold War, the U.S. decried attempts largely by the USSR and its allies to politicize international technical standardization for communication technology. During the past four years, Trump did exactly that—by creating a false “we are losing” narrative and unleashing America First, xenophobic attacks against the technical cooperation ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the recent floating of U.S. legislation to “reassert democratic leadership in technology strategy & development” is a continuation of the Trumpian tactics and falsehoods. It is a disservice to existing U.S. collaboration and an insult to the participating and benefitting U.S. companies. Returning to Trumpism here harms the nation.

Yes, $5 billion for relevant 5G R&D, and encouraging scaled, strategic U.S. participation in existing standardization forums are the right directions. However, creating false narratives selling an America First partnership, denigrating existing highly successful global 5G partnership work, and creating a Washington bureaucratic overlay in a government agency (State) that lacks the technical capacity and stature for leadership - are recipes for disaster. Historically over many decades, only the NSA working with knowledgeable companies has had the expertise and global stature to facilitate this work within the U.S. government—as its counterparts in many other countries typically do.

The draft U.S. Democracy Technology Partnership Act needs to reflect the Biden vision of international collaboration in established organizations, and the sage advise the U.S. once offered to the world—keep politics out of international 5G standardization.

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

The author is a leader in many international cybersecurity bodies developing global standards and legal norms over many years.

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