Huawei 5G and Iran’s Space Launch

Grind for February 1st
“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.”

– Robert Frost

What Could Go Wrong?

The Headline

UK allows Chinese tech company Huawei to participate in 5G

The Grind

Despite warnings from the Trump Administration, the British Government has decided to allow Chinese tech company Huawei to build parts of its 5G infrastructure with some restrictions.

The Chinese company will be banned from supplying kit to sensitive parts of the network known as the “core,” will not be allowed to build more than 35% of the parts in a single network’s periphery, and will be excluded from military bases.

“We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible, but this must not be at the expense of our national security,” says Digital Secretary Baroness Morgan. “High-risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks.”

If approved by MPs, the new restrictions will force major mobile networks EE and Vodafone to significantly reduce their reliance on Huawei, as more than 35% of their existing radio access networks were made by the company.

The Details

President Trump banned Huawei from US communications networks last year based on concerns about its relationship with Beijing and had pressured European allies to do the same.

Huawei claims it does not share information with Beijing. The company’s founder, Rea Zhengfei, said he would “shut the company down” before participating in “any spying activities.”

Even so, Trump Administration experts worry that if Huawei is allowed to build any part of the UK’s 5G network it will eventually gain access to the core and launch an attack.

“There is still time for backbenchers in both parties to save…the privacy rights of Britons if they vote to block this mistake by the government,” argues Tim Morrison, a former US National Security Council official.

Operators in the UK insist they can design their networks to keep the core protected even as technology changes.

Aiming High

The Headline

Iran is trying to get into space again; should we be worried?

The Grind

Satellite images taken Sunday suggest Iran could be preparing for a space launch, reports NPR.

The images show vehicles parked at the Imam Khomeini Space Center, near buildings Iran uses to assemble and launch space rockets.

“It looks pretty clearly to us like Iran is going to try and put a satellite into space,” says Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at California’s Middlebury Institute.

The Details

Iran’s activity shouldn’t be a surprise, notes Lewis. On January 18th, Iran’s minister of information and communications technology confirmed the country was planning to send two small communications satellites into orbit.

“This isn’t about the Iran nuclear deal or the killing of Qassem Soleimani,” adds Lewis. “These programs have existed for a long time, and we have seen Iran do a number of launches in the past.”

All three of Iran’s attempts to send a satellite into space last year ended in failure, with the third attempt producing an explosion at the launch site.

At the time, President Trump confirmed the US was “not involved” in the accident and offered Iran “best wishes…in determining what happened.”

While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims the technology used to build space rockets is “virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including ICBMs,” experts disagree.

“This is not a viable platform to use a ballistic missile,” says nonproliferation and nuclear policy expert Michael Elleman. “It’s large, it’s unwieldy, and it doesn’t add any capability to what they already have.”

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