5G in Medicine: Policy implications

Bert Hubert writes:

The theory is that our telecommunications infrastructure could then be spied upon by China, or that it could be shut down in case of a conflict with China or a Chinese ally. A less urgent aspect is that getting all our telecommunications stuff from very far away would impact our ‘digital sovereignty’, meaning that even if we wanted to, we would no longer be able to autonomously build up a communication infrastructure without Chinese help.

These three worries, spying, availability and sovereignty (or autonomy) are supposed to hang in the balance with the “5G decision”.

1. This is supposed to be the mainstream narrative. However, as you read it further, the whole process is completely different

My previous post on telecom related policy

It is difficult to understand the complexity in the existing telecom networks from towers/billing solutions and complex hardware that underpins the whole infrastructure. The 5G “revolution” won’t happen. I have earlier covered that aspect- tying it to the eventual demise of BlackBerry as a consumer company. Telecom CEO’s are hired to show massive profits in the balance sheets often to the chagrin of the end consumers. I still don’t understand the fascination behind something as outdated and crippled operating system as iOS. It hemorrhages data.

Perhaps that’s the reason the networks love to have it. Android has gone the same way, with each of them serving as a surveillance network. 5G will accelerate these trends on a global scale. However, it will have profound implications for individual privacy and autonomy. In the name of cost-cutting, the technology processes have been “outsourced”- so much so that current companies have failed to invest in the technology retention and core engineering.

In a modern telecommunications service provider, new equipment is deployed, configured, maintained and often financed by the vendor. Just to let that sink in, Huawei (and their close partners) already run and directly operate the mobile telecommunication infrastructure for over 100 million European subscribers. Since the early 2000s at least, most billing has been outsourced. This works by sending all Call Detail Records (CDRs) to (systems maintained by) a third party, often from Israel or China. A CDR stores who called whom and for how long. More data might be attached, for example the location of the customer, or where the customer was roaming abroad etc.

If the 5G is being provisioned for the healthcare, it is apparent that we need to be mindful of the intermediaries. By default, most of the data is being accessed by China (through its cheap mobile phones and several “backdoor”) and the US (through the corporations/ operating systems). If you don’t own the system, you are liable to have “breaches”. No amount of contracts or legal reprisals will be worth the loss of data.

These are serious issues and require a deliberation.