State Department seeks ‘clean path’ 5G networks

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The Department of State is exploring how it can adopt what it calls “clean path” 5G networks free of any dependencies on untrusted foreign vendors like Huawei and ZTE in its supply chain.

In a new request for information, the department defines a clean path as “an end-to-end communication path that does not use any 5G transmission, control, computing, or storage equipment from an untrusted vendor.” State wants to hear from industry sources on how it can achieve such a 5G environment both at home and abroad in line with the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which prohibits government use of Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi, and other untrusted vendors from China.

“5G has the potential to deliver the infrastructure and services necessary to truly revolutionize mobile computing and services,” the RFI says. “It will provide bandwidth and latency characteristics comparable to today’s consumer fixed access networks.  These are the next generation capabilities required to build a world class network the can be the foundation for technologies such as edge computing, Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence.”

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a staff report  Tuesday that details the breadth of the Chinese threat to U.S. telecommunications networks.

The solicitation follows Secretary Mike Pompeo‘s comments in late April about securing America’s diplomatic communication networks.

“Simply put, in upcoming 5G networks, mobile data traffic entering American diplomatic systems will be subject to new, stringent requirements if it has transited Huawei equipment,” Pompeo said. “The objective is that untrusted IT vendors will have no access to U.S. State Department systems. We will follow the letter of the law to ensure that we have a clean path for all 5G network traffic coming into all of our facilities, period. We will keep doing all we can to keep our critical data and our networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party.”

This RFI asks industry just how State Department can accomplish that beginning with department operations overseas.

“A 5G Clean Path embodies the highest standards of security against untrusted, high-risk vendors’ ability to disrupt, deny, or tamper with telecommunications traffic and services to private citizens, financial institutions, businesses, government, or critical infrastructure,” the RFI says. “It is important that countries and telecommunications operators understand the United States is not just talking about secure 5G networks, but is also requiring and implementing them.”

Vendors have until July 3 to respond.

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5G, Huawei, Mike Pompeo, State Department, ZTE
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