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Trump's Strange WRC-19 Letter

Anthony Rutkowski

The 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19) is underway. It is the latest in a continuum of treaty-making gatherings that began in 1903 and is devoted to the now 116-year-old art of globally carving up the radio spectrum among designated uses that is instantiated in the Radio Regulations treaty agreement. Not unexpectedly, the event includes designation of 5G spectrum that flows from the requirements long set in 3GPP and GSMA.

In a kind of odd blast-from-the-past, Donald Trump addressed a letter to the ITU Secretary General and the WRC-19 delegates (embarrassingly misspelling the name of the ITU). President Calvin Coolidge did something similar in person on 4 October 1927 when the WRC that year cobbled together the first set of Radio Regulations — meeting across from the White House in Washington DC. Like Coolidge (at Herbert Hoover's urging), Trump also supported "harmonizing the use of spectrum globally" and multilateral diplomacy. Nice touch.

Where it gets a little strange, however, is that WRC-19 is in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, not Washington DC — and where President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has the honour of welcoming delegates.

It gets stranger still when Trump wanders off the reservation rambling on about 5G security and "maintaining American leadership in 5G..." asserting that "we intend to cooperate with like-minded nations to promote security in all aspects of 5G networks worldwide." Somebody apparently failed to tell him that 5G security work is done in other international venues like 3GPP SA3 and GSMA where the U.S. government has been all but absent — leaving the leadership to other nations by default.

Indeed, had he read an actual primer on 5G, he would have known that the actual innovation represented by 5G and the related security challenges revolve around network and services virtualisation, not spectrum planning at WRC-19. The disconnect here is so utterly profound that it is yet another embarrassment to the nation.

If Trump really wants to cooperate with other nations on 5G security, the precedent and models exist like SDNS. He needs to enable the use of U.S. national security community resources to begin shaping the needed 5G platforms alongside those already engaged in the work today.

If he really hops to it and reallocates the money from the failed wall, the next SA3 (5G security) meeting is coming up in two weeks in Reno! However, you need to do more than show up. You need to demonstrate actual leadership by understanding what is occurring, contributing working materials, and engaging with the hundreds of other technical experts there, and keep it up every 60 days.

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. Visit Page
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