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In Huawei war, all eyes are on LG U+ network

The carrier insists that the equipment is safe, but critics still doubt
Feb 12,2019
As an increasing number of countries reject Huawei telecommunications equipment, the industry is focused on LG U+, the only Korea operator planning to work with the Chinese company in its rollout of 5G.

U.S. President Donald Trump is reported by media to be planning to sign an executive order this week banning the use of Huawei equipment in the domestic telecommunications network. Australia and New Zealand have their own bans, and Canada is seen as following.

The measures are based on concerns the equipment might be built with a hidden back door allowing data to be stolen in transit.

The United States has reportedly warned the European Union not to use Huawei’s equipment in their 5G networks. While no country has made any definitive moves, a number are considering keeping the Chinese company out of their markets.

Companies in Europe that have announced they will stop using the equipment or review the use of it include the Britain’s BT, France’s Orange, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone. Mobile carriers in other countries, including Norway and Denmark, are working to keep Huawei in check.

As Huawei becomes more isolated, Korea is becoming one of the focuses.

Among the five mobile carriers that have started to commercialize 5G, LG U+ is the only one that has selected equipment of Huawei - though it has not confirmed whether it has signed a formal agreement with the Chinese company. SK Telecom, KT and Verizon and AT&T of the United States are using the equipment of Samsung Electronics, Ericsson and Nokia.

The government’s official stance is that it is up to the mobile carrier itself whether to use Huawei.

At a parliamentary inspection held in October 2018, You Young-min, the Minister of Ministry of Science and ICT, said it is highly questionable for the government to take the lead in verifying security.

The Ministry of Science and ICT in September 2018 formed a 5G advisory council for security composed of experts from industry, universities and institutions, but it is maintaining its stance that the government should not directly intervene and that the mobile carriers should first verify security.

LG U+ is lobbying its customers by sending out educational materials.

“Our company did not form the nationwide network only with Huawei’s equipment. Rival companies are also using Huawei’s equipment in the field of wire communications, but no security breach has occurred,” a handout from January said.

Telecommunications industry analysts question the objectivity of the data in the educational materials.

Along with emphasizing security, LG U+ said it received a positive security assessment in September 2018.

It has also said it is currently working with a company in Spain to confirm the security of the source code and the equipment.

Critics counter that the checks being conducted cannot actually confirm whether a back door exists or not.

One official from the industry said that although LG U+ insisted it verified the security of 70 items when it introduced Huawei equipment when building its LTE network - despite opposition from the industry - it never revealed the official results.

“The storage and management of the information of members is all done in the wired core network,” LG U+ responded.

“The equipment uses Samsung products, and the employees from wireless and wired networks are managing and covering the maintenance of the network equipment directly, so losing the information of members is actually impossible,” explained LG U+.

Additionally, LG U+ said, “With the CEO taking charge, every month a meeting is held to check security and quality, and we are actively participating in the consultation body run by the government.”

“Huawei is the only company among global mobile carriers that received international security certification on its LTE equipment, and it is also in the process of certifying the security of its 5G equipment.”


BY PARK TAE-HEE [kim.heyu@joongang.co.kr]