Fifth Generation Wireless Networks (5G)
Date: February 11, 2021
The Government of Canada is conducting an ongoing examination of emerging 5G technology and the associated economic opportunities and security risks.
- The Government of Canada will continue to ensure that Canadian networks are kept safe and secure.
- While we cannot comment on specific companies, an examination of emerging 5G technology and the associated security and economic considerations is underway.
- The Government's examination will take into consideration advice from our security agencies, allies and partners.
- The Government has been clear that it will pursue an approach that takes into account important domestic and international considerations, and will make the best decision for Canadians.
- We recognize that our allies have made announcements for securing their 5G telecommunications systems. The Government will pursue an approach that is appropriate for Canadians, while taking into consideration our Allies’ advice.
- The Government of Canada takes the security of Canada’s telecommunications networks seriously. Since 2013, the Canadian Security Review Program has worked to mitigate the cyber security risks stemming from designated equipment and services, including Huawei, in 3G/4G and LTE networks.
- The Government will continue to work with telecommunications service providers and vendors to mitigate security risks in current and future networks as 5G technology is adopted by Canadians.
Wireless networks are the modern infrastructure on which the global data driven economy is built. The global telecommunications sector is undergoing a transition from fourth generation wireless technology to fifth generation (5G). 5G networks will operate at significantly higher speeds and will provide greater versatility, capability, and complexity than previous generations. As a result, 5G networks will become a crucial component of Canada’s critical infrastructure. The full implementation of 5G in Canada’s federally regulated wireless telecommunications sector will take several years beginning with the 5G spectrum auction that began in 2020.
It is anticipated that 5G technology will enable applications and innovations that will provide many new economic opportunities for Canada such as those associated with the Internet of Things, smart cities, connected and automated vehicles, and remote surgeries. However, in order to leverage this opportunity for economic growth through 5G, the safety and security of the technology must be ensured.
Incidents resulting from the exploitation of vulnerabilities by malicious actors will be more difficult to safeguard against, and could have a broader impact than in previous generations of wireless technology.
The Government of Canada is conducting an ongoing examination of emerging 5G technology and the associated economic opportunities and security risks. Particular consideration is being afforded to the foreign and defence relations, economic, national security, and technical implications. Public Safety Canada (PS), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Department of National Defence (DND), Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and the Privy Council Office (PCO) have been working closely to consider every possible dimension to this complex situation.
The security of 5G wireless networks has been at the forefront of domestic and international media stories. Canada’s Five Eyes partners have all made public announcements on how they plan to protect 5G wireless telecommunications networks. These policies range in specificity from the naming of specific entities to generic statements of intent to bolster security. Most recently, on 14 July, 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) announced its decision to ban Huawei from its 5G networks and eliminate all Huawei equipment from UK 5G telecommunications infrastructure by 2027. As of December 31 2020, it is illegal for UK service providers to purchase new Huawei equipment and they must commit to a timetable for the complete removal of Huawei equipment.
The United States (US) has been Canada’s most vocal partner, strongly encouraging countries to carefully weigh the security considerations of 5G technology. On March 9, 2020, a US delegation visited Canada to hold discussions related to 5G with various ministers and Government officials. Outside of the Five Eyes, several likeminded countries are also carefully considering what equipment will provide acceptable levels of security for their network infrastructure.
Current Network Security
In the context of current 3G/4G/LTE networks, a Canadian Security Review Program is in place to mitigate cyber security risks. CSE actively engages with Canadian TSPs and equipment vendors to help ensure the security of today’s existing Canadian telecommunications infrastructure.
The program has been in place since 2013, and has helped mitigate risks stemming from designated equipment and services under consideration for use in Canadian 3G/4G/LTE telecommunications networks, including Huawei. To date, this program has led to:
- excluding designated equipment in sensitive areas of Canadian networks;
- mandatory assurance testing in independent third-party laboratories for designated equipment before use in less sensitive areas of Canadian networks; and,
- restricting outsourced managed services across government networks and other Canadian critical networks.
As the Government prepares for the implementation of 5G infrastructure in Canada, the expertise and experience developed through the Security Review Program will be important in assessing cyber threats and risks of emerging technology.
Responsible Manager: Gregory Bunghardt, A/Manager, National Cyber Security Directorate, 613-990-9608
Approved by: Dominic Rochon, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, 613-990-4976
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