Brazil quietly passes new 5G regulations

. Mar 28, 2020
Brazil quietly passes new 5G regulations, we explain Presidential meeting on March 26, 2020. Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR

President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief security officer and retired Army General Augusto Heleno raised eyebrows when he returned to work just a week after being diagnosed with Covid-19. He was not wearing a protective mask, nor did he keep the recommended 1.5-meter distance from his colleagues. While his return seems rushed, Brazil’s Federal Register offers a hint at why Gen. Heleno abandoned his quarantine and returned to work so quickly — on Friday, he signed an ordinance defining the cybersecurity directives to be respected by 5G infrastructure providers in Brazil.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak exploded, there was some hope that Brazil could hold its auction of 5G frequencies by the end of this year. While that now seems like a pipe dream, the ordinance Gen. Heleno signed is an important step into pushing Brazil to the next generation of internet connections.

</p> <p>What is interesting about this ordinance is that it places Brazil equidistant from its main trading partners: China and the U.S.&nbsp;</p> <p>The rules don&#8217;t give Chinese behemoth Huawei a completely open market —&nbsp;making Brazil open to <a href="">U.S.-supported companies</a>, such as Cisco or Nordic firms Ericsson and Nokia.</p> <p>The Donald Trump White House has spread the fear — which is not yet backed up by hard evidence — that <a href="">Huawei hardware</a> could have backdoors allowing the Chinese government to monitor and control networks across the globe, or even try to implant malware in government systems.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Trump administration even issued a ban <a href="">forbidding U.S. government contractors</a> from using the components produced by the Chinese company. Australia and New Zealand followed suit, also adopting restrictions on Huawei.</p> <div id="buzzsprout-player-2847580"></div> <script src=";player=small" type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8"></script> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What do the government&#8217;s latest 5G rules say</h2> <p>A key point of the 5G ordinance is competition. Let us explain:</p> <ul><li>Gen. Heleno&#8217;s ordinance establishes the principle of &#8220;diversity.&#8221; One of the practical consequences is that telecom operators must have different contractors, in a way that the same &#8220;geographical area&#8221; will have, at least, two operators using equipment from different suppliers.</li><li>Another anti-monopoly rule is that the operator must guarantee quality and availability of data —&nbsp;and plan &#8220;alternative routes&#8221; for data traffic, if the infrastructure from a supplier is compromised for whatever reason.</li><li>The rules also establish that there must be a diversity of operators per region and frequency band, &#8220;aiming at fostering competition, thus resulting in improved quality of service.&#8221;&nbsp;</li></ul> <p>Telecom operators will be responsible for making sure that 5G infrastructure companies respect all protocols used by the National Telecoms Agency (Anatel). While the text is not crystal-clear on this issue, it leads to the interpretation that operators will be held accountable for compliance issues.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Data security and encryption</h2> <p>In the case of security breaches, &#8220;intentional or otherwise,&#8221; both operators and infrastructure suppliers will &#8220;answer in accordance with their liabilities.&#8221;</p> <p>Operators must also ensure that 5G data will be encrypted according to norms set up by regulators. Moreover, networks must support additional cryptography protocols added by users, especially in the case of &#8220;critical infrastructure,&#8221; such as power plants.</p> <p>All software used in infrastructure equipment can be audited for safety at any given point. These inspections shall, preferably, &#8220;encompass companies, consumers, partnerships, government bodies, and research institutions,&#8221; in order to determine the viability of equipment being offered for use. Regulation on this aspect will be paramount, however.</p> <p>Finally, telecom operations must implement protections that allow them to detect and mitigate &#8220;storm attacks,&#8221; such as <a href="">denial-of-service attacks</a> (DDOS) —&nbsp;a malicious attempt to disrupt normal traffic of a targeted server, service or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure with a flood of Internet traffic. Companies will also be required to monitor network traffic, being able to identify anomalies.

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Gustavo Ribeiro

An award-winning journalist, Gustavo has extensive experience covering Brazilian politics and international affairs. He has been featured across Brazilian and French media outlets and founded The Brazilian Report in 2017. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science and Latin American studies from Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris.

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