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The global mobile industry group GSMA has issued a warning to Europe to not take action blocking the use of certain equipment for 5G mobile networks, according Telecompaper. Without mentioning any specific vendors by name, the GSMA said any disruptions to equipment supply "will increase costs to European operators, businesses and citizens; delay 5G deployment by years across Europe and potentially also jeopardise existing 4G networks upon which 5G will be built". The statement follows reports that multiple European countries are considering action blocking Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE from building 5G networks, due to national security concerns. 
 
The GSMA statement highlights the many efforts already taken by mobile network operators and the wider industry to provide secure networks and communications. The GSMA said the industry is also ready to work with the EU and other policymakers on new measures to ensure trust in networks, such as a common security assurance, testing and certification regime for Europe. 
 
Procurement precautions
 
Several European operators already rely on Huawei or ZTE for their core and radio networks, and some, such as Deutsche Telekom, have sounded the alarm that bans on these suppliers threaten to slow their 5G roll-out as well as raise the costs. With only four major mobile network equipment suppliers in the world, the loss of two could leave the industry struggling to deliver the required capacity for launching the next generation of mobile networks. 
 
No European countries have announced bans on the Chinese suppliers yet, despite pressure from the US to not work with the companies and a ban already in place Australia. Some countries, such as the UK and the Germany, already have a system in place to vet the security of the equipment, but are still questioning whether this is enough. Most mobile operators have said they are considering their options, but some are acting out of caution and already avoiding Huawei for sensitive parts of the network, like Vodafone and BT. 
 
The GSMA noted that "competition amongst equipment vendors has been a major driver of innovation". European consumers and businesses may be "left behind" if operators don't have access to the full range of technology and are forced to delay or limit their 5G roll-outs or change existing 4G infrastructure in the face of bans on certain suppliers. "Investment and innovation will move to those countries where 5G is happening first and fastest, impacting jobs and growth," the GSMA warned.
 
Common security certification
 
Mobile operators "already invest heavily in making sure their networks – and the equipment put into the networks – are secure", the industry group noted, including "exacting supplier selection processes", work with third-party testing labs and government security agencies, and ongoing monitoring to protect network integrity and performance. In most European countries, mobile networks are already subject to security regulations for vital infrastructure and private communications, and the EU is already working on enhanced protections under the Cybersecurity Act.
 
The GSMA said it was open to developing further assurances. The group has experience in this area, having developed the Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme (NESAS) in partnership with 3GPP. To take this further, the GSMA is assembling a task force of European operators to identify ways to enhance and extend existing schemes. The group also called for governments and mobile operators to work together to agree a common assurance testing and certification regime for Europe, to "ensure confidence in network security while maintaining competition in the supply of network equipment".