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Seizing Opportunities: Four National Security Questions to Ask About the Use of Satellites in 5G Networks

Seizing Opportunities Cover
Seizing Opportunities Cover

Executive Summary

In order to deliver on the full promise of the fifth generation of mobile (5G) networks (near ubiquitous, instantaneous coverage for a massive number of connected devices), satellites will need to play a far more central role within telecommunications networks going forward with both terrestrial and space-based components working in tandem for a wider diversity of functions. Given the evolution of the satellite industry, both in terms of business models and technology, that greater role is now increasingly possible. Yet, while much of the focus on the national security implications of 5G to date in the United States and abroad has been on the terrestrial components of these networks (e.g. Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices, radio heads and towers, fiber, the core network, etc.), the potential role of satellite communications systems in these networks has been largely overlooked and/or poorly misunderstood. What steps, therefore, should we prioritize today to ensure greater security and resilience of 5G networks now and in the future? Put another way: if you are a policy maker concerned with the potential data-centric national security risks associated with reliance on satellite segments by 5G telecommunications networks, what questions should you ask and why do the answers to those questions matter?

Science and Technology Innovation Program

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