MENA and Central Asian Telecom Stakeholders Address Policy and Cybersecurity Standards at MWC Shanghai 2024






Ahmed Alguthmi – Shanghai



Themed “Driving Policy and Innovation to Shape Our Digital Future,” the forum discussed the importance of spectrum, optical, and datacom policy planning and explored how carriers, enterprises, oversight agencies, and regulators can enhance mobile security capabilities and provide guidance for risk management strategies. The meeting also sought to promote the adoption of GSMA’s Network Equipment Security Assurance Scheme (NESAS) and Mobile Cybersecurity Knowledge Base (MCKB). Attendees also reviewed industry policies and best practices, with examples from China’s successful use cases.

Huawei announced today that MENA and Central Asian telecoms stakeholders came together at a roundtable during MWC Shanghai 2024, the leading connectivity event in the Asia Pacific region. The session, ‘Middle East and Central Asia ICT Policy and Governance Forum’, took place today and was moderated by the GSMA, bringing together regulators and operators from the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia. The stakeholders included senior officials from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology and Huawei to discuss industry policies, successful practices, and valuable insights on key industry trends.

Mr. Jawad Abassi, Head of MENA at GSMA, who moderated the roundtable discussion, said, “The GSMA regularly explores a range of security considerations including secure by design, 5G deployment models and security activities. Good security practices and policies by industry suppliers are essential. The mobile ecosystem should empower advancing positive policy and spectrum outcomes, driving digital innovation to reduce inequalities in our world and tackling today’s biggest societal challenges.”

At the forum, Mr. Jeff Wang, President of the Public Affairs and Communications Department, Huawei, said, “To fully reap digital dividends, we need to pay more attention to enhancing connectivity, embracing digital application, and empowering digital talent.”

NESAS demonstrates how global collaborative efforts can address cybersecurity, offering a standardized assessment mechanism jointly defined by GSMA and 3GPP. It serves as a fundamental security baseline, developed in accordance with security standard guidelines pertaining to vendors’ product development and lifecycle processes. NESAS is valuable to both operators and vendors and is intended to be used alongside other mechanisms to ensure network security throughout its lifecycle.

MCKB seeks to help stakeholders manage risks in the 5G ecosystem by providing essential insights for their risk management strategy and guidance covering best practices and risk mitigation measures. The framework offers clear instructions for taking step-by-step actions to build security assurance while considering the entire risk spectrum of mobile end-to-end networks. It aims to enhance mobile security competencies and capabilities, strengthening the work of carriers, enterprises, oversight agencies, and regulators.

A focus on policy implementation and cybersecurity
The forum featured two sessions focused on policy implementation and cybersecurity. The ICT Policy Implementation session explored spectrum planning for 5G and 5G-A networks, universal service funds (USF) and policies to promote mobile connectivity in rural areas, strengthening regulation of mobile and fixed networks to improve digital economy foundations. The session provided recommendations for various countries, such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq, based on their specific needs and achievements in these areas.

More than 50 countries globally are investing in super-fast optical fiber networks and Giga broadband to handle the network demands from future technologies like AR/VR and high-definition streaming. This digital upgrade is crucial to support the development of the regional ICT industry while ensuring a smooth user experience. Operators in the MENA region especially need to improve their optical fiber networks to ensure homes and offices have the speed and stability for these advancements.

The Cybersecurity Session focused on building a Telecom-Information Security Management System (T-ISMS) to manage current cybersecurity issues facing telcos globally. The session covered key topics such as the roles and responsibilities of telecom cybersecurity for various stakeholders, implementing holistic telecom cybersecurity with collaboration between stakeholders and how regulatory authorities can promote telecom cybersecurity.

Robust national network development strategies, aligned with visions and key industries, are crucial for MENA. The growing demand for advanced services necessitates network upgrades, vital for ambitious projects like Saudi Arabia’s 10Gbs Society. Supportive policies from governments will incentivize carriers and enterprises to invest in infrastructure optimization.

Joining the session, Mr. Lin Yanqing, Principal Consultant, Industry Policy Public & Government Affairs, Huawei Technologies, and Mr. Aloysius Cheang, Chief Security Officer, Huawei Middle East and Central Asia, reiterated that Huawei has taken a proactive approach to telecom cybersecurity standardization. Cheang said, “As we chart our journey into the digital future, cybersecurity must safeguard the trust and resiliency of the network, the cyberspace, and the metaverse where data is the new oil as organizations’ assets are increasingly digitalized or virtualized. We must ensure that we continue to embrace the culture of openness, transparency, and collaboration. Cybersecurity is a team sport, and together with GSMA, we can leverage their good work, such as NESAS and MCKB, that will lay the foundation to secure broadband, 5G, 5G-A, and beyond.”

The executives explained that Huawei works with the GSMA, the ITU, the 3GPP, and others, as well as through partnerships with security organizations and companies, to ensure the security of its customers and promote the healthy development of the mobile ecosystem. Huawei has passed NESAS/SCAS 2.0 evaluations for its 5G base station and NESAS audits for its RAN and core network, demonstrating the company’s commitment to cybersecurity.


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