Chapter 12 - Telecommunications: Managing International Risk in a Post-COVID-19 World


Telecommunications in all forms is increasingly central to our working and personal lives. Dependence on the rapid availability of data and instant communications continues to rise.  This was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a majority of society to begin operating fully remotely. Dependence upon a telecommunications industry is paramount during a national emergency.   The global telecommunications sector is a mix of government, former government, and commercial operators. They deliver services for customers, but also wider benefits for society. It is in everyone’s interest for the telecommunications industry to be competitive, to prosper, to invest in the latest technologies, to be well defended against hostile actors and to behave in ways that balance the needs of customers with requirements of government. The telecommunications industry stores, manages, and transports a vast amount of valuable data for individuals and society, and digital commerce. The means to communicate, share, innovate, and prosper is inextricably linked to the way in which the telecommunications industry can mobilize technology and innovation on a global scale. The telecommunications supply chain is becoming increasingly politicized, particularly as security concerns emerge from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. To address these growing challenges, this chapter recommends a much deeper partnership between telcos and government, along with building a significantly diversified supply chain, so there is not heavy reliance on high-risk vendors.

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