NarrowBand IOT and GCHQ
Huawei developed a city-aware network using a "one network, one platform, N application" construction model utilising IoT, cloud computing, big data, and other next-generation information and communications technology. It aims to be one of the world's five largest cloud players in the near future. Originally Narrowband IoT was a standard developed by 3GPP for mobile phone devices and networks.
3GPP is a 'standards' organisation for developing protocols for mobile telephony most notably 2G, 3G, GPRS and now 5G technology. In terms of structure, 3GPP is a consortium of seven larger telecommunications firms spread across the USA, China, Europe, Japan and Korea. These firms are known as Organizational Partners and they in turn can invite market representatives within each group. The theory is that this creates a forum, or method by which 3GPP can develop consensus views as to where the needs within the sector are and what areas should attract more time and resources. That is the theory. So far so good. At the top of the 3GPP structure is the Project Coordination Group (PCG), which is the highest decision-making body and essentially decides where the resources are directed. Generally speaking of course, the 'man on the street' is not likely to have heard of the PCG and is certainly not aware of the power such an organisation can command in terms of dictating the direction of communications technology. From a political perspective, and with National Security in mind, this topic in itself can take up many web pages of analysis. That will come later, for now the focus is on where we are currently placed from a technological perspective.
This is a phrase and a technology the GP will come to know very well, very soon. The question is, what is it and is the technology as "shoddy' and poorly constructed as our friend at GCHQ leads us to believe? Sure, the days of their reverse engineering superiority might now take a back seat to what has been immense R&D investment in recent years, but is the quality of the casing and hardware at Huawei really that bad? Narrowband is a new low power wide area (LPWA) technology specifically developed for the Internet of Things. To understand its power and the power of those who control it, one needs to understand more fully what the target or purpose of its design is ....namely the Internet of Things. This is after all a balancing act of sorts, a power struggle. Those seeking greater power from greater control, by providing people with less control of the 'things' in their own life. Of course the end users (us) will consider the IOT as part of a labour saving process whereby pieces of hardware, software or the processes they create, eventually lead to greater benefits. There is little doubt this is the case and will continue to be so. The advances in medical care, agriculture, industry, general living and in fact every aspect of life are profound. Just as the introduction of the internet was to information collection or AI is to systems and processes. Generally the most obvious flip side has been the impact on privacy, corruption and fraud and hugely artificial accelerated evolution in society, partly through social media and its off-shoots. So what will be the 'flip side' to the Internet of Things and therefore, ergo, what will the controllers of narrowband or the next technologies have at their disposal? Ultimately, if we give up privacy (albeit prompted by religious/political events such as terrorism and the need to control others), and we give in to automation then the next step is the transference of control. Not a new phenomenon granted, but a pattern we are accustomed to and a game which will inevitably play out further.
Philosophical arguments aside, what are the hard facts and what are we actually facing? This is not a science based website and the writer is certainly no Oppenheimer, so forgive the simplicity. The purpose here is to explore the potential areas for abuse and threats to UK National Security as a result of this new technology. Sometimes, that does require a different perspective which, although built on a solid technological foundations also allows for the role human behaviour, politics and religion (and culture) play in corrupting the technology and innovation.
What is Narrowband NB- IoT?
The original definition of "Narrowband" itself is derived from early radio communication where narrowband describes a channel in which the bandwidth of the message does not significantly exceed the channel's coherence bandwidth. The coherence bandwidth is simply a measurement of the range of frequencies over which the channel can be considered "flat" i.e 'Narrow'.
This has led on to the development of Narrowband IoT which is a LPWAN or a Low Power Wide Area Network. The LPWAN in turn is designed to allow longer range communications at a low bit rate among things or objects. The low power, low bit rate and intended use distinguish this type of network from a wireless WAN which is a "wider" network that is designed to connect users or businesses, and carry more data, using more power.
In essence less is less is long. Lower bit, lower power more range. Most importantly however, it is LOW COST. Put simply then, it means for less investment and resources, with a lower power usage we can communicate at longer ranges and replace the wider area network. Scientists and tech bods will no doubt shudder at this simplistic definition, but to us normal folk, it really is that simple.