Huawei Wants the ITU to Adopt a New Internet Communication Protocol

By Bill Toulas / March 28, 2020

Huawei believes the way we are thinking about internet communications is already obsolete, and by no means in sync with the rise of cloud computing. So, they feel that a total re-invention is imminent. In their proposal to the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), they presented “New IP,” which is a new protocol that could change the way the internet works fundamentally. Huawei had the support of China Telecom and China Unicom in this proposal. At the same time, there are rumors that Russia and Saudi Arabia would also see eye to eye if it came down to voting. On the other side, the UK, Sweden, and the USA expressed their opposition, feeling that Huawei is proposing a way to enable regimes to have full control over what goes online, as well as to isolate parts of the global network.



Huawei says the current way the internet works is like an uncontrolled postman who moves data packets around without anyone checking anything other than their destination. This is inefficient, but it’s also the very reason why not even “Great Firewalls” can impose absolute control, and why “sovereign networks” are practically impossible to develop. “New IP,” on the other side, could shut the communication channel from or to a specific address, or between to points, all done from a central control point. It could potentially enable network operators to confirm and validate data transactions, monitor everything that flies around, and even to pass the data packets through approval layers. This is precisely why western countries are so worried about this proposal.

The way the internet works today was indeed designed over fifty years ago, and it does resemble a mail posting system. Data packets are fragmented in small pieces and get reassembled at their destination point. Huawei is proposing a more dynamic IP system. It is based on a new top-down design that would overcome the existing problems arising from having to deal with incompatibility issues - which are particularly evident in private and satellite networks. As the Chinese say, “New IP” is meant to serve communications in a rapidly changing world, and everyone is invited to join in the discussion and propose technical solutions to the existing problems.

Most probably, this proposal won’t move forward, but seeing it suggested is telling us something about what’s going to happen in the next few years, at least unilaterally. NATO has ordered Oxford Information Labs to provide their insight on the “New IP” proposal, which they did. They believed it to be a risk of introducing in-depth checks on the foundations of the network, leading to more centralized control, and also having implications for security and human rights. The next chapter of this story will unfold at a major ITU conference that is scheduled for November 2020 in Ghaziabad, India.

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