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T-Mobile Poland survives DDoS cyber attack – but hurting from denial of spectrum

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Spectrum auction delays can be almost as frustrating as fending off distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

T-Mobile’s Polish division has braved a cyber-attack and managed to repel invaders, it reported on Friday. It claimed its ‘critical’ systems had not been compromised. The operator had faced a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, where hackers try to cripple a network by bombarding it with masses of data traffic.

"It was the largest attack of this type on the T-Mobile network, and to our knowledge also the largest direct attack on a mobile network operator in Poland," the operator said in a statement. 

T-Mobile said the type of attack and its effects are under analysis and a report will be issued to the relevant intelligence bodies.

Spectrum auction delayed by Covid

T-Mobile and all mobile operators in Poland are easier to deny service to because their capacity is limited by the delayed onset of 5G. Poland’s operators have been forced to compromise on their building of 5G services, because the relevant spectrums have not been auctioned yet, reports Total Telecom

As a result they use spectrum in the 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz bands, currently used by 4G, to run 5G services. This involves spectrum sharing with 4G, so speeds are limited to around 300 Mbps, way below the capacity available from pure 5G. 

Why do cyber criminals choose Poland?

As a result of capacity shortage, denial of service is easier for cyber criminals to attempt.

The optimum signalling mode for 5G includes the 3.5 GHz band, but access to this will not be licensed until the regulator runs a spectrum auction. These spectrum auctions were supposed to take place in 2020, but have faced numerous setbacks since then. The Polish regulator UKE has said it now intends to launch Poland’s first 5G spectrum auction in 2022.

Poland’s spectrum auction was delayed the coronavirus pandemic, then amendments to the country’s Electronic Communication Law and the Act on the National Cybersecurity System (KSC).

No more compromise on 5G 

Eventually the auction will make the 320 MHz of spectrum available for purchase.  Spectrum in the 700 MHz band will also be sold once digital terrestrial television providers have been moved on to other spectrum bands.

Polish telcos have not taken to the mmWave spectrum, the 26–28 GHz band. However, Jacek Oko, chairman of Polish regulator UKE, said in November that plans to use 26-28 GHz bands for 5G will be prepared next year.

Testing 5G Standalone for launch

Last month, T-Mobile Poland announced that it was trialling standalone (SA) 5G using spectrum in the 2.6 GHz band. These tests will explore the interoperability of the current commercial 5G solutions and devices with SA 5G, according to Petri Pehkonen, director of technology and innovation at T-Mobile Poland.

“There are no commercially available 5G SA solutions on the market, so we want to use all possible opportunities to conduct tests with the participation of various suppliers,” said Pehkonen.