Deutsche Telekom upgrades wiretapping protection in mobile communications

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  • Pioneer with the A5/3 encryption standard in the GSM network
  • Automatic changeover: no customer action required
  • Old cellphone models will remain operational

Deutsche Telekom is the first network operator in Germany to deploy the A5/3 encryption standard for voice transmission in its mobile phone network. This means conversations are better protected against wiretapping, even in the GSM network. The standard is currently being rolled out nationwide; full implementation is scheduled by the end of 2013. "Consumer trust in telecommunications and the Internet has taken a heavy hit in recent weeks, due to the NSA revelations," says Thomas Kremer, the Board member responsible for Data Privacy, Legal Affairs and Compliance. "We are doing all we can to provide better security for our customers. Improved encryption of mobile phone conversations is another important step in this direction." This past summer, Deutsche Telekom and United Internet implemented encryption of e-mails sent between customers of the two partner companies. In the interim, Freenet has also joined the "E-Mail made in Germany" initiative. "The best, most secure network" "We don't only give our customers the best network, but the most secure network as well," emphasizes Kremer. Customers don't need to do anything to encrypt their mobile calls: encryption is automatic for transmissions between the mobile phone and base station network. With the new A5/3 standard, encryption in the GSM network is now stronger; the new algorithm is considered secure. Similar encryption levels are used in the UMTS and LTE networks. The GSM network previously implemented the A5/1 encryption standard, which experts have cracked. To implement the new standard, new hardware and software had to be installed at some 30,000 base stations and central network nodes throughout Germany. The new algorithm will be activated in stages by region. Customers will not even notice the change. A major challenge during the upgrade is the some 50,000 older mobile phones still in use in throughout the country that do not support the new encryption standard. To ensure that these customers do not suddenly find themselves without reception, Deutsche Telekom developed and tested a custom software solution. As a result, all phone models will remain functional; however, calls on older phone models will still be encrypted with the A5/1 standard. Deutsche Telekom has published a list of devices on the Internet that support the new standard, according to current information. Telekom is not limiting rollout of the A5/3 encryption standard to Germany, either: the new technology has already been implemented in Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland and the Czech Republic. More countries will follow.

About Deutsche Telekom Deutsche Telekom is one of the world’s leading integrated telecommunications companies with 140 million mobile customers, more than 31 million fixed-network lines and over 17 million broadband lines (as of September 30, 2013). The Group provides fixed-network, mobile communications, Internet and IPTV products and services for consumers, and ICT solutions for business and corporate customers. Deutsche Telekom is present in some 50 countries and has 230,000 employees worldwide. The Group generated revenue of € 58.2 billion in the 2012 financial year - over half of it outside Germany (as of December 31, 2012).