5G will be an evolution in speed, but a revolution in scope
The rubber is meeting the road in terms of 5G rollout for the major network operators, writes Mike O’Malley, the vice president of marketing at Radware.
We’ve already seen some developments and showcase networks, like at the Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year, but planning is now kicking into a higher gear. By the time MWC Barcelona rolls around in February 2019, the buzz will be about 5G becoming a reality and how deployments are being handled. It really is that close.
Most operators are more or less committed to offering 5G by 2020, so that really only leaves just over 12 months for them to get their networks in shape to begin offering 5G services.
But let’s take a step back.
5G infrastructure requires huge investment, so what are the services that operators will offer that will pay for this investment? It has to be more solid than relying on a ‘build it and they will come’ strategy.
With 4G, the promise of super-fast speeds that would enable the streaming of high-quality video was undoubtedly the biggest selling point. The mobile devices we hold in our hands are capable of displaying high-definition content, and 4G provides that.
So what about 5G? Will even faster speeds offer a better, more stable streaming experience? What’s the next big killer app?
What I’m seeing is that service providers are looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide the next big step when it comes to taking advantage of 5G.
Unfortunately the explosion in use of IoT devices has already made them a huge target for hackers.
Anyone in security will tell you there is a lack of oversight and regulation of IoT devices. As we become more dependent on IoT devices for daily actives, the risk also elevates as not only are we relying more on certain devices, but we are also creating a much larger digital footprint that could expose personal or sensitive data.
Therefore, before any revolution can take place in the way that 5G is used with IoT, we have to consider the security implications.
The challenge for network operators as they roll out 5G is putting all the security procedures they in need in place from the beginning, so they can offer the services that will actually pay for 5G – and at the top of that list will be how they handle IoT.
Getting this right is crucial to enabling 5G to solve some of the biggest problems we have in the world today. This could be reducing the cost of healthcare by providing better remote monitoring and access, or boosting initiatives around smart agriculture to tackle hunger crises, or even automating and monitoring transport in a city to prevent overcrowding. It’s a massive opportunity.
The big difference with 5G is not just the speed but the latency. If the speed and latency come down to the same levels that we see on a wired line environment, that means you can offer all of the services that were provided on a wired connection, wirelessly.
5G will also offer network slicing. Previously, networks offered a ‘one size fits all’ approach, but 5G will allow parts of the network to be isolated and customised so that specific packages can be offered depending on the services required, like capacity, latency, duration, reliability, and geographic coverage to name a few.
But being able to replicate the same services and functions available on a wired connection in a wireless environment does have a downside. For a start, all of the security threats that we face on wired connections will also be just as capable to operate wirelessly.
Encrypted attacks, burst attacks, DNS attacks, IoT attacks – all of the big nasty attacks we already see on the wired line will available for cyber criminals to use wirelessly. These can be huge attacks, which is why hackers have typically preferred a wired line, but 5G changes that as hackers can simply attach themselves to a 5G connection remotely and collaborate with other servers to launch attacks.
My message to service providers is that from a 5G standpoint, now is the time to protect and harden networks just as much as you would on a wired line, because you can expect the same threats.
Service providers will have to be more pre-emptive with their defences. But they will occupy a unique position thanks the instantaneous speeds and low lag time. They will be in an optimal position to defend against cyberattacks before attackers can have an impact.
There’s plenty of reasons to remain optimistic and excited about the future of 5G. But creating opportunities to do good will also create opportunities for cyber criminals to do bad if security is only an afterthought. As we hurtle towards 5G deployment, my hope is that a more proactive approach is taken, and security is built into the very foundations of the future mobile experience.