5G Network Roll-Out Set to Increase Both Connectivity and Security Concerns

The introduction of 5G is set to be the fastest ever global network roll-out, covering 65% of the earth population and 2.6 billion subscribers by 2025 according to recent research by the Network Equipment Manager Ericsson*. Many countries have already 5G commercial services around the world. GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) has identified by end of 2019 61 operators in 34 different countries who have launched commercial 5G services.

5G opens up a whole new range of possibilities compared with previous networks, with an enormous boost to bandwidth and data transmission speeds that are up to 10 to 20 times faster than 4G. Latency (the time it takes for data to upload from source to destination) will be down to 1 milliseconds (10 ms in 4G), essential for machine-to-machine communication and industrial-scale artificial intelligence (AI). 

All this increased connectivity comes at a price, however, as it means our networks and data needs to be more than ever protected to outside attack.

“We need to ensure what we are deploying has the right level of security,” says Benoit Jouffrey, Thales VP, 5G Expertise. “Security is at the heart of Thales’s culture, and it starts with secure authentication.”

One example of new feature of 5G is that the subscription identity can now be encrypted on a SIM card.

Also, new types of network deployment will arise such as mobile private networks. They will be much more widely deployed over 5G than ever before, possibly through slicing, where a whole chunk of the network from edge to core can be tailored to a client’s requirements. 

“We have to look at new networks deployment models relying on new user tech which may require additional protection measures,” says Jouffrey. “The nature of the network is new, and relies much more on the cloud and virtualisation.”

The new tech also brings the concept of the “smart city” a step closer. Successful operation of automated traffic systems and power grids depends heavily on 5G links to AI and the Internet of Things, but increased reliance on technology inevitably sparks concern about possible security breaches.

A European Union risk assessment report published in October 2019 noted that the biggest 5G security challenges are “linked to greater access of third-party suppliers to networks and to interlinkages between 5G networks and third-party systems, as well as to the degree of dependency on individual suppliers.” 

That is why associations like the GSMA** are looking at new certification for network equipment providers to ensure end-to-end security. The EU is also calling for more talks between vendors, mobile network operators, standards groups and regulators to share information on possible problems and solutions related to 5G, possibly with a view to shaping a European 5G certification programme.

”Security is a never-ending story," Jouffrey says. “If we wish the 5G we provide to succeed, then it has to be trusted, secure and reliable.”

 

 

*2019 Ericsson mobility report

**The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem.