The five big challenges of the 5G era
This represents a fantastic opportunity for telcos. But with this opportunity come five major challenges.
5G – A virtual agile network
5G is not just faster 4G – it’s an entirely new type of network
Currently, most 5G ‘non-standalone’ deployments are built on existing 4G infrastructure. However, to unlock 5G’s full potential the industry is building a new type of network.
This ‘standalone’ 5G Core will be ‘cloud-native’. Its foundational technologies (Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking) will turn many physical network components into the software.
Virtualization brings new security risks. When a network resides in software, there is a danger of cross-contamination and data leakage. Automation can also speed up the spread of bad decisions and malware. Malicious actors are waiting to take advantage of these flaws.
Another major challenge is identity. If there are tens of billions of machines on the network, how can we stop them from being compromised – and how can we trust the data they send?
Customer relationships go digital
5G will accelerate the switch to digital customer relationships
Every industry is grappling with the migration away from physical products and transactions to digital alternatives. Telcos are not immune to this. Many MNOs and CSPs still run ‘analogue’ services. They on-board and upgrade customers in high street stores. They run customer care from call centres.
Telcos need to explore virtual alternatives that provide delightful services to customers who are not physically present.
In every scenario, the key to success is data. MNOs should be able to look at digital interactions with the network to better understand individual subscribers’ behaviour. Armed with these insights, they can provide digital services that are genuinely personalised.
Digital Customer relationships
Massive roll-outs of connected objects become possible.
Previous cellular generations connected people - 5G will connect machines.
According to Ericsson, there will be more than 22 billion connected IoT devices by 2024. This is a huge opportunity for telcos. But it’s not straightforward. Connecting cars and water meters is very different from connecting smartphones.
The majority of IoT devices are low-cost, small, limited in processing power, and battery-driven. They might be located in harsh environments and expected to run for decades.
The nature of the network connection is another variable. Some devices require low bandwidth over short distances. Others need short bursts of high bandwidth over long-distance. These unique qualities demand a new approach to connectivity and security.
Enterprises gain communications autonomy
5G will introduce private networks. It will give enterprises "communications autonomy."
In a 5G world, enterprises will be able to run their own private network ‘slices.’ However, running an in-house network demands security competencies. It generates sensitive data, which must be encrypted at rest and in motion. Enterprises should make sure only authorised personnel can access this data.
In the past, only verticals such as government, aviation, and defence considered these questions. But 5G and the IoT will change this. Smaller enterprises from a variety of sectors will come into the market.
Telcos can help. They can be "security as a service" partners to these enterprises. But it won’t be easy. Historically, MNOs focused on enabling security for smartphones. In the 5G world, they will need to extend this expertise across many device types and industry verticals.
Enterprise private networks
The data-driven network must be cyber secured
5G will ramp up threats to cybersecurity and data privacy
Historically, the mobile industry has done a good job of deterring cyberattacks. But the confluence of the factors mentioned above – virtual 5G Core, private network slicing, IoT connections – will bring new threats.
5G is the first cellular generation to launch in the era of global cybercrime perpetrated by organized syndicates and even nation-states.
The virtual nature of the 5G network core gives these attackers new entry points. Virtualization means data is no longer stored centrally but at the ‘edge.’ 5G also exponentially increases the number of connected devices.
5G and Cybersecurity