Protecting the network in the midst of 5G

Myles Hosford

Posted at Jan 25 2020 07:04 AM

From fully autonomous connected cars to the explosion of Internet of Things devices, the fifth generation (5G) wireless network is creating a foundation that is bringing today’s emerging technologies to the mainstream. In fact, the GSMA, global wireless trade group, estimates that by 2025, 1.4 billion people are set to have access to 5G networks.

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In the Philippines, we're seeing 5G take its first few steps into the mainstream. It is the first country in Southeast Asia, and second only to South Korea in the whole of Asia, to make 5G technology commercially available. With one of the lowest tower densities in the region, common tower firms are also looking to invest in shared cell sites to pave the way for 5G rollout.

As awareness of 5G grows, organisations must educate their customers, employees and the industry as a whole on the benefits of this technology. These organisations must also make clear the need to have added security measures in place to protect the increased levels of data. But what exactly is 5G, and how will it impact business operations and the organisations using it in terms of cybersecurity?

Meeting the demands of 5G

Mobile technology plays an essential role in everyday life, and 5G is the next phase in its evolution. 5G offers up to 100 times faster speed and one-tenth of the latency of its predecessor, 4G. Furthermore, 5G is able to support more connections, without the drop in bandwidth of low frequency networks such as 3G. At launch, 5G will be up to five times faster than the best 4G networks, and is slated to extend device battery life by a factor of 10, and reduce core network consumption by 90%.

The business case for 5G, and subsequent launch of 5G networks across Europe, is being driven by applications such as the internet of things (IoT), as a result of which consumers and organisations need greater network performance and more data-driven services. This has been evident over recent months, with Switzerland's Swisscom becoming the first European carrier to switch on its 5G service, and the UK's EE following in May. Since then, Vodafone has also turned on its 5G network, not just in the UK, but also in Spain and Italy.

A brand-new offering

5G will offer organisations a steppingstone into untapped commercial opportunities. It will create the capacity and bandwidth to develop entirely new applications in areas such as Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence. It will be the very first breed of mobile network with the ability to support machine-to-machine communication, and the delivery of innovative services — from converged network communications to real-time data analytics, and IoT.

Fully autonomous cars are an example of where 5G can transform a whole industry. It will be essential in offering the bandwidth needed to power the number of connected cars expected to be on the road, allowing the cars to communicate with each other and the rest of the world, from traffic lights to mapping and routing services and even pedestrians. Similarly, in healthcare, 5G capabilities provides faster transfers of large patient files, remote surgery and patient monitoring.

The impact on the network

While network providers build the backbone needed to drive 5G, mobile manufacturers are engineering devices that are compatible with this technology and can operate on the new network — which delivers higher bandwidth, higher capacity and that can support more data-intensive devices. This means the threat landscape around 5G differs to 4G. As the volume of data increases, security must be a top priority with the solutions in place to ensure that data is safe, wherever it sits on the new network.

The adoption of new technology such as IoT is opening up the opportunities for innovation, creativity and business growth. Some applications will soon be fully dependent on a 5G connection, such as connecting smart clothing, prosthetic device and connected homes. This means that businesses need to be more vigilant and have the adaptive and scalable security strategies that will protect against outages or state-sponsored surveillance operation.

Protecting your data

The increase in connectivity will require a shift to ensure cybersecurity defences are watertight. Security must be end-to-end across the entire network, and it is here that encryption plays a crucial role. Every bit of data that passes through the network needs to be encrypted and monitored at rest and in transit. It will need to be checked and identified to ensure that security is optimized, and that data is safe from malicious actors.

The opportunities that 5G will bring are undeniable, allowing the world to enter a new era of connectivity. However, this must be balanced with ensuring the security solutions are in place to protect the data flowing through the network. Organisations need to be mindful of the security needs of 5G, and can do so by working with organisations such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), who can support growth and ensure security is the highest business priority. At AWS, security is baked into the fabric of every cloud offering, and in the face of 5G, this is no exception. By choosing the right cloud provider that can scale with a business, organisations can protect their customers and their data, and adapt with every changing increase connectivity that a future with 5G will bring.


Myles Hosford is Head of Security Architecture, ASEAN, Amazon Web Services The content and opinions in this blog post are those of the author.