The highly anticipated and talked about 5G service is all set to become a reality in India by 2020. Although the service brings about enormous business opportunities, it doesn’t come along with a few challenges. In an interview with DataQuest, Gunter Reiss, Vice President – Worldwide Marketing, A10 Networks, discusses about cyber security and legacy infrastructure challenges associated with 5G, and A10 Networks’ 5G strategy, solutions and roadmap to help mobile carriers.
Security Challenges Associated with 5G Networks
After about five years of conversations globally, it looks like 5G is finally becoming a reality. Certain countries are already ahead in the game, like South Korea who leveraged the experience gained from the 2018 Winter Olympics to launch 5G services for enterprises on December 1, 2018—the first country in the world to do so. In the month of February, MWC (Mobile World Congress) Barcelona had a full-fledged display of the innovations and challenges of 5G. Several operators announced their launch plans for 2019 there, and it was quite fascinating to see the large amount of game developers and car manufacturers making statements about leveraging 5G for a more immersive and extended reality (XR) experience.
In the Indian context, according to Communications Minister Manoj Sinha, the economic impact of 5G is estimated to be over one trillion US dollars and the consequent multiplier effect is expected to be much more. Mobile networks are evolving quickly, and with change comes vulnerability.
GSMA predicts that there will be more than 1.3 billion 5G subscribers by 2025, 25 billion global IoT connections by 2025. Rapid proliferation of mobile devices and unprecedented mobile data growth ratchets up the threat landscape throughout the network. The rapid rise of IoT is exposing the threat of malicious actors taking control and weaponizing devices against a service provider. To date, cyberattacks such as the WireX botnet have only targeted Internet hosts but it’s only a matter of time until the core network becomes ground zero.
Threats such as DDoS floods, application-layer attacks, DNS exploits and botnet attacks have already happened on 4G networks and will expand even further with 5G. Threats arise from within the mobile network itself from infected IoT devices, as well as from anywhere within the Internet or external packet data network (PDN) gateways and roaming partners, threatening service availability. Deliberate DDoS attacks, as well as inadvertent signalling storms from malfunctioning IoT devices can bring down the network and cause outages if the core and mobile edge are not properly secured. Increasing DDoS attacks on the distributed mobile core is requiring service providers to deploy a comprehensive machine learning (ML) based security solution capable of automatically detecting and mitigating large-scale DDoS attacks in milliseconds, including evolving multi-vector and new IoT attacks, and hyperscale stateful firewalls to inspect subscriber sessions.
5G means new, modern and cloud-native infrastructure. How can existing investments be protected?
It is very important to understand that unlike previous generational changes, the 5G rollout will be an evolutionary process – think of it not as a destination but a journey. The enormous range of 5G use cases and architectural options make this journey quite different from the 3G to 4G transition. Service providers can enable strategic investments now to maintain, and gain, competitive advantage, while reducing overall TCO.
In addition, 5G connectivity will disrupt every vertical industry over the next decade and mobile operators will be part of the value chain.
At A10 Networks, we are already teaming with forward-looking service providers as they deploy upgraded 4G capabilities, 5G pilots, and production ready networks. These deployments emphasize consolidated, more secure, fully virtualized and cloud-native solutions for the Core and the Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) locations.
There are concrete improvements service providers can—and should—make in to existing 4G/LTE networks today that will pay dividends immediately and set them on the road to 5G with minimal risk. Four strategic investments that all service providers should be looking into right now are:
- Upgrading network management – The investment pays off immediately in existing 4G/LTE networks by making them more intelligent, agile, facilitating automated service rollouts, and preparing the way for fixed- mobile convergence and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) use cases at a later stage of network evolution.
- Consolidating the security stack – The typical Gi-LAN today is a complex mix of physical appliances, each of which implements a single network function. Network operators can add value to their current 4G/LTE networks and prepare for the 5G transition by consolidating a number of these functions into a single converged firewall with application visibility and control, subscriber-aware intelligent traffic steering, Gi/SGi firewall with Carrier-Grade NAT (CGNAT), GTP/SCTP roaming firewall, integrated DDoS protection, and more. Deploying a converged firewall reduces latency and simplifies Gi-LAN management to reduce operations complexity, CapEx and TCO.
- Strongsecurity at all key protection points – new attacks from partner networks and the RAN are happening now, threatening the integrity of your 4G/LTE deployment. To increase security in existing 4G/LTE networks and prepare for 5G, service providers need to boost security and protection at all network protection points
- Internet: Gi Firewall: Gi/SGi LAN Protection Anti DDoS Protection
- Roaming and Radio Access Network: GTP/SCTP Firewall
- IPsec VPN for Mobile Backhaul Protection
- Evolved Packet Core Protection
- Implementing cloud-native and virtualized network functions – While the goal is to deploy a cloud-native and virtualized network infrastructure as much as possible, this objective can be achieved in multiple steps. One good place to start is partitioning large devices, such as firewalls and application delivery controllers, to serve multiple functions prior to virtualization. Organizations should evaluate whether ADPs, CNFs, or VNFs meet their organizational and scalability needs, or even mix and match technologies as needed. In addition, VNFs deployed in Kubernetes containers are a vital step to meeting new elastic- and autoscaling-oriented use cases. A more dynamic and simplified orchestration of VNFs supporting a cloud-native, hyperscale and distributed mobile network architecture represents a critical next step.
Mobile operators should not wait until the marketplace shakes out—that just gives competitors the first-mover advantage. The winning strategy is to act NOW. By carefully investing in upgrades to support specific use cases, network operators can monetize their existing 4G/LTE infrastructure and modernize in preparation for the eventual migration to a full 5G architecture.
Business Opportunities that the 5G Revolution is Expected to Bring
The range of use cases for 5G is far more extensive than those for previous generations. 5G is an enabler for a wide range of new technologies, from virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) and autonomous vehicles to smart agriculture and remote healthcare, even remote surgeries. In India, it is expected that flagship government programmes like Digital India and smart cities will ride on 5G.
For instance, at MWC, the world’s first 5G tele-mentored live surgery was carried out remotely via a 5G radio base station. It was by Dr. Antonio de Lacy, head of the gastrointestinal surgery service at the Hospital of Barcelona. Dr. Lacy used a 5G video link and real-time white-boarding tool to help guide a younger surgeon in the removal of a colon cancer tumour. Such breath-taking innovations illustrate the potential impact 5G low-latency communication can have on transforming the way patients are treated from remote locations.
In monetary terms, certain studies have also predicted that by 2026, there is a USD $619 billion dollar revenue potential for players addressing ten specific industries with 5G—manufacturing, energy and utilities, public safety, healthcare, public transport, automotive, media and entertainment, financial services, retail and agriculture.
A10 Networks’ 5G Strategy, Solutions and Roadmap to help Mobile Carriers
A10 Networks addresses critical 5G security requirements with unprecedented performance at hyperscale, consolidation of the security stack, comprehensive feature sets, and rich AI-based automation capabilities. We have proven production and pilot 5G deployments with tier-1 carriers worldwide. In the second half of 2018 alone A10 Networks secured five major 5G network design wins, the majority of which are in Asia. We are also working with many others to plan for their future 5G initiatives.
A10 Networks’ solutions tackle existing and emerging mobile network architecture requirements for consolidated services, greater scale, and lower latency communications across the Gi-LAN, virtualized Packet Core, and Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) environments. A10 solutions also provide full spectrum security and visibility for the control and user plane operations.
A10 Networks’ 5G roadmap is focused on 5G security solutions to ensure hyperscale application and network protection, lower-latency, agility, and intelligent automation of operations supporting a cloud-native infrastructure evolution. As 5G adoption increasingly requires multi-terabit performance on the Gi-LAN, the company will continue to provide industry-leading scale in both VNFs and PNFs, including scale-out agile deployments with lightweight containerized solutions for virtual mobile edge compute requirements. With emerging 5G standards and architecture demanding multi-terabit scale with extremely low latency solutions on the one hand and very high agility and interoperability on the other hand, 5G requires a full spectrum of physical, virtual, and containerized offerings. A10 Networks will continue to evolve with emerging 5G, and related standards specified by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and others.
Similarly, the current generation of traditional security services will not be able to cope with the exploding scale of new 5G and IoT threats. A new generation of solutions leveraging big data models will provide cutting-edge predictive analytics, via enhanced ML and AI, for more autonomous network operations. A10 Networks’ management and controller technologies are key foundations to deliver on this requirement.