The driving forces behind 5G
Wireless cellular transmission has been a powerful engine driving our society forward. With only a decade into the deployment of fourth-generation cellular networks, our lives today are incomparable to that ten years ago. As 4G technology pulls the world away from PC to mobile, existing industries surrounding social media, e-commerce, and online entertainment have experienced massive growth. Other new industries built on cloud services and data sharing are also emerging quickly.
Such rapid industry change is pushing our current 4G wireless infrastructure to its limit. In terms of capacity, more and more devices are being connected. From smart home appliances to smart cars, almost every new tech product connects to the internet. In terms of speed, these new products and services are demanding lightning transmission speed with shorter latency. The limited capacity and transmission speed of 4G would soon find it hard to cope with such a huge number of connections. In order to keep up with the innovation, wireless technology providers are working on a set of new developments, naming it 5G.
The term “generation” may be a bit misleading because 5G wireless technology is much more than just a simple upgrade to 4G. It is, in fact, a set of simultaneous developments, all directed towards one common goal. Hence, 5G is really a simplified term for the set of developments for years to come.
Where does 5G lead us to?
5G wireless technology enables transmission speed of up to 100 GB per second, about 100 times faster than 4G is capable of. Another key advancement is that 5G enables near-zero communication latency, meaning that communications occur in real-time with (almost) no delay, just as talking to someone in real life. Lastly, 5G networks are extremely stable and reliable, meaning that there should never be any connection issues so that we can safely depend on it to do more things.
High speed, low latency, and high reliability. These attributes make 5G communications more capable and efficient than our real-life communications through our senses. Below are some examples where 5G can be applied to:
1) Autonomous Vehicle: So far, the biggest challenge to the deployment of driverless vehicles has been communication latency. Half-a-second of delay at a speed of 100 km/h can be critical. With 5G technology, cars would be able to communicate with roads, traffic lights, and other vehicles in real-time with no delay, far exceeding the capabilities of our senses. We can rest assured that our car will press the brake far before we even notice the accident 500 meters ahead.
2) Cloud Computing: With real-time communication, centralizing computing power and distributing them through the cloud is becoming a real possibility. With cloud computing services, individuals would not need to download any applications or store any files on their devices, all they need to do is to log in to their cloud service provider. Cloud computing allows us to finish tasks on much smaller and lighter devices, making computing more efficient and versatile.
3) Internet of Things (IoT): Simply put, every electronic device and appliance will eventually be connected to the internet. 5G technology allows us to easily control our smart homes remotely, by managing climate control, kitchen and bathroom appliances, as well as home security systems at our fingertips.
4) Automated Operations: Manufacturers can depend on the near-zero latency 5G network to run highly automated operations that exceed humans in precision and efficiency.
5) Healthcare: The internet of medical things (IoMT), such as wearable devices, allow doctors to keep track of their patients’ health condition anytime, anywhere. This would significantly improve the quality of life for those with chronic diseases requiring long-term care. Automated machinery would enable faster diagnosis and earlier prevention, greatly advancing our medical capabilities.
Once all components of the 5G network are fully operational, we will see a world free of wires and cables. Remote communication with objects will feel as easy as talking to someone directly. This increased level of efficiency is likely to bring our society to a tipping point, opening a new era in history.
The obstacles ahead
Despite the hype behind 5G projects, we are still far from a complete 5G network. The biggest obstacle to the 5G transition is the lack of understanding of its benefits. Many believe that 5G is nothing more than an incremental improvement of speed compared to 4G, and thus are not motivated to make the transition. According to research conducted by EY in the UK, even though 70% of businesses have plans to invest in 5G within the next three years, only 15% of businesses are currently investing in it. Among the 15% that are currently investing, most are still at very early stages – 27% are engaging in 5G trails, 34% are planning 5G adoption, while only 2% have 5G in operation.
Another factor that is slowing down the transition is the lack of confidence and fear of change. Results from the same research suggest that 56% of businesses are not confident in their company’s readiness to implement 5G-based IoT, and that 75% of businesses believe they would need a significant overhaul to their operating model to fully adopt 5G.
Lastly, we must weigh the costs before talking about benefits. The short-run costs of this transition can be quite demanding for many investors. This is especially burdensome for those investing in infrastructure. In order to reduce costs for operators and customers, 5G allows for smaller transmitters that consume lower power. As a downside, these transmitters cover much smaller service areas, meaning more towers would be needed, which would increase the cost of building infrastructures. In fact, the transition to 5G would require a complete overhaul of our current 4G communication infrastructures, a scale that is said to be the largest in human history. Additionally, the infrastructure suppliers are not the biggest beneficiaries of a complete 5G network, making them even less motivated. Therefore, experts recommended that in order to speed up the progress, governments need to step in and subsidize the establishment costs.
Safety concerns and risks
Note that we are talking beyond “security” to a matter of “safety” here. In the process of replacing manual work with autonomous machines, we are in fact gradually handing over decision-making power to artificial intelligence. The arrival of 5G technology will certainly speed up this process, blurring the boundary between our real world and cyberspace. A cyberattack on autonomous machines will have the potential to pose physical harm to humans. Thus, cybersecurity in the 5G era is no longer a matter of choice, but a necessity that must be taken for granted, just like securing our homes with a lock.
From a political standpoint, a major concern of the 5G transition is the increased dependency on certain equipment suppliers. Since a significant portion of the economy would depend on the reliability of the network, the commercial wellbeing of the infrastructure suppliers will be crucial to an economy. Reciprocally, these suppliers would gain crucial leverage against the government. This is especially problematic when there are only one or two suppliers dominating the market, which is why democratic countries are worried about handing this leverage over to Huawei.
From a corporate security perspective, external threats would likely increase with the implementation of 5G. Since 5G allows more devices to be connected, hackers have more entry points to get into the network. A software flaw in one of the connected devices can infect the whole network. Enterprises and governments must invest in corporate security measures to protect their IT systems at all levels. (Penta Security’s corporate security solutions combine authentication, web security, and encryption to help organizations safely adopt 5G. Learn more at: corporate security.)
Lastly, looking from a consumer’s perspective, 5G security can be a matter of life and death. Take transportation for example, as our car gets connected to smartphones, remote controls, traffic lights, and other road infrastructures, one backdoor in any of the devices would pose a risk to the car itself. The last thing we want is to have terrorists take control of our vehicles. (This is why mobility security provider AUTOCRYPT is investing heavily to provide an all-in-one solution for connected vehicles by not only protecting the car itself, but also authenticating all connections to the car. Learn more about mobility security at: AUTOCRYPT.)
5G wireless technology will eventually integrate our real life with the virtual world. This integration will tremendously benefit our society, but also bring new challenges in aspects of security. In the near future, cybersecurity will be just as crucial to our personal safety as police and militaries. Stay ahead of the game and be ready for the changes.
Check out Penta Security’s product lines:
Web Application Firewall: WAPPLES
Web Application Firewall for Cloud: WAPPLES SA
Database Encryption: D’Amo
Smart Car Security: AutoCrypt