5G has the potential to radically change data storage and delivery--which means important changes to come at the enterprise level. With 5G everything will be all-IP, voice included, with previously unseen wireless capabilities. That’s big news for the enterprise, given the increasing popularity (and necessity) of remote work and the growing importance on voice-activated devices and applications. And it’s coming soon. A new research survey of more than 100 global telecom operators from Vertiv and 451 Research found that 88% of respondents plan to deploy 5G in 2021 or 2022.
“5G will enable scale that the enterprise sector has never seen before in terms of connected devices, active applications, minimal latency and raw bandwidth,” said Kevin Riley, CTO of Ribbon Communications.
But the potential of 5G for organizations comes with pitfalls, especially if preparation for the shift doesn’t begin before it’s here. Below are some of what can be expected at the enterprise level as the 5G shift gets underway, with expert advice on getting your own organization up to speed--pun intended.
Once 5G is available, enterprise networks are going to experience a higher traffic load, either directly as a connectivity option for sites or indirectly via an increase in network traffic from data consumed and generated that will hit their cloud, said John Smith, CTO and co-founder of LiveAction.
“To prepare, enterprises need to have a network monitoring system in place that’s capable of providing visibility across all portions of the enterprise network, especially in public or private cloud where a lot of the data will be consumed and analyzed or generated,” Smith said.
Organizations will need to evaluate their hardware--including but certainly not limited to smartphones--to take full advantage of the expanded traffic capabilities 5G will offer, said Mohit Narula, an engineer at Qualcomm.
“Both mobile phones and cellular networks need to support new 5G radios to work seamlessly,” Narula said. Other affected devices will include everything from smart home devices to the infrastructure underpinning smart cities.
Additionally, 5G operates on two difference frequency ranges. “With higher frequency, smaller antenna size is sufficient to perform the same performance,” Narula said. “Therefore, one would have to invest in buying relevant and appropriate antennas/antenna arrays and perhaps set up some indoor antennas or network nodes to take advantage of higher data rates and 5G connectivity.
The Vertiv survey found that more than 90% of telecom operators are worried about increased energy costs due to 5G and Edge. Vertiv said in a release that its own internal analysis aligned with that expectation, and that the move to 5G is likely to increase total network energy consumption by 150% to 170% by 2026.
If those costs go up, they could be passed along to organizations--and those organizations themselves could see increased costs for data transfer and storage.
The shift to 5G also will require organizations to undergo a re-evaluation of legacy systems, and distribution of data and software, as well as of hardware needs, said Art Langer, a professor of professional practice and the director of the Center for Technology Management at Columbia University.
Langer referred to the change as “a whole new architecture of the existing system.”
It also remains unclear how telecoms may pass the costs of using their 5G networks on to consumers, Narula said. For example, data costs could increase or the faster network could come at a premium.
But with that increased cost comes increased connectivity, making it easier than ever before for organizations to communicate wherever they’re located. 5G is expected to enable mobile communication speeds up to 50% faster than current rates, said Ted Wagner, chief information security officer at CISO for SAP National Security Services.
“It’ll be easier to communicate between people and virtual workplaces. It’s not going to require high-speed lines as we did before,” said Langer. “The explosion of IoT and distributed network capabilities will follow.”
Industries like healthcare, surveillance and the public sector--those that need to collect and transmit data in remote places--in particular stand to benefit greatly from the shift to 5G, he said.
That increased mobility will also increase productivity, Langer added. “Using your phone, tablet or other device to carry out more enterprise-related work activities will be even more commonplace with 5G,” he said.
All three of the industries mentioned above have particular needs and concerns about security, and the changes that will come along with 5G will inevitably affect that security, Langer said.
“More devices and more distribution of networks--therefore, more places for cyber-attacks and threats, therefore, more devices to monitor,” he said.
The faster speeds that will come along with 5G will mean more risk, Wagner said, especially for IoT devices.
“These higher data rate speeds enable much more powerful distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which enlist many systems to push data to a targeted system and overwhelm it to the point of failure,” he said. “Since IoT devices use a client-server model with limited and widely differing security mechanisms, they are more vulnerable to these type of attacks.”
New architecture will be inevitable, Langer said, pointing, for example, to the integration of blockchain with the cloud and the IoT.
For many enterprises, 5G’s arrival will mean that fixed mobile will become the primary--or, at least at first, the backup--WAN technology for many enterprises, said Riley of Ribbon Communications.
“This represents a new access type into the enterprise--i.e. a new door--that must be secured,” Riley said. “The dynamic nature of 5G, RAN [radio access network]-on-demand via ‘slicing’ makes this particular technology more susceptible to compromise.”
5G and the WAN will be susceptible to the same attacks--most importantly, DoS and infiltrate/exfiltrate compromises- seen over typical fixed and broadband access, he said. The growth in the internet of things that many, including Riley, believe will result from 5G also means that security threat is increased.
“Once network access is compromised, IoT devices can be taken control of--this is especially threatening in industrial IoT--or weaponized. For example, these attacks can be turned into a bot to inflict damage within or pointed at external targets,” he said.
The scale that 5G will enable means that manual security tactics will no longer be enough.
“Manual security tactics are not sufficient enough to protect the enterprise,” Langer said. “Security must shift to analytics and ML-based approaches that provide real-time, automated mitigation.” Approaches like ongoing data monitoring within the enterprise, between the enterprise and the service provider, and within the service provider will be among the new tactics needed, he added: “Security must shift to analytics and ML-based approaches that provide real-time, automated mitigation.”
Finally, 5G systems are more advanced, and the skills of the people manning the systems will need to be advanced, as well, Langer said. He added that 5G may offer even greater opportunities to close the opportunity divide once the right infrastructure is set up.
“This transformation has already begun, but [is] not yet successful,” he said.