5G hype vs reality: what are the real problems and new opportunities?
Throughout the telecom world, if people aren’t talking about Covid-19, then they’re probably talking about 5G.
The promise of 5G wireless service is significant. It is touted to provide cheap, fast, ubiquitous connectivity by increasing connection speeds tenfold over current 4G services.
However, the download speeds for 5G are not nearly as mind-blowing as the negative publicity surrounding it.
For example, in a recent New York Times article, it was written that a 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory fueled arson and harassment in Britain. A false idea linking the spread of the coronavirus to 5G wireless technology spurred more than 100 incidents this month.
While this fake-news myth is clearly ridiculous, it is worth examining another myth that seems to be taken more seriously by some. There are people in our industry who hold the belief that 5G will be the silver bullet that will magically solve all our bandwidth problems.
Whatever you believe, as the industry gets down to the business of making the transition, it’s easy to see that there’s a huge amount of hype and hysteria. It’s time to set the record straight because it’s clear that many people don’t really understand even the basics of 5G.
Myth: 5G will eliminate network congestion. Or will it?
5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for cellular networks. The main advantage of 5G is that it has greater bandwidth, giving the new networks the ability to dramatically expand service beyond cellphones to general internet service for traditionally fixed connectivity to the home, office, factory, and other workplaces. It is assumed that the new 5G networks will compete with wireline data technologies, such as Internet over Coax-/Optical cables or twisted pair, and will also enable new Internet-of-Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications.
The hopes are that 5G will provide enhanced mobile broadband, mission-critical IoT, and massive M2M communications. The pipes will be so big, the latency so low, and the services so compelling, with dedicated service slice resources, that maybe, finally, congestion and Quality-of-Experience (QoE) issues will be concerns of the past.
Wouldn’t that be nice!
The reality: network congestion will be the same or worse
Even with the promise of 5G, similar transitions have shown, time and again, that problems with congestion and QoE will be the same or worse!
Mobile technology has repeatedly proven the “If you build it…they will come” model to be true. For example, if you build a new highway or add lanes, more people will use their cars – increasing demand and generating more traffic. The same rule proves true for telecom – as bandwidth becomes more available, consumption rises.
To better understand telecom industry attitudes toward 5G, we asked engineering managers at dozens of CSPs a series of questions. We were able to draw some interesting conclusions from the data.
51% of CSPs surveyed fear that DDoS traffic in 5G will be higher, 50% feel that congestion will continue to be a problem, and 66% are concerned that IoT will generate more outbound DDoS traffic.
Our survey revealed that 48% of CSPs report that DDoS accounts for 3-5% of their network traffic and another 11% report that it accounts for 6-10%. There is high concern that growing IoT deployment will make it even worse. More than half of surveyed CSPs anticipate that 5G is going to further increase DDoS traffic.
DDoS is costing CSPs money, even when they are not under direct attack. Resources are being wasted and QoE is being impacted. Keeping DDoS off your network is an overlooked aspect of ensuring QoE.
The race to roll out 5G technology is well underway, but telcos worldwide are concerned that 5G is not the anticipated silver bullet. The investment is huge and it’s not clear what use cases will yield high ARPU.
So, how can smart communication service providers (CSPs) capitalize on new 5G services and monetize in the most effective way to maximize ROI?
What new opportunities will 5G provide?
1. Guaranteed QoE-driven SLAs with dynamic resource allocation
In 4G networks, the operator allocates traffic packages to users without considering which applications are used.
In 5G networks, the focus shifts from the size of the monthly package that the operator provides to guaranteeing quality of experience. This is done by “slicing” or allocating end-to-end resources to achieve the experience needed by specific applications.
For example, different slices could be provided for file downloads that are not latency-sensitive and for cloud gaming, which is latency-sensitive. To keep QoE at the same level, these slices must satisfy different requirements at different price levels to different users.
Slicing can provide the resources to deliver a service, for example, streaming video, but cannot differentiate between the service tiers, for example, standard-definition video and high-definition video.
2. Offering customized service bundles based on granular network intelligence
Differentiating between a variety of customized service bundles and pricing them differently requires granular DPI (deep packet inspection) employing machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms, such as those being deployed by Allot.
Allot’s QoE assurance allows CSPs to compensate for unexpected growth of demand, for example, demand resulting from a large social event. While the network works to allocate additional resources to respond to the growing demand, Allot acts quickly to prevent QoE degradation, to the highest degree possible, for subscribers.
3. Security services to protect against new vulnerabilities
In the security domain, there’s an even larger opportunity for network operators. 5G networks have greater security vulnerability because of a combination of several factors:
- many more IoT devices on the 5G network,
- bandwidth per device will be much higher, and
- the network has a distributed design with many points of connection to the internet.
Allot has network-based security capabilities that include several interesting and relevant elements:
- malware protection, provided with our NetworkSecure solution,
- DDoS protection, provided with our DDoS Secure offering, and
- firewall protection, which is part of our IoTSecure offering.
All of these solutions are telco-grade, scalable to very high capacity, are operating in the virtualized environment of operators, and have multitenancy capabilities. They can be deployed in the core, as well as at the edge.
The real promise of 5G for the telecom world
The transition to 5G represents a massive opportunity for operators because the primary use of 5G is expected to be the provisioning of fixed wireless broadband access to SMBs and consumer customers. With the right supporting technology, operators can differentiate their offering and market premium services. They can also gain new revenue streams by implementing advanced security capabilities on the 5G network, providing high-end 5G-ready protections as a compelling suite of services across the network.