Why do we need a 5G network?

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While LTE networks are just beginning to make their way into widespread use and are not yet so ubiquitous, network providers and distributors are already fully engaged in a lively discussion of 5G opportunities and prospects. Some of the corporations have already started to actively invest in PR activities related to this issue. Such an example is Megafon and Huawei, which have declared to launch a test version of the 5G network at the 2018 FIFA championship, which will be held in Russia .

The standardization of the 5G network is still at the planning stage, and according to the initial assumptions, implementation will not take place until 2020 (this is why the standard was named IMT-2020 in the official documentation). The use of the name „5G” for marketing purposes is of course not prohibited – as long as it does not directly relate to the real name of a standardized network. Currently, the digit is intended to highlight the 5th generation of mobile networks.

The issue of naming particular standards and generations is always an open philosophical question. In a sense, the 5G network was already operating almost 10 years ago in the Moscow region – in this particular case, 5G was one of the services offered by ArtCommunications, the local network operator.

Those looking to take the lead in this technological race are quite uncertain about the benefits of 5G: “Access to high-speed mobile internet and an exponentially growing number of inexpensive devices are driving the volume of data enormously. 5G connectivity will provide higher network capacity, which will ease the load and reduce delays during signal transmission. Subscribers will be able to take advantage of the higher data transfer speeds that will become available with the advent of the new standard. An example benefit may be that the movie is played immediately, without waiting for the file to load, ”comments Huawei.

The above statement uses exactly the same arguments that were used during the active promotion of LTE-Advanced, LTE, 3G and even EDGE technologies – I remember today each presentation of the demo version of these technologies.

The technology industry is involved in commercial sales should support the development of 5G. At the moment, the market is only making hypotheses about possible 5G frequencies and the necessary types of modulation and coding. The initial plan assumes the use of various transmitters in the 1-100 GHz spectrum. The most realistic thing about the whole discussion is that the new connectivity standard will use the maximum amount of bandwidth. Its further expansion using microwave frequencies means the appearance of phectocells and picocells with a minimum operating range.

One of the main reasons why 5G will inevitably need more capacity is primarily the dynamics of the development of devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) category. It is predicted that the average household will soon have over a hundred smart devices – some of which will serve as bases for other connected items such as a refrigerator or TV. Such a solution was called Massive MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) – the client’s device connects to many transceivers simultaneously.

Due to the increasing number of devices available on the market, the necessary cumulative throughput should not be less than several dozen Gb / s, especially in those rooms where most devices are located. Such high performance should cope with the over 1000x increase in generated data expected by 2020.

Externally, the speed of several hundred MB / s should be satisfactory, which corresponds to the speed of the existing LTE-Advanced production networks. The new 5G feature will offer the industry less latency (or pings) to less than 1 millisecond.

Currently there is only one case that meets these criteria in practice: solutions to augmented reality (ang. Augmented Reality), and virtual reality (ang. Virtual Reality). And although we will not wear helmets like the Robocop, this technology has a much more advantageous application in telemedicine (it will allow doctors to remotely operate patients) or transport (management of autonomous cars).

Moreover, some argue that minimal latency is necessary to drive the so-called tactile Internet – this paradigm is that all applications are moved to the cloud and the user uses a thin device equipped with a touchscreen display that does not process any data locally.

This approach, apart from minimizing delays, also arouses interest in our industry due to data security. When they are stored exclusively in data centers, and only the display content is transmitted over a network connection, criminals cannot intercept them or steal the device.

One of the pillars of 5G mobile connectivity is security. However, apart from the visionary statements expressing the need for hardware-assisted data security, there are only a few well-engineered concepts. In addition, the industry discussion also covered the various predictable threats that the 5G era could bring.

Let’s take a closer look at ransomware – hackers are now able to block access to your files stored locally on your computer or mobile device. In the world of the Internet of Things, it is also possible, but it can have more real consequences . What would you say if you found out that you are unable to get into your home or office, or cannot open your car door because you have been the victim of a ransomware attack?

In addition, the increasing number of connected devices will facilitate the creation of DDoS botnets , making them even more widespread and more severe . Keep in mind that we’re talking about billions of newly connected devices – probably home gadgets for regular users, not seasoned administrators.

Moreover, the higher the transmission speed, the greater the chance that the scammer will successfully upload a small malicious code or instantly cover up the intercepted traffic.

Generally, modern 5G security concepts (including Nokia Mobile Guard, which is one of the best known solutions) are based on cloud computing. This makes sense considering most 5G devices will have fairly average computing power (at least initially). In other words, it would not be practical to create separate antivirus programs for each vacuum cleaner, light bulb or iron.

Therefore, security solutions will be based on the analysis of mobile data and SMS performed at the provider level. This analysis will help to identify the activity of malware or abnormalities in the behavior of the connected device.

From a security point of view, the big advantage of 5G technology is that it can finally eliminate Wi-Fi connectivity. High-speed mobile internet will be much better than older solutions, and what’s more – it will function better indoors than outdoors.

The disadvantages of Wi-Fi connectivity are mentioned quite often. First, it is a solution with a limited and uncontrolled frequency range, which leads to serious problems with interference and thus with the link capacity. Indoor devices that use the 2.4 GHz frequency band work poorly in large buildings, and our TVs, refrigerators and toasters are not yet connected to the network.

Second, the process of reconnecting the cellular network to the Wi-Fi network disrupts all of your device’s current sessions. Although the problem is almost resolved, the process itself is still slow and very often does not bring the expected completion.

Third, it gives cybercriminals great opportunities: encryption keys are easy to come by , and network traffic can be intercepted and used to create fake hotspots with the same SSID .

Finally, Wi-Fi offers public open discussion networks that are really only beneficial to cybercriminals, not their users. Let’s hope that the 5G standard will defend itself with its quality and bring a real change, noticeable for the average user.