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Mobile operators, prepare your 4G networks for 5G success

27 Mar 2019

5G is promising a new generation of revolutionary technologies and latency will be a thing of the past while 20Gbps will help speed things up to create more connections than ever before.

That’s the sentiment from A10 Networks regional VP of sales Adrian Taylor, who says that the move from 4G and LTE to 5G will be an ongoing journey rather than a set destination.

Mobile operators that don’t take advantage of the upcoming 5G revolution may end up being left behind by the early adopters – and it’s important to actively plan 5G migration to gain the competitive edge, Taylor says.

Operators should invest in upgrading their network management tools, particularly as the investment will come with payoffs and will set the foundation for fixed mobile convergence.

He believes that operators should concentrate their efforts on management and orchestration (MANO), which is an NFV framework that is designed for the management and orchestration of network functions and software components.

“MANO facilitates the deployment and connection of services as they are decoupled from dedicated physical devices and moved to virtual machines. Because network components can be deployed extremely quickly in virtual environments, MANO can reduce operational expenses by managing and orchestrating both resources and virtual network functions,” he says.

Because MANO works with physical network functions and virtual network functions, operators should consider the upgrade sooner rather than later, because the transition period would require both.

5G will also come with security risks as speed enables more connectivity across devices, sensors and thermostat, but it also enables larger DDoS attacks. 

“By increasing security at vital protection points, operators can not only defend their current 4G/LTE network against attacks but also ensure that their future 5G network is as secure as possible, too.”

Taylor says security upgrades cover four areas: 5G application layer security, DDoS protection, firewalls, and RAN security.

Taylor explains, “CGNAT can only provide security for specific scenarios. It was not designed as a firewall or security function, and some protocols are not serviced by CGNAT at all.”

“While the concept of GTP threats has long been acknowledged, recent incidents show that they are becoming a reality. GTP attacks continue to increase in frequency and devastation, requiring network operators to deploy countermeasures such as firewalls at the GRX/IPX interface.”

“Control plane security is equally important as user plane security because a successful attack on the control plane can bring down the entire network.

“Signalling storms can also occur on the control plane, often due to a faulty stack. Plus, some narrow-band IoT protocols use the control plane exclusively, which only increases the risk of DDoS attacks.”

Finally, Taylor recommends that operators should virtualise network functions from the core to the edge to make the most of their 4G and LTE networks while preparing for 5G.

Operators can use software-defined networking and network functions virtualisation tailored to their business, as every use case will be different.

“For example, PNFs are often ideal for use cases that require higher-scale, consistent latency and low costs, such as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB). By contrast, VNFs are usually a better choice for use cases that require both flexibility and portability, such as MEC.”

Different types of network adapters and kernel stacks often have specific latency and performance characteristics that must be supported by the VM. Operators must also understand the entire ecosystem to ensure virtualised functions are performing at peak levels.”

Taylor concludes by saying that the 5G transition will be ongoing, but doesn’t have to be messy if operators plan ahead to make the most of their networks while preparing for 5G.

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