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Experts Say U.S. Needs Tighter Security on 5G Components

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Screenshot from the webinar

February 8, 2021 – U.S. officials seeking to reduce the likelihood of security problems with the next-generation 5G network should look into network components that may include compromised technology from non-Chinese companies, an expert said at a conference late last month.

Alexi Maltas, senior vice president and general counsel at the Competitive Carriers Association, said at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration conference that there is a concern that non-Chinese built equipment contains Chinese components.

The issue is part of a larger concern about the 5G ecosystem that may require stringent standards to flush out the possible security problems.

Some experts have been calling for strict import standards for internet-of-things devices, which pose a number of hacking hazards because they often feature poor out-of-the-box security standards.

The NTIA conference, which addressed the advent of 5G and how to keep it secure, included reflections on global leaders in the next-generation network build and which countries are ahead on ensuring that their equipment is safe.

Gary Bolton, CEO of Fiber Broadband, said the United States government should invest in more research and development and enhance workforce education and training. Policy needs to address competitor countries that engage in unfair trade practices, he said. China’s fast adoption of 5G and similar technologies has caused U.S. carriers to have to deal with Chinese-built equipment issues and have voiced need for dialogue with the U.S. government over security threats.

The U.S. has already moved to hamper Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country’s 5G future. But weeding out Chinese influence will go beyond the visible branding of those alleged spy threats and into what’s underneath the hood that makes it way along the supply chain.

If it’s suspected that carrier equipment is tainted, then the industry and government need to take steps to identify security threats from China, said Tamber Ray, regulatory counsel for the Rural Broadband Association.

Information sharing needs to go two ways, she said: From government to industry and industry to government. If equipment appears “off,” or suspicious, the issue can be resolved sooner than later.

5G architecture requires standards

Another threat to 5G is the architecture, said Edna Conway, vice president of global security, risk and compliance, for Azure at Microsoft. Threats to architecture come in the form of counterfeit components in the supply chain, she said.

To address these security concerns,  government agencies can push out standard guidance or preferably, standard software configuration security networks, she added.

Eric Wenger, senior director in global government affairs at Cisco, said that some threats stem from the openness of 5G. To resolve this concern, he proposed more research on the subject would improve our understanding on how open interfaces impact risk and what steps would be useful to mitigate them.

The U.S. has a strong semiconductor ecosystem with strong operators, but it needs to add more 5G providers because 5G is no longer a telecommunications technology—it has a big overlay with the mobile edge and computing technologies, said John Roese, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Dell.

5G

5G Connected Traffic Structures Will Facilitate Safer, Environmentally Friendly Travel: Industry

The release of more spectrum will help move autonomous vehicles forward.

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Screenshot of Joe Moye, CEO of Beep

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2022 – 5G-connected street infrastructure, such as traffic lights, will make commuter travel environmentally friendly and safe, said a panel at a Punchbowl News event Thursday, and it can be facilitated by the release of more spectrum.

The move toward autonomous vehicles will require vehicles and road structures communicating with each other. Some vehicles on the road include sensors that detect objects to avoid collisions – but these vehicles still require someone behind the wheel.

Nick Ludlum, senior vice president and chief communications officer of the event’s sponsor, CTIA, spoke about the environmental benefits of autonomous transportation and said vehicles and road systems can “all work together…to make more efficient transit patterns…so people aren’t sitting and idling in cars with, [producing] all the emissions.”

But Ludlum noted that the Federal Communications Commission can facilitate such autonomous travel by auctioning off more spectrum. “More spectrum means better networks, and better networks means bigger innovations,” he said.

Joe Moye, CEO of autonomous transportation company Beep, said that his company’s specialty is autonomous shuttles – with capacities of 12–14 passengers.

“The vehicles have to interface with infrastructure like a human would,” said. Beep’s CEO argued that 5G-enabled real-time communication between vehicle and infrastructure is “absolutely critical to the safety and effectiveness of these types of vehicles.” Moye also explained that with 5G technology, Beep is developing systems by which a remote operator can take control of an autonomous vehicle and maneuver it out of an emergency.

Moye said he believes that adoption of autonomous mass transit could also significantly reduce commute-driven emissions.

“If we’re gonna really transform mobility as we know it,” Moye said, “we need to have a convenient, safe alternative to our personal vehicles.”

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Open Radio Access Networks Can Save Energy, Say Panelists at Industry Summit

Broadband players in both the fiber marketplace and 5G space are pushing for energy-efficient networks.

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Screenshot of Paul Challoner, vice president of Network Product Solutions at Ericsson

September 8, 2022 – Open radio access networks allow administrators to utilize software that save energy, said Paul Challoner, vice president of Network Product Solutions for Ericsson, at Fierce Wireless’ Open RAN Summit on Wednesday.

Radio access networks connect personal devices – such as phones and computers – to core networks through radio waves. Open RANs’ components, unlike those of traditional RANs, are “interoperable” – a single network can function with pieces made by different manufacturers.

A crucial part of an Open RAN is the RAN Intelligent Control, a software component which enables users to obtain and run native as well as third-party software.

For instance, to eliminate energy waste during periods of light traffic, these sophisticated controls employ artificial intelligence software to direct signals to designated base stations only . This allows other base stations to hibernate. Traditional RANs lack the software capacity of O-RANs and therefore must run all base stations at all times.

Energy initiatives across telecom industry

Elsewhere in the telecom industry, broadband players are pushing for energy-efficient networks as well. Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks regularly calls for sustainable, net-zero carbon emissions. “We must continue to find ways to do more while using less,” he said in June.

Additionally, the Fiber Broadband Association recently released a report that found that fiber to the home technology creates less CO2 than either DSL or cable broadband. What’s more, the report found that since FTTH users are disproportionately likely to work from home, FTTH also results in less commute-driven CO2 emissions.

O-RAN as a 5G player

Many believe that open RAN technology will play a substantial role in creating an alternative to proprietary telecommunications equipment. As concerns mount about Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei – including its connections to the Chinese Communist Party –O-RAN has emerged as a viable alternative to provide 5G coverage.

To safeguard O-RAN networks, networks must employ a bottom-to-top approach to cybersecurity, said Douglas Gardner, chief technologist for the Analog Devices’ CTO Office Security Center of Excellence, at Wednesday’s Open RAN Summit. Gardner argued that every part of the network – down to the chip level – must be constructed with potential cyberthreats in mind.

Ultimately, Gardner believes that expensive up-front investments in cybersecurity prevent far more expensive breaches down the road: “Good security costs vendors money. Get over it.”

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David Flower: 5G and Hyper-Personalization: Too Much of a Good Thing?

5G, IoT and edge computing are giving companies the opportunity to make hyper-personalization even more ‘hyper’.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is David Flower, CEO of Volt Active Data

It’s very easy for personalization to backfire and subtract value instead of add it.

Consider the troubling fact that we may be arriving at a moment in hyper-personalization’s journey where the most hyper-personalized offer is no offer at all. Nobody likes to be constantly bombarded by content, personalized or not.

And that’s the paradox of hyper-personalization: if everyone’s doing it, then, in a sense, nobody is.

5G and related technologies such as IoT and edge computing are giving companies the opportunity to make hyper-personalization even more “hyper” via broader bandwidths and the faster processing of higher volumes of data.

This means we’re at a very interesting inflection point: where do we stop? If the promise of 5G is more data, better data, and faster data, and the result is knowing our customers even better to bug them even more, albeit in a “personal” way, when, where, and why do we say, “hold on—maybe this is going too far.”?

How do you do hyper-personalization well in a world where everyone else is doing it and where customers are becoming increasingly jaded about it and worried about how companies are using their data?

Let’s first look at what’s going wrong.

Hyper-personalization and bad data

Hyper-personalization is very easy to mess up, and when you do mess it up it has the exact opposite of its intended effect: it drives customers away instead of keeping them there.

Consider an online ad for a product that pops up for you on a website a couple days after you already bought the thing being advertised for. This is what I call “noise”. It’s simply a nuisance, and the company placing that ad—or rather, the data platform they’re using to generate the algorithms for the ads—should already know that the person has already bought this item and hence present not a “repeat offer” but an upsell or cross-sell offer.

This sounds rudimentary in the year 2022 but it’s still all too common, and you’re probably nodding your head right now because you’ve experienced this issue.

Noise usually comes from what’s known as bad data, or dirty data. Whatever you want to call it—it pretty much ruins the customer experience.

Hyper-personalization and slow data

The second major issue is slow data, which is any data being used way too slowly to be valuable, which usually includes data that has to the trip to the data warehouse before it can be incorporated into any decisions.

Slow data is one of the main reasons edge computing was invented: to be able to process data as closely to where it’s ingested as possible in order to use it before it loses any value.

Slow data produces not-so-fun customer experiences such as walking half a mile to your departure gate at the airport, only to find that the gate has been changed, and then, after you’ve walked the half mile back to where you came from, getting a text message on your phone from the airline saying your gate has been changed.

Again, whatever you want to call it—latency, slow data, annoying—the end result is a bad customer experience.

How to fix the hyper-personalization paradox

I have no doubt that the people who invented hyper-personalization had great intentions: make things as personal as possible so that your customers pay attention, stay happy, and stay loyal.

And for a lot of companies, for a long time, it worked. Then came the data deluge. And the regulations. And the jaded customers. We’re now at a stage where we need to rethink how we do personalization because the old ways are no longer effective.

It’s easy—and correct—to blame legacy technology for all of this. But the solution goes deeper than just ripping and replacing. Companies need to think holistically about all sides of their tech stacks to figure out the simplest way to get as much data as possible from A to B.

The faster you can process your data the better. But it’s not all just about speed. You also need to be able to provide quick contextual intelligence to your data so that every packet is informed by all of the packets that came before it. In this sense, your tech stack should be a little like a great storyteller: someone who knows what the customer needs and is feeling at any given moment, because it knows what’s happened up to this point and how it will affect customer decisions moving forward.

Let’s start thinking of our customer experiences as stories and our tech stacks as the storytellers—or maybe, story generators. Maybe then our personalization efforts will become truly ‘hyper-personal’— i.e., relevant, in-the-moment experiences that are a source of delight instead of annoyance.

David Flower brings more than 28 years of experience within the IT industry to the role of CEO of Volt Active Data. Flower has a track record of building significant shareholder value across multiple software sectors on a global scale through the development and execution of focused strategic plans, organizational development and product leadership. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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