5G is here now, and we are seeing new devices and networks being deployed rapidly, along with the continuing development of 5G testbeds and trials. 5G is an essential element of the UK’s digital fabric and the underpinning for the 4th Industrial Revolution which, if the UK grasps early will raise productivity and provide a comparative advantage.
But these networks also pose challenges. Firstly, the technical nature of them increases the attack surface for potential attacks. Secondly, the adoption of 5G by other parts of our Critical National Infrastructure will increase our reliance on such networks, and likely the attractiveness to attacking them by hostile actors.
To address these concerns, techUK convened an event (under Chatham House rule) that brought together Government, regulators, mobile operators, vendors, operators of private networks and cyber-security organisations to explore the opportunities of 5G and the challenges of ensuring its security and resilience.
A common concern amongst delegates was that 5G comes with greater complexity than 4G networks which in turn increases potential vulnerability for several reasons:
- The introduction of a new radio interface (5GNR), specifically designed and developed for 5G that will provide faster and more responsive mobile experience and extend mobile technology to connect and redefine multiple and innovative sectors. This completely new interface is different to any other previous networks.
- Network function virtulisation that allows network operators to manage and expand their network capabilities on demand using virtual, software-based applications where physical boxes once stood in the network architecture.
- Network slicing, allowing a 5G network to be sliced into multiple virtual networks that can support the multitude of use cases and services 5G will assist.
- More private network provision that is run by operators who have never run a cellular network before and with new vendors supplying them.
- An increase of cell sites, including indoor small cells
- An increase of “edge computing”
- The use of both traditional licensed spectrum, under control of the network operator and also unlicensed spectrum
- One way of mitigating the additional complexity of 5G is for greater collaborating on resilience issues between network operators and their vendors. In addition, Ofcom have also been given a bigger role in this.
Overview of the Telecoms Supply Chain Review - Kathryn Roe, Deputy Director - Policy, DCMS
How Ofcom is enabling secure and resilient networks – Huw Saunders, Director, Network Infrastructure - SITE, Ofcom
5G and Cyber Security – Antonella Faniuolo, Head Of Network Planning, Strategy & Optimisation, Vodafone
Slides not available
Technical solutions to the cyber challenge – Mark Hawkins, QinetiQ
5G networks increase resilience in terms of network slicing capability and SDN architecture, Neil McRae, Chief Architect, BT
Slides not available
Securing 5G from mast to manufacturing plant, Warren Dixon, Technical Marketing, Spirent
Panel Discussion and Close
Following the discussions from the event, techUK is bringing together its telecoms network operators, equipment vendors and system integrators together, along with its cyber security companies and Government participation including DCMS, Ofcom and NCSC to help formulate how the industry should respond to the Government’s Telecoms Supply Chain Review.
Covering both fixed and wireless infrastructure this member only group will meet under Chatham House rule to allow for an open exchange of information in order to determine best practice.
The first meeting of the working group will be a forum style meeting that will determine the key activities the group should pursue. The date of this working group is to be announced.
Members who would like to be involved in the working group, please contact: