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The newest standard for relaying mobile data is 5G. It will bring speed improvements, of course, but it will also enable new advanced forms of data transmission that weren’t ever possible before. This means that enterprises can’t just look to 5G for speedier downloads; there’s a more fundamental realignment that needs to take place if companies are to benefit from 5G.
Let’s consider how 5G will change the way we communicate, what industries it will impact and how to prepare for (and defend against) new security challenges that will emerge.
How 5G Changes Communication
With the help of 5G, connections between devices will be faster, substantially more scalable and have much lower latency, albeit not all at the same time. Broadly speaking, 5G employs three frequency bands: low, mid and high. Low-bandwidth offers slow but broad wireless connectivity, ideal for rural areas.
Mid-bandwidth offers improved connectivity speeds, as compared to 4G, at close range — formally known as eMBB, or enhanced mobile broadband. This is appropriate for most electronics that enterprise workers use. Additionally, mid-bandwidth connectivity enables mMTC, or massive machine-type communications. This means that hundreds of Internet of Things (IoT) devices can rely on 5G in a small space without overwhelming the infrastructure.
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High-bandwidth connectivity is perhaps the most exciting addition that 5G introduces. This opens the door to URLLC, or ultra-reliable, low-latency communications. With extremely low latency, this type of connection can make remote surgeries possible for medical professionals who could not previously rely on mobile technology and make rapid communication between self-driving cars much more logistically feasible, as well.
How 5G Will Impact Businesses
Any industry will benefit from faster data speeds, but there are a few specific industries in which 5G will have a transformative effect. Anyone in these industries should be aware of the promise of 5G as soon as possible, so they can implement it themselves.
Industries that rely on field workers performing remote tasks for extended periods of time will be immediately impacted by 5G. Faster data speeds will allow for faster communication between workers and managers, improving frontline worker productivity and safety. This will impact field service industry roles like repair technicians and industries like manufacturing that rely on physically intense warehouse work.
Low latency will be especially revolutionary in healthcare. When surgeons can remotely see low-latency 8K video feeds of a surgical site, they should be able to remotely perform surgery with no loss of control, similar to in-person procedures. For any of the millions of patients who have used telehealth services during the pandemic, 5G will also offer a smoother and faster connection, ensuring that appointments take place successfully.
While high-bandwidth cell towers have a very limited radius, they’ll revolutionize the field of transportation. Self-driving cars can relay and receive information from other cars rapidly through the use of URLLC, making their use safer than ever.
Security Challenges Of 5G Technology
A few key security concerns are inevitable consequences of the improvements 5G provides. For example, with a much greater amount of data being relayed per unit time, it’s more rewarding for thieves to attempt data exfiltration on 5G networks. Workers who have free reign over their devices can also download malware faster than before, which means businesses have no margin of error for irresponsible device use.
An increasing reliance on low-latency communications means that connection stability becomes non-negotiable. If URLLC is interrupted (on purpose or by accident), this could result in death in the context of surgery or remote driving.
As increasingly more devices communicate with each other, companies can automate many key processes. Unfortunately, automation magnifies pre-existing organizational flaws. If an organization has “blind spots” that no one is accountable for fixing, automation removes the chance someone will identify a key issue while on the job in person.
Also, most companies adapting to 5G will need to acquire a substantial amount of new equipment. This presents a logistical challenge, as the sheer amount of equipment required will take a long time to set up. This can result in careless mistakes that are hard to catch after the fact, and these oversights can end up causing major problems down the road.
In addition, many networks are currently making the transition from 4G to 5G. This means that the vulnerabilities that exist in 4G networks will carry over to 5G networks for as long as the transition period lasts.
How To Overcome 5G Security Challenges
The new 5G technology doesn’t fundamentally change what businesses must do to protect their assets — but it makes the room for error much smaller, and the consequences of failure much higher. Whether devices operate with 4G or 5G, it’s always important to control what users can do with work-owned devices. It’s also important to do a proof-of-concept before massively populating an office with IoT devices.
In addition, you’ll need to inspect your company’s personnel infrastructure — organizational “blind spots” are a bad actor’s dream when it comes to data exfiltration and the like. You should continue to monitor 4G-related vulnerabilities, too, as they could continue to affect legacy devices and networks.
As 5G devices become compatible with mobile device management software, it’s essential to manage them this way to keep devices safe. To protect the devices that will utilize 5G technology, you should find a device management solution that can scale with your organization’s needs. In particular, you should look for a solution that emphasizes IoT management.
While it may be frustrating, know that your business may receive poor 5G coverage if it’s in a rural area. It’s important to scale your expectations with the degree of 5G access you’re likely to have.
It’s important to understand that 5G is more than just an incremental improvement — it’s fundamentally transformative for many industries. By taking the time to secure 5G infrastructures, companies can position themselves to become leaders in the 5G era.