Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are set to invest billions of dollars over the next several years to build 5G networks. What differentiates 5G from previous generations of mobile technology evolutions (2G to 3G, 3G to 4G) is the opportunity to enable new and transformative enterprise use cases. Whether it be leveraging 5G for on-site factory automation, self-driving cars, remote surgery, or any number of centrally or remotely deployed massive IoT use cases, 5G creates opportunity to build new enterprise services that simply aren’t possible with today’s technology.
Industry digitization will generate an estimated US$619 billion in new revenue opportunity for telecom operators by 2026. MNOs that gain most from 5G will be those that look well beyond the construction of faster networks and work to differentiate themselves with disruptive business models around the enablement of this massive industry transformation. Building differentiated 5G networks will be critical. Enabling network security capabilities for industries will be the fundamental differentiator for these MNOs.
One of the defining features of 5G networks that MNOs will look to leverage for enabling industry transformation is their ability to serve up custom “slices” of their 5G networks to individual enterprise customers. These will be configured end to end across the mobile core, transport, and radio access network (RAN) domains and operate as “virtual 5G enterprise networks” with each slice being uniquely tailored to suit the requirements of specific verticals and/or enterprise applications. Organizations across multiple industries will leverage 5G network slices to roll out transformative business applications and will require multilayered security functions when configuring these slices.
MNOs will have the opportunity to become “secure business enablers” in this 5G world by delivering real value beyond connectivity. The potential here is that organizations don’t select from a fixed menu of network slicing options handed down to them by the operator. Instead, organizations could have the means to reach into the 5G network themselves and self-provision their own customized and secure network slices. Advanced network security capabilities will differentiate one MNO from the next and also enable the MNO to build value-based 5G business models.
Becoming a premium provider of 5G network slices requires a new security approach for the operator that allows them to build brand equity over time while protecting their own network. Organizations will need to trust that their sensitive data and applications are protected in the 5G operator’s network. Likewise, the operator needs to be able to trust that the rest of its network resources – and its obligations to other customers – are fully protected against misuse by any one enterprise user.
In the initial phase of network slice offerings, organizations will require a universal security framework that ensures the total isolation of network slices from one another. They will also require an initial menu of security features with the slice that they buy. Subsequent evolutions in network slicing will require additional security features and greater flexibility in the way different security features can be attached to a given slice. But they will require a lot more than that, too. Whether it’s in the cloud, on their own premises, or in a telecom operator’s cloud or 5G slice, organizations increasingly want an end-to-end security posture in which global as well as local threat intelligence and behavioral analytics are shared across their estate of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. This requires MNOs to build their networks with a security architecture that is highly automated, software-driven, and allowing of security instances to be spun up anywhere in the network with consistent capabilities being deployed where needed.
Organizations will focus heavily on the network security that is offered and tied to their 5G applications as a critical factor in their selection of service and/or slice provider. But they will look beyond that, too. In addition to the isolation that’s provided between slices and the security features attached to their slice, organizations will take into account a 5G operator’s broader security posture across the whole of its network. In a 5G environment in which new applications, devices, and cyberthreats are growing exponentially, the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of a network slice will be easier to defend in a 5G network that is subject to the very highest levels of overall cybersecurity hygiene.
For telecom operators, there is an estimated 36% of new addressable revenue growth on the line from the potential digitization of industries with 5G. Differentiated 5G networks will hold the key to success in capturing this market opportunity. Security is the key differentiator.
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Palo Alto Networks: A New Approach for 5G Security