By now, almost everyone has heard about 5G; the next-gen cellular technology that promises to revolutionise our lives with better connectivity and faster downloads.
It is likely that you have seen the adverts with Kevin Bacon, demonstrating the power and reliability of 5G by landing planes at a regional airport from the comfort of a customer’s living room. You may also have read articles about how 5G is set to transform the financial services industry.
But, with an equal measure of hype and horror stories surrounding it, is 5G a game-changer or a security risk?
Before we can answer this question, we ought to consider a different one: why all the fuss about 5G in the first place?
4G arrived in the UK almost 10 years ago with far less concern around its implications for cybersecurity. So why is 5G generating more conversation?
Unlike its predecessors, 5G is not just faster, it is considerably different to the mobile networks we have seen so far.
One of the most significant differences from previous generations is the way the network is being built. 5G requires new radio hardware to deliver its incredible speed. To provide adequate coverage it uses smaller cells than its predecessor (the area being covered by a single cell tower) so more cell towers are required for the 5G networks.
What is different about 5G?
The headline change, however, is how the services that run over 5G are being built – it is about the software.
5G relies heavily on two technologies: software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV).
SDN allows operators to build more flexible and dynamic networks that can adapt to future requirements without the need to replace physical hardware, and NFV enables them to provide highly specific and customisable services for the many use cases of the network.
An example of its potential could be to support driverless cars. A 5G network operator can create a bespoke ‘slice’ of its network specifically to be used by driverless cars, with the desired features such as ultra-low latency (the amount of time it takes for data to go from one place to another), which can easily be adjusted if those requirements should change.
This would all be done within the software, without the need for any new, expensive hardware. The result: a car boasting a much faster reaction time in comparison to a human driver.
In financial services, 5G has the potential to improve customer experiences due to its greater bandwidth, enhanced network capabilities and ultra–low latency. It could help make communications faster, easier and ‘on the go’, wherever a client or their adviser may be.
Many businesses were forced to swiftly adopt to remote working practices at the start of the Covid pandemic and are familiar with the challenges and disruptions caused by remote technology failures.