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Introduction to 3GPP and 3GPP 5G Releases 15, 16 and 17

5G 3GPP Release Timeline

In a major milestone for 5G, 3GPP finalized the Release 16 in July – its second set of specifications for 5G New Radio (NR) technology. As a second article in my series of 5G 101 articles, this is a good opportunity to review the 3GPP process and major 5G-related technical specification releases. As well as to clarify some misconceptions about the 5G development process.

This article provides an overview of what is 3GPP and its importance. It also explains the Releases related to 5G including Release 15, 16 and 17. The focus will be on 3GPP Release 16 and 17.

Release 16 was completed on July 3, 2020 with the slight delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, 3GPP Release 17 expected in 2021, although 3GPP announced that the Release is “at high risk of being delayed,” citing the switch from physical to virtual meetings.

5G 3GPP Release Timeline

Introducing 3GPP

The common misunderstanding is that 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Project) is a “standardization body”. On the contrary, 3GPP only develops and maintains global technical specifications with the objective to make sure that network equipment and handset manufacturers can develop products that are interoperable all over the world. 3GPP is a collaborative activity between well-established regional standard organizations. The 7 telecommunications standard development organizations (or 3GPP’s Organizational Partners) use these specifications to create the standards.

3GPP Organizational Partners and their Role

The 3GPP organizational partners or standard development organizations include:3GPP Partners

  1. ARIB – The Association of Radio Industries and Businesses, Japan
  2. ATIS – The Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, USA
  3. CCSA – China Communications Standards Association
  4. ETSI – The European Telecommunications Standards Institute
  5. TSDSI – Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India
  6. TTA – Telecommunications Technology Association, Korea
  7. TTC – Telecommunication Technology Committee, Japan

The role of these standardization bodies is to:

  • Approve and maintain the 3GPP scope;
  • Maintain the Partnership Project Description
  • Decide the creation or cessation of Technical Specification Groups:
    • Approve their scope and terms of reference;
  • Approve Organizational Partner funding requirements
  • Allocate human and financial resources to the Project Co-ordination Group
  • Act as a body of appeal on procedural matters referred to them

Cellular Technology Evolution from 2G to 5G

The Figure 1 shows the evolution of technology from GSM/CDMA (2G) to EDGE/WCDMA/1xEVDO (3G).

While ETSI specified GSM/EDGE/WCDM and HSPA, TIA specified the CDMA evolution. There were a multitude of standardization bodies, by Rel. 8 they all converged to on global standard called “LTE”. The critical driver for the convergence was Verizon’s choice to go with LTE vs. other Radio Specifications (e.g. 1xEVDO Rev. B, and WiMax). Going forward 3GPP defined the specifications which lead to the definition of 5G in 2017.

Evolution of cellular standards and 5G
Figure 1: Evolution of cellular standards and 5G

The 3GPP Release Schedule

The 3GPP release schedule since 2000 and is shown in the following table along with brief release details.

3GPP 5G Release Schedule
Table 1: 3GPP 5G Release Schedule

The 3GPP Specification

The 3GPP specification covers the “GSM” family of cellular telecommunications technologies, including:

  • radio access
  • core network and
  • service capabilities

The 3GPP specification provides a complete system description for mobile telecommunications and also provide connectivity for non-radio access to the core network and interworking with non-3GPP networks. The three Technical Specification Groups (TSG) in 3GPP are:

  1. Radio Access Networks (RAN)
  2. Core Network & Terminals (CT)
  3. Services & Systems Aspects (SA)
3GPP 5G Technical Specification Groups
Figure 2: 3GPP 5G Technical Specification Groups

The Global Reach of 3GPP

The power of 3GPP is that it defines the specification used by 6 Billion+ mobile subscribers worldwide in 2020. This subscriber base will continue to grow at a dramatic pace as illustrated in the Ericsson Mobility Report:

Mobile subscriptions in millions
Figure 3: Mobile subscriptions in millions

One reason for the spectacular adoption of the 3GPP technical specification is the “collaborative approach”. It is global system engineering project. Participants including vendors and operators participate in the creation of the specification from initial R&D till the final product according to the specification. The ideas are taken to the body for approval, which translate into a study item, followed by work items that result in the technical specification.

3GPP 5G working procedures and processes
Figure 4: 3GPP 5G working procedures and processes

What are Requirements on the 5G Spec

5G is defined by a set of requirements that enable a set of use scenarios. These use cases depicted the following figure from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) defined as IMT-2020:

5G usage scenarios
Figure 5: 5G usage scenarios

Release 15 Recap

Release 15 focus is Enhanced Mobile Broadband and therefore all features are geared towards enabling

  • NR “New Radio” & The 5G System – Phase 1
  • Massive MTC and Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Vehicle-to-Everything Communications (V2x) Phase 2
  • Mission Critical (MC) interworking with legacy systems
  • WLAN and unlicensed spectrum
  • Slicing – logical end-2-end networks
  • API Exposure – 3rd party access to 5G services
  • Service Based Architecture (SBA)
  • Further LTE improvements
  • Mobile Communication System for Railways (FRMCS)

The major characteristics of 5 NR, Release 15 i.e. Phase 1 that enable eMBB (10Gbps – 20 Gbps) include:

  • Ultra-wide bandwidth (Up to 100MHz in <6GHz, Up to 400MHz in >6GHz)
  • Set of different numerologies for optimal operation in different frequency ranges
  • Native forward compatibility mechanisms
  • New channel coding
  • Native support for Low Latency and Ultra Reliability
  • Flexible and modular RAN architecture: split fronthaul, split control- and user-plane
  • Native end-to-end support for Network Slicing

The NR Phase 1 characteristics compared to LTE are summarized in the following table:

5G NR Phase 1 and LTE characteristics comparison
Table 2: 5G NR Phase 1 and LTE characteristics comparison

Release 16 Features

Release 16 was just completed.

The major focus in Release 16 is to enabling Ultra reliable low latency for mission critical applications.

  • The 5G System Phase 2
  • Enhancement of Ultra-Reliable (UR) Low Latency Communications (URLLC)
  • Cellular IoT support and evolution
  • Advanced V2X support
  • 5G Location and Positioning Services
  • UE radio capability signaling optimization
  • Enablers for Network Automation Architecture for 5G
  • Wireless and Wireline Convergence Enhancement
  • Mission Critical, Public Warning, Railways and Maritime
  • Streaming and TV
  • User Identities, Authentication, multi-device (Network) Slicing

From a business angle, Release 16 enables applications for new vertical industries and deployment scenarios.

  • Integrated access and backhaul (IAB)
  • NR in unlicensed spectrum
  • Features for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and ultra-reliable low latency communication (URLLC)
  • Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and vehicle-to-anything (V2X) communications
  • Positioning

Release 16 and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication

The building blocks of 5G that enable URLLC include:

  • Low Latency: NR
    • enables shorter slots in a radio subframe
    • introduces a “mini-slot”; prioritized transmissions are started without waiting for slot boundaries
  • Time Synchronization: The radio network components
  • Resource Management; NR introduces:
    • Preemption – where URLLC data transmission can preempt ongoing non-URLLC transmissions
    • Fast processing, enabling retransmissions even within short latency bounds
  • Reliability
    • Via extra-robust transmission modes for both data and control radio channels
Figure 6: 5G URLLC

5G URLLC is a good match for IEEE standard defined for Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) which is a valuable candidate for industrial automation.

Release 17 Features

In 2020 Release 17 is mostly study items (Sis).

3GPP Release 17 study items
Figure 7: 3GPP Release 17 study items

Study items for Release 17

NR up to 71 GHz (extend the current NR waveform up to 71 GHz) and to explore new and more efficient waveforms for the 52.6 – 71 GHz band

NR NB-IoT/eMTC: The objective is to develop cost-effective devices with capabilities that lie between the full-featured NR and Low Power Wireless Access (e.g., NB-IoT). For example, devices that support 10s or 100 Mbps speed vs. multi-Gigabit, etc. The typical use cases are wearables, Industrial IoT (IIoT), and others.

XR – The objective of this is to evaluate and adopt improvements that make 5G even better suited for AR, VR, and MR. It includes evaluating distributed architecture harnessing the power of edge-cloud and device capabilities to optimize latency, processing, and power.

Non-Terrestrial Network (NTN) support for NR & NB-IoT/eMTC– A typical NTN is the satellite network. The objective is to address verticals such as Mining and Agriculture, which mostly lie in remote areas, as well as to enable global asset management, transcending contents and oceans.

Perfecting items introduced in Release 16

Rel. 16 was a short release with an aggressive schedule. It improved upon Rel. 15 and brought in some new concepts. Rel 17 is aiming to make those new concepts well rounded.

Integrated Access & Backhaul – Enable cost-effective and efficient deployment of 5G by using wireless for both access and backhaul, for example, using relatively low-cost and readily available millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum in IAB mode for rapid 5G deployment. Such an approach is especially useful in regions where fiber is not feasible (hilly areas, emerging markets).

Positioning – Achieve centimeter-level accuracy, based only on cellular connectivity, especially indoors. This is a key feature for wearables, IIoT, and Industry 4.0 applications.  Lead – CATT (NYU)

Sidelink – Expand use cases from V2X-only to public safety, emergency services, and other handset-based applications by reducing power consumption, reliability, and latency. Lead – LG

IIoT and URLLC – Evaluate and adopt any changes that might be needed to use the unlicensed spectrum for these applications and use cases.

Fine tuning features introduced in Release 15

Rel. 15 introduced 5G. Its primary focus was enabling enhanced Broadband (eMBB). Rel. 16 enhanced many of eMBB features, and Rel. 17 is now trying to optimize them even further, especially based on the learnings from the early 5G deployments.

Further enhanced MIMO – FeMIMO – This improves the management of beamforming and beamsteering and reduces associated overheads.

Multi-Radio Dual Connectivity – MRDC – Mechanism to quickly deactivate unneeded radio when user traffic goes down, to save power.

Dynamic Spectrum Sharing – DSS– DSS had a major upgrade in Rel 16. Rel 17 is looking to facilitate better cross-carrier scheduling of 5G devices to provide enough capacity when their penetration increases.

Coverage Extension– Since many of the spectrum bands used for 5G will be higher than 4G (even in Sub 6 GHz), this will look into the possibility of extending the coverage of 5G to balance the difference between the two.

Along with these, there were many other SI and WIs, including Multi-SIM, RAN Slicing, Self-Organizing Networks, QoE Enhancements, NR-Multicast/Broadcast, UE power saving, etc., was adopted into Rel. 17.

The following graphic courtesy Qualcomm illustrates the important enhancements in Rel. 17:

3GPP Release 17 - Enhanced eMBB
Figure 8: 3GPP Release 17 – Enhanced eMBB

Does the positive review of Huawei UDG source code quality mean that Huawei 5G is secure and reliable?

Huawei ERNW 5G Source Code Analysis

No, no it doesn’t. Huawei’s code might as well be extremely secure. Their code is certainly the most scrutinized. But the recent UDG source code review is not an evidence of security.

ERNW, an independent IT security service provider in Germany, recently performed a technical review / audit of Huawei’s Unified Distributed Gateway (UDG) source code. Huawei made the summary report available here [PDF].

The review focused on the quality of the source code and the source code management practices. The report is overall positive and showed that Huawei has significantly improved its software engineering processes. At least for the UDG product.

It’s a welcome improvement. Huawei deserves some recognition for improving their software engineering practices. A year ago UK government’s Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) issued a report that “revealed serious and systematic defects in Huawei’s software engineering and cyber security competence”.

Based on the positive report by ERNW, Huawei has mounted a PR campaign implying that the report is a proof of their 5G core network being secure and reliable.

Dozens contacted me over the last few days asking what this report really means. Here’s my $0.02.

This discussion is purely from the software engineering and cybersecurity perspectives. And based only on the publicly available ERNW summary report. I am not offering any opinions on the whole Huawei controversy here or on the 5G and COVID-19 conspiracy theory.

Audit coverage

The ERNW’s technical review scope was the code base of UDG 20.2.0 5G.

UDG is just one of many 5G-related products within Huawei’s Cloud Core Network product line. And only one version was tested.

Huawei’s Cloud Core Network product line comprises several product groups. 5G Core product group consists of 5G Core, UNC, UDM, UPCF and UDG. Other product groups within the Cloud Core Network include CS&IMS, Mobile Packet Core, SDM, SmartPCC, Signalling, SEQ Analyst, SingleOSS-CN and others—each with several individual products. To make things more complex, there are also products within other product lines that a telco would consider if they implement 5G SA with Huawei products.

Extrapolating the positive UDG source code quality finding to security and reliability of the whole of 5G core gear is like saying that one cashier drawer in a bank has a placeholder for an advanced lock, therefore the entire bank is secure.

The source code in scope of this audit contained approximately 30 million lines of code (LOC). While LOC is a silly metric, to give you an indication – it is similar in size to the Microsoft Office for Mac code base, i.e. it’s massive.

Consider the size of the code base of just this one product and the fact that each of these dozens of products are constantly being developed and you’ll understand why I’ve been arguing for years that Huawei source code reviews as undertaken by some governments are not a feasible approach to evaluating the security of the 5G gear.

McCabe cyclomatic complexity

ERNW analyzed the source code complexity using the industry-accepted approach—by measuring McCabe’s cyclomatic complexity. It’s a quantitative measure of a number of linearly independent paths through a program and can indicate the complexity of a program. Higher value makes the program more difficult to understand and maintain.

ERNW set the threshold value for cyclomatic complexity as 100 based on “industry best practices”. For the UDG 5G components the average complexity per file was calculated at 90.284 demonstrating that on average the source code complexity is below the threshold.

The Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University defines four ranges for cyclomatic complexity based on an industry-accepted way of calculating the complexity. Cyclomatic complexity values below 10 represent low inherent execution and maintainability risk. Values of over 50 represent an untestable program with a very high risk.

Without understanding the non-SEI ERNW’s cyclomatic complexity metric, how they calculated the total cyclomatic complexity, and how they defined the threshold, I can’t comment on the result other than saying:

5G is a mission-critical and safety-critical system. Its cyclomatic complexity should be much closer to 0 than being barely below an “industry best-practice” threshold. (Unless ERNW took the “industry” to mean avionics, aerospace, medical, weapons sytems, nuclear, or automotive domains.)

Cyclomatic complexity is correlated with security, but only indirectly. A complex system would be harder to understand and maintain, which would make it more time consuming to find and fix vulnerabilities. It also might make it easier to introduce vulnerabilities. But that’s all.

Code duplication

ERNW found code duplication to be 2.2% on average. Which is a relatively good result. For an average business software, but it might still be too much for a critical software.

Some code duplication is normal. I would even argue that excessive DRYing (“Don’t Repeat Yourself”) of a code could impact readability, and therefore failing to meet the objective of DRY.

However, in this case 2.2% of the 30 million LOC means that there is 660,000 LOC with higher risk. If a fix to a vulnerability includes editing any of those 660,000 LOC, the developer would have to track down the duplicate and repeat the edit.

While code duplication, like cyclomatic complexity, degrades the maintainability of the code base it is also only indirectly correlated to security.

Code duplication also should not be reduced to a single number with no other comments. There is a significant difference in risks depending on what kind of code is being duplicated. The summary report says nothing about it.

Unsafe Functions

Auditors found that Huawei is putting right processes in place to reduce the use of unsafe functions and are avoiding them extensively. They did, however, found some usage of unsafe functions that they recommended to be reduced. Without knowing more details, I can only say—the tested code uses some unsafe functions for now. Use of unsafe functions is one of the highest cybersecurity related risks in software engineering.

Unit testing

Auditors found that representative unit test cases were technically suitable and recommended the test coverage to be increased to 75%. Here ERNW again seems to set target thresholds based on average business systems, not critical systems.

My take: Below 75% unit testing coverage for components with high value functionality is not adequate even for an average business system, let alone for a mission-critical or a safety-critical system.

Variant analysis of the course code

Variant analysis means that ERNW used bad patterns they found in the source code and use it as a seed to look for other similar problems in the code.

From the report: “The variant analysis identified additional bad patterns.

Dynamic analysis

In the dynamic analysis phase the auditors would use a fuzzing approach to subject a running code to a variety of inputs, boundary conditions, etc. The auditors found positive test cases with either crashes or undefined states. ERNW summarized the findings as: “The results are common for projects with similar characteristics in terms of complexity and size of the code base”.

My take is that 5G core component’s source code quality shouldn’t be compared with the quality of an average software product, but with those of mission-critical and safety-critical systems.

Build process and open-source lifecyle management

The last part of the summary report looked at the build process and open-source lifecycle management. Conclusion summaries from the report:

  • Secure Compilation Options: The binaries are compiled comprehensively with secure compilation options.
  • Binary Equivalence: All binaries are built with binary equivalence. Overall, an acceptable amount of binary equivalence is achieved.
  • Only minor improvements for the open-source lifecycle management were recommended. From the auditor’s perspective the separation of the code, the handling, documentation and patch management are reasonable and meet all requirements of a state-of-the-art open-source lifecycle management.

My conclusion

  • The test covered only a small subset of 5G core.
  • Few positive source code quality findings only indirectly correlate with security.
  • The approach and the aim of the audit did not cover source code analysis from the secure code perspective nor the review of secure software engineering practices.
  • This report can’t tell us conclusively anything about the UDG security, let alone about Huawei’s 5G core security.

IoT Wireless Protocols – Speed & Range – Spreadsheet

IoT Protocols Speed Range

IoT Wireless Protocols - Speed & Range

wdt_ID Wireless technology / standard Data Rate Approximate Range
1 5G Low-band 5G (600 - 700 MHz) giving download speeds a little higher than 4G at the moment: 30-250 Mbps. Mid-band 5G (2.5-3.7 GHz) currently allowing speeds of 100-900 Mbps. High-band 5G (25 - 39 GHz and higher frequencies up to 80GHz) achieves, at the mom Range is correlated with frequency bands - low band 5G has similar range to 4G (tens of kilometers), Mid-band 5G has several km range. High-band 5G has hundreds of meters up to 1.5 km range.
2 ANT+ Alliance 12.8 Kbit/s - 60kbit/s ≈ 30m
3 Bluetooth ≈ 2Mbps ≈ 50m
4 BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) or Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 5, 4.2) <1Mbps ≈ (n x 100kbps) ≈ 100m
5 GSM/GPRS/EDGE (2G), UMTS/HSPA (3G), LTE (4G) Typical download: 35-170kps (GPRS), 120-384kbps (EDGE), 384Kbps-2Mbps (UMTS), 600kbps-10Mbps (HSPA), 3-10Mbps (LTE) ≈ 35km max for GSM and ≈ 200km max for HSPA
6 IEEE 802.15.4 ≈ 20 kbps and 40 kbps (BPSK ), ≈ 250 kbps (O-QPSK with DSSS) ≈ 100m
7 ISA100.11a ≈ 250 kbps ≈ 100m
8 6LoWPAN ≈ 250 kbps ≈ 100m
9 LoRaWAN ≈ 0.3-50 kbps ≈ 15km
10 EC-GSM-IoT 70 kbps (GSMK), 240 kbps (8PSK) ≈ 15km
11 LTE-MTC Cat 0 ≈ 1 Mbps Range is variable and depends on frequency bands, propagation conditions etc. typically it is ≈ 10km
12 LTE-M (Cat M1, Cat M2 ) - eMTC LTE-M Cat M1 ≈ 1 Mbps LTE-M Cat M2 ≈ 4 Mbps DL / ≈ 7 Mbps UL Range is variable and depends on frequency bands, propagation conditions etc. typically it is ≈ 10km
13 NB-IoT - Narrowband-IoT (LTE Cat NB1 and LTE Cat NB2) LTE Cat NB1 ≈ 66 kbps (multi-tone) and ≈ 16.9 Kbit/s (single-tone) LTE Cat NB2 ≈ 159kbps Range is variable and depends on frequency bands, propagation conditions etc. typically it is better than LTE-M coverage.
14 Neul up to 100kbps ≈ 10km
15 NFC 106kbps, 212kbps, 424kbps ≈ 10cm
16 RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) 100kb ≈ 70km
17 IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Different data rates are enabled in IEEE 802.11 family of standards and their theoretical throughput is 11 Mbps ( IEEE 802.11b), 54 Mbps (IEEE 802.11a and IEEE 802.11g), 100 Mbps (IEEE 802.11n) or 300 Mbps (IEEE 802.11ac). ≈ 50m
18 IEEE 802.11ah (Wi-Fi HaLow ) 347Mbps ≈ 900m
19 IEEE 802.16 (WiMax) 40Mbit/s - mobile, 1 Gbit/s - fixed ≈ 50km
20 HART 250 kbps ≈ 200m
21 Z-Wave 40kbps (915MHz) and 20kbps (868MHz) 30-100m
22 ZigBee 250 kbps (2.4GHz) 40kbps (915MHz) 20kbps (868MHz) 30-100m
23 Thread 250kbps ≈ 30m
24 DigiMesh 250 kbps (2.4) 40kbps (915) 20kbps (868) ≈ 100m
25 MiWi 20kbps ≈ 300m
26 EnOcean 125kbps ≈ 30m (outdoor 300m)
27 Weightless (W, N, P) ≈ 600bps-100kbps ≈ 2km (P), 5km (W, N)
28 mcThings 50kbps ≈ 200m
29 LoRa 50kbps ≈ 30km
30 SIGFOX 600bps ≈ 40km
31 DECT ULE 1Mbps ≈ 300m
32 Insteon 38400bps - via RF 13165bps - via powerlines ≈ 50m
33 RFID 4kbps - 640kbps (depending on the active or passive type of device and frequency range). 0.01m-10m (depending on the frequency range)
34 WAVIoT (NB-Fi - Narrowband Fidelity) 10-100bps ≈ 50km
35 DASH7 Alliance Protocol (D7A or D7AP) 167kbps ≈ 2km
36 Wi-SUN 300kbps ≈ 1000m
37 Wavenis 9.6kbps (433 & 868MHz) / 19.2kbps (915MHz) ≈ 1000m
38 MiOTY 407 bps ≈ 20km
Wireless technology / standard Data Rate Approximate Range

IoT Wireless Protocols – Spreadsheet

IoT Protocols Speed Range

IoT Wireless Protocols

wdt_ID Wireless technology / standard Organization that manages the technology / standard URL of the organization URL of the standard specification Frequency Approximate Range Data Rate Power Draw Topology Requires hub or gateway Proprietary or Open Intended Use Security Common use Comments
1 5G 3GPP https://www.3gpp.org/ https://www.3gpp.org/dynareport/SpecList.htm?release=Rel-15&tech=4 Low-band 5G 600 - 700 MHz /Mid-band 5G 2.5-3.7 GHz / High-band 5G 25 - 39 GHz and higher frequencies up to 80GHz Range is correlated with frequency bands - low band 5G has similar range to 4G (tens of kilometers), Mid-band 5G has several km range. High-band 5G has hundreds of meters up to 1.5 km range. Low-band 5G (600 - 700 MHz) giving download speeds a little higher than 4G at the moment: 30-250 Mbps. Mid-band 5G (2.5-3.7 GHz) currently allowing speeds of 100-900 Mbps. High-band 5G (25 - 39 GHz and higher frequencies up to 80GHz) achieves, at the mom Low Star No Open Personal, Single building, Campus, LAN, Software defined WAN (SD WAN) Encryption is evolved from 4G. It is more complex and based on multi-layer & multi-criteria approach. Generally, the level of 5G security is not defined by the number of specified security mechanisms. A multi-stakeholder approach that involves operator Expectations are that 5G will expand boundaries in all domains of modern life such as travelling, driving, production efficiency improvements, smart systems deployment such as smart cities with smart homes, buildings, hospitals, factories, public safety, The first phase of 5G specifications is defined in 3GPP Release 15. 5G is equipped with new air interface that supports heterogeneous access networks and handles variable bandwidths. Packet core network upgrades are also implemented, where traditional and
2 ANT+ Alliance Garmin http://www.garmin.com/en-US https://www.thisisant.com/ 2.4GHz ≈ 30m 12.8 Kbit/s - 60kbit/s Low Peer to peer, Star, Mesh, broadcast, ANT - FS, shared cluster. Yes Open Single Building ANT supports an 8-byte (64-bit) network key and 128-bit AES encryption for ANT master and slave channels. If further security is required, authentication and encryption can be implemented through the application level. ANT devices may use the public net ANT in residential, commercial and industrial sensing, control applications. ANT + predominantly in health and wellness - blood pressure monitoring, fitness, cycling, running, continuous glucose monitoring, emergency response alerts, audio control, hear ANT is a purpose-built ultra-low-power wireless networking protocol operating at 2.4GHz. ANT+ is an implementation of ANT and is an ecosystem of interoperable products built on device profiles. ANT devices may use any RF frequency from 2400MHz to 2524MHz
3 Bluetooth Bluetooth SIG, Inc. https://www.bluetooth.com/ https://www.bluetooth.com/specifications/ http://www.bluetooth.org/docman/handlers/DownloadDoc.ashx?doc_id=40560 2.4GHz ≈ 50m ≈ 2Mbps Medium Scatternet Yes Open Single building Several security modes are recognized in Bluetooth technology, and generally each version of Bluetooth standard supports some of them. These modes are mutually different according to the point of security initiation in Bluetooth devices. Bluetooth devices Bluetooth technology is used for data streaming or file exchange between mobile phones, PCs, printers, headsets, joysticks, mice, keyboards, stereo audio or in the automotive industry. Bluetooth is wireless communications technology based on the IEEE 802.15.1 protocol. Bluetooth technology is supported by 1 master & up to 7 slave nodes, while the number of slave nodes is not limited by specification in BLE networks. In the most recent
4 BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) or Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 5, 4.2) Bluetooth SIG, Inc. https://www.bluetooth.com/ https://www.bluetooth.org/DocMan/handlers/DownloadDoc.ashx?doc_id=421043 2.4GHz ≈ 100m <1Mbps ≈ (n x 100kbps) Low Scatternet Yes Open Single building In compliance with the Bluetooth Specification Version 5.0, two Security modes are implemented in BLE: Security mode 1 and Security mode 2. BLE security mode 1 has 4 layers: 1) No security (without authentication and without encryption). 2) Unauthenticat BLE technology is nowadays an indispensable part of mobile phones, PCs and other types of devices applicable in gaming, sports, wellness, industrial, medical, home and automation electronics. BLE provides wireless connectivity that enables home automatio It is important to notice that Bluetooth and BLE are not compatible technologies. For example, channel bandwidth in Bluetooth technology is 1MHz and in BLE is 2MHz, number of channels in Bluetooth is 79, while BLE is supported by 40 channels. Moreover, th
5 GSM/GPRS/EDGE (2G), UMTS/HSPA (3G), LTE (4G) 3GPP https://www.3gpp.org/ https://www.3gpp.org/specifications/releases 700/800/8508900/1800/1900/2100/2300/2500/2600MHz ≈ 35km max for GSM and ≈ 200km max for HSPA Typical download: 35-170kps (GPRS), 120-384kbps (EDGE), 384Kbps-2Mbps (UMTS), 600kbps-10Mbps (HSPA), 3-10Mbps (LTE) High Cellular No Open Personal, Single building, Campus, Authentication algorithms were not very strong in 2G networks and were based on master security key . In 3G wireless standard (3GPP based) , the authentication mechanism was enhanced to become a two-way process. In addition, 128-bit encryption and integri 2G offered digital communications. 3G has been generic data cellular mobile technology that provided broadband transmissions. 4G is the first all IP cellular data communication technology with dominant data transfer services and IoT support capabilitie Expectations are that the IoT ecosystem and its evolution support will be the most important criteria for further development of cellular mobile technologies.
6 IEEE 802.15.4 IEEE https://www.ieee.org// https://standards.ieee.org/standard/802_15_4s-2018.html 2.4GHz ≈ 100m ≈ 20 kbps and 40 kbps (BPSK ), ≈ 250 kbps (O-QPSK with DSSS) Low Star, Mesh, peer-to-peer Yes Open Single Building The IEEE 802.15.4 standard protects information at the Medium Access Control (MAC) sublayer of the OSI Reference Model. The implemented cryptographic mechanism in this standard is based on the symmetric-key cryptography and uses keys that are provided by Typical use cases are smart homes and buildings i.e. home security, lighting control, air conditioning and heating systems; industrial automation; automotive sensing; education; consumer electronic devices and personal computer accessories. The IEEE 802.15.4 standard defines the interconnection protocol for the low-rate wireless personal area networks (LR-WPANs). This standard provides short range wireless communications between battery - powered nodes. The power consumption in IEEE 802.15.
7 ISA100.11a ISA https://www.isa.org https://www.isa.org/pdfs/2008-seminar/ISA100_Overview_Oct_2008/ 2.4 GHz ≈ 100m ≈ 250 kbps Low Star, Mesh Yes Proprietary Single Building ISA 100.11a standard is embedded with integrity checks and optional encryption at data link layer of the OSI reference model. Moreover, security mechanisms are provided in transport layer. too. 128 bits keys are used in both transport and data link layers The most important use cases are reliable monitoring and alerting, asset management, predictive maintenance and condition monitoring, open - loop control and closed loop control industrial applications. ISA 100.11a low data rate connectivity is supported with increased security and system management levels. In compliance with best practices, optimal number of nodes in the network is 50-100.
8 6LoWPAN IETF https://www.ietf.org/ https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc8138 2.4 GHz ≈ 100m ≈ 250 kbps Low Mesh Yes Open Single Building 6LoWPAN has implemented AES-128 link layer security - which is defined in IEEE 802.15.4 protocol. This security mechanism provides link authentication and encryption. Additional security features are enabled by the transport layer security mechanisms ove There are many applications where 6LoWPAN is being used: automation, industrial monitoring, smart grids (enable smart meters and other devices to build a micro mesh network), smart homes and smart buildings. 6LoWPAN (IPv6 over Low-Power Wireless Personal Area Networks), is a low power wireless mesh network. It is specified in IETF standard RFC 8138. Every node in the 6LoWPAN network is embedded with its own IPv6 address. This allows the node (typically sensor
9 LoRaWAN LoRa Alliance https://www.lora-alliance.org https://lora-alliance.org/resource-hub/lorawanr-specification-v11 433 MHz, 868 MHz (Europe), 915 MHz (Australia and North America) and 923 MHz (Asia) ≈ 15km ≈ 0.3-50 kbps Low Star of Stars Yes Open WAN The fundamental properties that are supported in LoRaWAN security are mutual authentication, integrity protection and confidentiality. Mutual authentication is established between a LoRaWAN end-device and the LoRaWAN network as part of the network join p Some representative LoRaWAN use cases are smart homes and buildings, smart city applications and utility companies , smart metering, agriculture, civil infrastructures and industrial facilities as well. LoRaWAN is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology. It provides wireless, low-cost and secure bi-directional communication for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. LoRaWAN is optimized for long range communication, low power consumption and is
10 EC-GSM-IoT 3GPP / GSMA https://www.3gpp.org/ http://www.gsma.com/iot/extended-coverage-gsm-internet-of-things-ec-gsm-iot/ 850-900 MHz (GSM bands) ≈ 15km 70 kbps (GSMK), 240 kbps (8PSK) Low Star No Proprietary - The EC-GSM- IoT Group is Open to GSMA Members and Associate Members, however all members must positively contribute to the Group's high-level objectives, including promoting EC-GSM- IoT technology and encouraging new service and applicati WAN The EC-GSM-IoT has improved security, compared to the existing GSM/GPRS networks - offers integrity protection, mutual authentication and implements stronger ciphering algorithms. Battery life of up to 10 years can be supported for a wide range of use cases. Coverage extension beyond GSM enables coverage of challenging indoor and outdoor locations or remote areas in which sensors are deployed for agriculture or infrastructure monit Extended coverage GSM IoT (EC-GSM-IoT) is a standard-based Low Power Wide Area technology specified by 3GPP Rel. 13. It is based on eGPRS and designed as a high capacity, long range, low energy and low complexity cellular system for IoT communications. Th
11 LTE-MTC Cat 0 3GPP https://www.3gpp.org/ https://www.3gpp.org/ftp/Information/WORK_PLAN/Description_Releases/ LTE technology frequency bands are used LTE-MTC Cat 0 (700MHz, 800 MHz, 900MHz, 1700MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz, 2300MHz, 2400MHz, 2500MHz, 2700MHz). Range is variable and depends on frequency bands, propagation conditions etc. typically it is ≈ 10km ≈ 1 Mbps Low Star No Open WAN System and security management is more complex in LTE-MTC compared to LTE, as there are massive numbers of devices in LTE MTC network. At the same time, the request defined in 3GPP TS 22.368 is "LTE MTC optimizations shall not degrade security compared LTE MTC can be applicable to various use cases including industrial automation and control, intelligent transportation, automatic meter reading, smart electricity distribution and management, smart homes/offices/shops, smart lighting, smart industrial pla LTE-MTC Cat 0 (LTE machine type communications) is determined in 3GPP Rel. 12 specification.
12 LTE-M (Cat M1, Cat M2 ) - eMTC 3GPP https://www.3gpp.org/ https://www.3gpp.org/ftp/Information/WORK_PLAN/Description_Releases/ LTE technology frequency bands are used for LTE-M Cat M1 and Cat M2 (400MHz 450MHz, 600MHz, 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1400MHz, 1500MHz, 1700MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz, 2400MHz, 2500MHz, 2600MHz, 2700 MHz). Range is variable and depends on frequency bands, propagation conditions etc. typically it is ≈ 10km LTE-M Cat M1 ≈ 1 Mbps LTE-M Cat M2 ≈ 4 Mbps DL / ≈ 7 Mbps UL Low Star No Open WAN LTE-M technology offers SIM-based security features requiring device authentication to connect to the network. Although it shares the LTE security standards, security system and management is more complex in LTE-M (eMTC) due to massive connectivity that LTE M (eMTC) technology supports many use cases, like smart cities, smart agriculture, logistics and transportation, industry and manufacturing automation. LTE-M Cat M1 is specified by 3GPP Rel.13 and LTE-M Cat M2 is specified by 3GPP Rel.14. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is usable on LTE- eMTC communications. Two new features are enabled in eMTC, like extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX), and Power Saving Mo
13 NB-IoT - Narrowband-IoT (LTE Cat NB1 and LTE Cat NB2) 3GPP https://www.3gpp.org/ https://www.3gpp.org/ftp/Information/WORK_PLAN/Description_Releases/ https://www.3gpp.org/news-events/1785-nb_iot_complete In-band LTE carrier, or within LTE guard bands, or standalone in re-farmed GSM spectrum - 700, 800 or 900 MHz. The 3GPP Release 14 introduced five new FDD frequency bands for NB-IoT: 11 (central frequencies - UL 1437.9 MHz, DL 1485.9 MHz), 21 (central Range is variable and depends on frequency bands, propagation conditions etc. typically it is better than LTE-M coverage. LTE Cat NB1 ≈ 66 kbps (multi-tone) and ≈ 16.9 Kbit/s (single-tone) LTE Cat NB2 ≈ 159kbps Low Star No Open WAN Multilayer security is applied in NB-IoT- network level and application level security, including support for user identity confidentiality, entity authentication, data integrity, and mobile device identification. Some NB - IoT use cases are smart metering (electricity, gas and water), facility management services, security systems, connected personal appliances measuring health parameters tracking of persons, animals or objects, smart city and industrial appliance NB-IoT is is determined in 3GPP Rel. 13 specification (LTE Cat NB1) and 3GPP Rel. 14 specification (LTE Cat NB2). NB-IoT has good indoor coverage and supports a massive number of low throughput end devices - sensors. It has low delay sensitivity, low d
14 Neul Neul http://www.neul.com/neul/ http://www.neul.com/neul/ 900MHz (ISM), 458MHz (UK), 470-790MHz (White Space) ≈ 10km up to 100kbps Low Star Yes Open WAN The wireless communications links between the gateway (base station) and the network nodes are encrypted. The Neul communications technology is a wide-area wireless networking technology designed for the IoT and created to compete against existing cellular communications technologies solutions, applicable to smart metering, facility management services, se Neul leverages very small slices of the TV White Space spectrum to deliver high scalability, high coverage, low power and low-cost wireless networks. Systems are based on the Iceni chip, which communicates using the white space radio to access the high-qu
15 NFC NFC http://nfc-forum.org/ https://nfc-forum.org/our-work/specification-releases/specifications/nfc-forum-technical-specifications/ 13.56MHz (ISM) ≈ 10cm 106kbps, 212kbps, 424kbps Low Point to point No Proprietary Single Building One of the security mechanisms implemented in NFC is Digital Signature (defined in the NFC Forum Signature RTD 2.0) with asymmetric key exchange [RD]. The Digital Signature is a part of the NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) message, which includes also a Ce Some representative NFC use cases are ticket confirmation for sports events, concerts, at theaters, cinemas; welfare performances improvement - syncing workout data from a fitness machines with personal user device; personalized content sharing - viewing NFC is a short range two-way wireless communication technology that enables simple and secure communication between electronic devices embedded with NFC microchip. There are three available modes of NFC communication: - Read/write (e.g. for reading tags i
16 RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) Ingenu https://www.ingenu.com/technology/rpma/ https://www.ingenu.com/technology/rpma/how-rpma-works/ 2.4 GHz ≈ 70km 100kb Low Star Yes Proprietary WAN Security in RPMA wireless technology is built on 128 b AES. It offers security features such as: mutual authentication, message integrity and replay protection, message confidentiality, device anonymity, authentic firmware upgrades and secure multicasts. RPMA is applicable for many use cases such as asset tracking, agriculture, oil fields automation, environmental monitoring, smart city, fleet management and logistics, industrial automation, connected cars, etc. Before IoT, Ingenu (previously OnRamp) was selling metering infrastructure that collected low power information from electricity meters. Ingenu has created random phase multiple access (RPMA), which uses Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) and is simil
17 IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi Alliance https://www.wi-fi.org/ https://www.wi-fi.org/discover-wi-fi/specifications 2.4GHZ/5GHz ≈ 50m Different data rates are enabled in IEEE 802.11 family of standards and their theoretical throughput is 11 Mbps ( IEEE 802.11b), 54 Mbps (IEEE 802.11a and IEEE 802.11g), 100 Mbps (IEEE 802.11n) or 300 Mbps (IEEE 802.11ac). High Star No Open Single Building The Wi-Fi Alliance enables the implementation of different security solutions across Wi-Fi networks through the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) family of technologies. Simultaneously with Wi-Fi technology, deployable for personal and enterprise networks, sec Typical Wi Fi use cases are use cases are audio/video streaming applications, centralized management applications, video monitoring ad security systems, etc. Networking of multiple devices such as cameras, lights and switches, monitors, sensors and many o The Wi-Fi represents wireless technology that includes the IEEE 802.11 family of standards (IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11ac, etc.). Within the 50m range, it operates in 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. This technol
18 IEEE 802.11ah (Wi-Fi HaLow ) IEEE https://www.ieee.org https://standards.ieee.org/standard/802_11ah-2016.html 900MHz ≈ 900m 347Mbps Low Star No Open Single Building, campus, WAN Security is typically based on WPA 3 protocol with available personal and enterprise solutions. Some representative IEEE 802.11ah use cases are health care, outdoor activities, smart metering, environmental sensing, home security, smart homes and buildings, power management, industrial automation, etc. A Wi-Fi HaLow (IEEE 802.11ah) standard works at 900 MHz frequency band in the USA and significantly improves wireless coverage and energy efficiency as one of the most important features for IoT use cases. Wi-Fi HaLow devices have instant internet access
19 IEEE 802.16 (WiMax) IEEE https://www.ieee.org http://wimaxforum.org/TechSpec 2.3 GHz, 3.5 GHz, 5.8GHz ≈ 50km 40Mbit/s - mobile, 1 Gbit/s - fixed High PMP No Open MAN Different security solutions are enabled in WiMax networks, like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 128-bit key: Rivest, Shamir and Adelman (RSA) with 1024-bit key and Triple Digital Encryption Standard (3-DES).Both Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) WiMax applicability is recognized in wireless MAN deployment, provisioning of Internet connectivity and generic user applications, environmental monitoring, smart cities , telemedicine etc. IEEE 802.16 technology has been put forward to overcome the drawbacks of WLANs and mobile networks. It provides different QoS scheduling for supporting heterogeneous traffic including legacy voice traffic, VoIP (Voice over IP), voice and video streams and
20 HART HART Communication Foundation https://fieldcommgroup.org/ https://fieldcommgroup.org/technologies/hart/hart-technology-detail 2.4 GHz ≈ 200m 250 kbps Low Star & Mesh Yes Proprietary Single Building Communications are always encrypted in a HART network. The network uses a 128-bit AES encryption system. The security manager in the WirelessHART gateway administers three parameters: Network ID, Join key and Session key. In addition to individual sessi Typical HART use cases are process industry monitoring (automotive production process, chemical segments, food and beverage, power generation); process optimization , safety enhancements , environment and health monitoring, maintenance optimization, etc. “HART” is an acronym for Highway Addressable Remote Transducer. The HART Protocol uses Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) standard to superimpose digital communication signals at a low level on top of the 4-20mA. This enables two-way field communication to take
21 Z-Wave Z-wave alliance http://www.z-wave.com/ https://z-wavealliance.org/z-wave-specification/ 915MHz (USA) 868MHz (EU) 30-100m 40kbps (915MHz) and 20kbps (868MHz) Low Mesh Yes Proprietary Single Building Z-wave provides packet encryption, integrity protection and device authentication services. End-to-end security is provided on application level (communication using command classes). It has in-band network key exchange and AES symmetric block cipher algo It is a wireless communications protocol used primarily for home automation. Important Z-wave use cases are smart homes and buildings, smart offices, smart sensors, smart wall switches, smart bulbs, thermostats, windows, locks and security systems, swimm Z-Wave protocol was developed by Sigma Designs, Inc. and determined by ITU G.9959 recommendation. Like other protocols and systems developed for the home and office automation , a Z-Wave system can be controlled via the Internet from a smart phone, tablet
22 ZigBee ZigBee Alliance http://www.ZigBee.org/ https://zigbeealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/docs-05-3474-21-0csg-zigbee-specification.pdf 2.4GHz, 915MHz (US), 868 MHz (EU) 30-100m 250 kbps (2.4GHz) 40kbps (915MHz) 20kbps (868MHz) Low Mesh Yes Open Single Building ZigBee is considered to be a secure wireless communication protocol, with security architecture built in accordance with IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Security mechanisms include authentication – authorized access to network devices, integrity protection and en Some representative ZigBee use cases are correlated with smart homes and smart buildings applications, like different smart home gateways, sensors and alarms that are monitoring almost everything - from temperature, humidity, or lighting and movement, sma ZigBee is wireless PAN (Personal Area Network) technology evolved from IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standard and supported by the ZigBee Alliance. IEEE 802.15.4 standard defines the physical and data link layer with all details about the robust radio communicat
23 Thread Thread Group (Google, Samsung, etc.) https://www.threadgroup.org/ https://portal.threadgroup.org/DesktopModules/Inventures_Document/FileDownload.aspx?ContentID=3014 2.4GHz ≈ 30m 250kbps Low Mesh Yes Open Single Building Thread utilizes a network-wide key that is used at the Media Access Layer (MAC) for encryption. This key is used for standard IEEE 802.15.4 authentication and encryption. IEEE 802.15.4 security protects the Thread network from over-the-air attacks origina Thread provides wireless connectivity for home automation via the control of lights – smart bulbs and outlets, smoke detectors, cameras and other security systems, thermostats, utilities measurements, smart digital locks, hubs and controllers, different Thread was designed with the Internet’s proven, open standards to create an Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) based mesh network, with 6LoWPAN as its foundation. Thread can securely connect up to 250 devices in a wireless mesh network .
24 DigiMesh DigiMesh https://www.digi.com https://www.digi.com/resources/documentation/digidocs/pdfs/90001506.pdf 2.4GHz/900 MHz (USA)/868 MHz (EU) ≈ 100m 250 kbps (2.4) 40kbps (915) 20kbps (868) Low Mesh Yes Proprietary Single Building or WAN DigiMesh security features are 128-bit AES encryption and 256-bit AES - available on some products, such as XBee3 and XTend. One command (KZ) sets a password that prevents intruders from sending or receiving unsecured remote AT commands. For added securi Some representative DigiMesh use cases are monitoring in food safety, facility and pharmacy domains, supply chains applicability, transportation and logistics, environmental monitoring etc. DigiMesh is a proprietary peer-to-peer wireless networking topology developed by Digi International. The protocol allows for time synchronized sleeping nodes/routers and battery powered operations with low-power consumption.
25 MiWi Microchip Technology http://www.microchip.com/ http://www.microchip.com/design-centers/wireless-connectivity/embedded-wireless/802-15-4/miwi-protocol 2.4GHz, 700MHz/800MHz/900MHz ≈ 300m 20kbps Low Mesh or Star Yes Proprietary Single Building The MiWi protocol follows the MAC security definition specified in IEEE 802.15.4 and is based on 128-bit AES model. MiWi security mechanisms can be categorized into three groups: • AES-CTR mode encrypts MiWi protocol payload. • AES-CBC-MAC mode ensures th MiWi is designed for low-power, cost-constrained networks, such as industrial monitoring and control, home and building automation, remote control, wireless sensors, lighting control, HVAC systems and automated meter reading. MiWi uses small, low-power digital radios based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Although the MiWi software can all be downloaded for free from its official website, it is a proprietary solution that requires use only with Microchip microcontrollers. It was
26 EnOcean EnOcean https://www.enocean.com/en/ https://www.enocean-alliance.org/specifications/ 902 MHz/928.35 MHz/868.3 MHz/315 MHz ≈ 30m (outdoor 300m) 125kbps "Battery Free" Mesh Yes Proprietary Single Building The unique 32-bit identification number (ID) of the standard Enocean modules cannot be changed or copied - it is the protection against duplication. This authentication method already offers field-proven secure and reliable communication in building auto The EnOcean wireless standard (ISO/ IEC 14543-3-1X) in sub 1GHz is optimized for use in buildings, as a radio range of 30m indoors is possible. Enocean representative use cases are smart lighting, temperature and air quality monitoring, positioning and s The EnOcean wireless standard is geared to wireless sensors and wireless sensor networks with ultra-low power consumption. It also includes sensor networks that utilize energy harvesting technology to draw energy from their surroundings – for example from
27 Weightless (W, N, P) Weightless Special Interest Group http://www.weightless.org/ http://www.weightless.org/about/weightless-specification 138MHz, 433MHz, 470MHz, 780MHz, 868MHz, 915MHz, 923MHz ≈ 2km (P), 5km (W, N) ≈ 600bps-100kbps Low (N), medium (W, P) Star Yes Open WAN In Weightless standard AES-128/256 encryption and authentication of both the terminal and the network guarantees integrity whilst temporary device identifiers offer anonymity for maximum security and privacy. OTA security key negotiation or replacement is Typical Weightless use cases are smart metering, vehicle tracking, asset tracking, smart cars – vehicle diagnostics and upgrades, health monitoring, traffic sensors, smart appliances, rural broadband, smart ePayment infrastructure, industrial machine mon The Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) offers three different protocols— Weightless-N, Weightless-W, and Weightless-P. Weightless-W open standard is designed to operate in the TV white space (TVWS) spectrum. Weightless-W represents a model the Neul
28 mcThings mcThings https://www.mcthings.com/ https://www.mcthings.com/platform/ 2.4GHz ≈ 200m 50kbps Low Star Yes Proprietary Single Building mcThings technology is embedded with 128 bits AES encryption algorithm. Some representative mcThings use cases are asset tracking, industrial automation, maintenance optimization, location monitoring, security systems (theft and loss prevention), status monitoring, agriculture and food industry automation, environmental moni mcThings is a good solution for use-cases that have sets of sensors in some urban areas (neighboring buildings). The technology is power efficient and requires minimal maintenance efforts. Network is expandable with bridges, and sensors have long-life bat
29 LoRa LoRa Alliance https://www.lora-alliance.org/ https://lora-alliance.org/resource-hub/lorawanr-specification-v11 License-free sub-gigahertz radio frequency bands like 433 MHz, 868 MHz, 915 MHz, 923 MHz . ≈ 30km 50kbps Low Star Yes Open WAN Based on security for IEEE 802.15.4 wireless networks, AES encryption with the key exchange is implemented in LoRa. In higher OSI levels built over the LoRa PHY layer, two layers of security are utilized - one for the network and one for the application Typical LoRa use cases are power metering , water flow, gas or similar quantitative monitoring; logistics and transportation monitoring; smart home, office and smart city appliances; environmental sensing like air pollution, flooding, avalanche, forest f LoRa provides wireless, low-cost and secure bi-directional communication for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. LoRa is optimized for long range communication, low power consumption and is designed to support large networks deployment. LoRa is built
30 SIGFOX SigFox https://www.sigfox.com/en https://build.sigfox.com/sigfox-device-radio-specifications The Sigfox technology globally works within the ranges from 862 to 928 MHz ≈ 40km 600bps Low Star Yes Proprietary WAN Security first comes within devices During the manufacturing process, each Sigfox Ready device is provisioned with a symmetrical authentication key. Security is also supported by radio technology. The SigFox technology encryption is designed in collabo SIGFOX applicability potential is great. Some representative use cases are supply chain & logistics automation, manufacturing automation, smart cities, smart buildings and smart utilities & energy management and monitoring, smart agriculture etc. SIGFOX protocol is a patented and closed technology. While it's hardware is open, the network however isn’t and customers must be subscribed to it. Note that while there are strict limitations of SIGFOX in terms of throughput and utilization, it is intend
31 DECT ULE ETSI https://www.ulealliance.org/organization https://www.etsi.org/deliver/etsi_ts/102900_102999/10293901/01.01.01_60/ts_10293901v010101p.pdf 1880MHz - 1900MHz ≈ 300m 1Mbps Low Star Yes Open Single building DECT ULE devices use a combination of general DECT security procedures and ULE specific security procedures. General DECT security procedures are device registration (subscription), device and base authentication, key generation (including keys for ULE us DECT ULE is new technology developed for different IoT use cases like home, office and industrial automation, control and monitoring systems, medical care and security systems. DECT Ultra Low Energy (ULE) is a new technology based on DECT and intended for Machine-to-Machine communications such as Home and Industrial automation. DECT ULE standard has advantages of long distance range, no interference and large data rate/bandwidth
32 Insteon Smartlabs https://www.insteon.com/ https://www.insteon.com/technology#ourtechnology 915MHz ( USA) 869.85 MHz (EU) 921.00 MHz (Australia) ≈ 50m 38400bps - via RF 13165bps - via powerlines Low or battery free (plug-in) Mesh Yes Propriatary Single building Insteon network security is maintained via linking control to ensure that users cannot create links that would allow them to control a neighbors’ Insteon devices, and via encryption within extended Insteon messages for applications such as door locks and INSTEON is optimized for home and office automation and allows networking of different devices like light switches, thermostats, home audio, remote controls, leak sensors, pumps, motion sensors, alarms, HVAC systems, security sensors or different remote c INSTEON allows home automation devices to communicate through power lines, radio frequencies or a combination of both. All INSTEON devices are known as peers. This is because any device can transmit, receive, or repeat the messages from other devices. In
33 RFID RFID https://www.iso.org/standard/73599.html (Example) A number of organizations have set standards for RFID, including the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), ASTM International, etc. RFID standards include: ISO 11784/11785, ISO 14223, I 125 KHz to 134 kHz, 13.56MHz, 433 MHz, 860MHz - 960MHz. 0.01m-10m (depending on the frequency range) 4kbps - 640kbps (depending on the active or passive type of device and frequency range). Low point to point Yes Open Single building The implementation of security mechanisms in RFID technology is based on confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Confidentiality is the information protection from unauthorized access. Integrity is related to data protection from modification and de Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology commonly used for identification, status administration and management of different objects. Moreover, this technology is very important for people identification, as it is deployed in the latest biome Commonly, a RFID system has three main components: RFID tag, RFID reader and RFID application software. RFID tags can be active (with microchip, antenna, sensors and power supply) or passive (without power supply). RFID reader is another hardware componen
34 WAVIoT (NB-Fi - Narrowband Fidelity) WAVIoT https://waviot.com/ https://www.cnx-software.com/2016/01/20/waviot-lpwan-technology-powers-low-cost-smart-water-and-electricity-meters/ 315MHz, 433MHz, 470MHz, 868MHz, 915MHz ≈ 50km 10-100bps Low Star Yes Open WAN All WAVIoT data is encrypted bidirectionally from the device to the server using an XTEA 256 bit key block cipher. Typical WAViOT use cases are smart cities, smart buildings, smart metering, utilities monitoring and metering like water, power - electricity, gas, heat, etc. NB-Fi (Narrowband Fidelity) is a narrow band protocol which communicates on the sub 1GHz ISM sub bands. DBPSK is used as the modulation scheme in the physical layer. WAVIoT gateways can provide -154 dBm of receiver sensitivity, and cover over 1 million no
35 DASH7 Alliance Protocol (D7A or D7AP) DASH7 Alliance https://dash7-alliance.org/ https://dash7-alliance.org/download-specification/ 433MHz ≈ 2km 167kbps Low Star Yes Open WAN Similarly to 802.15.4, AES-CBC is used for authentication and AES-CCM for authentication and encryption. Some representative DASH7 use cases are access control, smart energy, location based services, mobile advertising, industry automation, logistics, building access, mobile payments, ticketing, etc. D7A complies with the ISO/IEC 18000-7 standard. ISO/IEC 18000-7 is an open standard for the license-free 433 MHz ISM band air-interface for wireless communications. The 433 MHz frequency provides D7A with long propagation distance and better penetration.
36 Wi-SUN IETF https://ietf.org/ https://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-heile-lpwan-wisun-overview-00.html 470-510MHz, 779-787MHz, 920.5-924.5MHz (China), 863-870MHz, 870-876MHz (EU), 920-928MHz (USA, Canada and Japan) ≈ 1000m 300kbps Low Star, Mesh Yes Open WAN The Wi-SUN security is specified by implementation of the x.509 certificate-based, public-key infrastructure to authenticate devices, as well as Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption and message integrity check. Devices protect their digital cr Some typical Wi-Sun use cases are smart metering, smart cities, smart buildings, industrial automation, environmental sensing, etc. The term Wi-Sun is the short form of Wireless Smart Utility Network. Wi-Sun technology is a successful derivation of IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standard that supports IPv6 protocol.
37 Wavenis Coronis Systems http://www.coronis.com http://www-coronis-com.dyn.elster.com/downloads/Wavenis_Data_Sheet_A4_CS5.pdf 433MHz, 868MHz, 915MHz ≈ 1000m 9.6kbps (433 & 868MHz) / 19.2kbps (915MHz) Low Tree, Star Yes Open WAN Wavenis technology is supported by 128-bit AES encryption. Some Wavenis use cases are different metering solutions (gas, electricity, water, etc.) applicable to environmental monitoring, smart cities, utilities companies etc. Wavenis is a wireless technology created by Coronis in the year 2000. It is developed for ultra low power and long range Wireless Sensor Networks(WSNs). It has become popular due to promotion by Wavenis Open Standard Alliance.
38 MiOTY Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits & BTI Ltd. Toronto https://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/pr/2018/20181016_LV_Mioty.html https://behrtech.com/mioty/ 915Mhz (USA),868Mhz (EU) ≈ 20km 407 bps Low Star Yes Open WAN MiOTY technology implements 128-bit AES encryption. Some MiOTY use cases are optimized maintenance models, inventory optimization for parts, asset management and tracking, condition and environmental monitoring, smart metering, augmented reality innovative applications, product R&D, improved customer suppo MIOTY is a low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) protocol that is purpose-built for massive industrial and commercial IoT deployments. Fraunhofer’s patented Telegram Splitting – the core of the MIOTY protocol, is designed to provide the scalability and ov
Wireless technology / standard Organization that manages the technology / standard URL of the organization URL of the standard specification Frequency Approximate Range Data Rate Power Draw Topology Requires hub or gateway Proprietary or Open Intended Use Security Common use Comments

U.S. lawmakers introduce bill targeting Huawei for industrial espionage

S.3469 NETWORK Act

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers today introduced in Senate a bill aimed “To impose sanctions with respect to foreign telecommunications companies engaged in economic or industrial espionage against United States persons, and for other purposes.”

Officially called Neutralizing Emerging Threats from Wireless OEMs Receiving direction from Kleptocracies and Surveillance states Act or the NETWORKS Act, the bill would require the President to block and prohibit significant transactions and interests in property of a foreign individual or entity that (1) produces fifth- or future-generation telecommunications technology; and (2) engages in economic or industrial espionage, or other related illicit activities, involving trade secrets or proprietary information owned by a U.S. individual or entity.

In the press release Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said: “It’s time to sanction Huawei. For years, this arm of the Chinese Communist Party has stolen American intellectual property and violated U.S. sanctions with impunity. This legislation would cut Huawei off from the U.S. financial system, relegating it to pariah status alongside Russian oligarchs, Iranian terrorists, and Mexican drug cartels.”

Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) added: “It’s clear that in order to protect global 5G networks, we need a full court press against malevolent actors like Huawei,” said Gallagher. “It’s time to go on the offensive by cutting Huawei out of the U.S. banking system. We’re nearing a decisive point for global 5G networks and we need to leverage every tool in our arsenal to protect a diverse telecommunications supply chain and stop the Chinese Communist Party’s bid to monopolize global networks…”

This is another escalation in 5G-related geopolitical tensions. While there are plenty of reasons to be careful about the 5G gear and suspicious of Chinese intentions, the espionage and IP theft threats by Huawei are a bit of a red herring. The line between economic protectionism and national security precaution is hard to draw these days, but based on leaked U.S. government materials it is clear that the bigger concern behind the anti-Huawei campaign, not directly addressed or stated by the administration, is the U.S. quest for technology independence and economic protectionism. I wrote more about that here.

The bill is available here: https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/s3469/BILLS-116s3469is.pdf

Press release: https://www.cotton.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1338

My article on the geopolitics of 5G: https://5g.security/geopolitics-5g/geopolitics-of-5g-massive-critical-iot/

Bell Canada to pause 5G launch due to COVID-19

Bell Canada 5G

On Bell’s BCE Inc (BCE) Q1 2020 Results Conference Call on Thursday new Bell’s President and CEO Mirko Bibic said: “We are ready with our initial 5G network, but frankly we don’t think that it’s the right time right now to officially launch it for marketing purposes. I just don’t think that customers are paying attention to this right now and that’s not what is top of mind for our customer base. They have other priorities, understandably.

Bell Canada started the deployment of its 5G network infrastructure this year, using Nokia’s gear.

Babic did say that the infrastructure projects continue: “At the same time, we are maintaining our network deployment plans, whether that be fiber-to-the-home, expanding our leading wireless networks, getting ready for 5G or accelerating our wireless home Internet service footprint with, as I said, 137,000 additional homes passed in April. This is not a time to pull back capital spending on critical network infrastructure.

Bibic has previously said that Bell will continue to enhance 5G capacity, speed and coverage as additional 5G spectrum becomes available through an auction later this year. On the call Bibic confirmed that Bell is keen to go ahead with the spectrum auction “Well, I — on the auction timing, look, here’s what — back to my opening comments about — my general comments in my opening about we cannot risk as a country falling behind in communications networks and now makes it as clear as ever how important world-leading communications are. So with that as context, I don’t think we can and shouldn’t want to fall behind on 5G and 3,500 megahertz, as we all know, is the backbone of 5G. So my point of view is we need to have that auction as planned or very soon after if it’s not December 15, then might be very soon after December 15, and that would be our position. Let’s have the auction, let’s move forward, let’s make that spectrum available, let’s lead in 5G.

Bell’s net profits in Q1 are C$733M (US$526M) which is 7.3% down compared to a year-ago quarter. Revenue was C$5.68B down 0.9%.

You can find the whole call transcript here: https://www.fool.com/earnings/call-transcripts/2020/05/08/bce-inc-bce-q1-2020-earnings-call-transcript.aspx

TeraGo commences 5G fixed wireless technical trials in Toronto

TeraGo 5G

TeraGo Inc. (“TeraGo” or the “Company”) (TSX: TGO, www.terago.ca) is a Canadian managed cloud and connectivity solutions company. It owns a national spectrum portfolio of exclusive 24GHz and 38GHz wide-area spectrum licences including 2,120 MHz of spectrum across Canada’s 6 largest cities. It operates a national fixed wireless network with thousands of access points across Canada and operates five data centres in the Greater Toronto Area, the Greater Vancouver Area, and Kelowna.

TeraGo announced that it will be starting 5G technical trials in the Greater Toronto Area utilizing 5G fixed wireless network equipment from Nokia. These initial trials are expected to be carried out over the next several weeks. Due to the impact of the recent COVID-19 event, customer trials are planned to begin in the second half of 2020.

“As one of the largest holders of millimeter wave spectrum in Canada’s largest markets, TeraGo is committed to staying at the forefront of 5G technology to deliver innovative solutions to our customers and to open possible new market opportunities for the company,” said Tony Ciciretto, president and CEO of TeraGo.

TeraGo press release here: https://terago.ca/press_release/terago-commences-5g-fixed-wireless-technical-trials/

Will Telcos Lose the Edge Computing Battle as Well?

Edge Computing Fog

For many end-users of today’s communications technology, the cloud is a somewhat mystical concept, a digital equivalent of aether. Most think of it as a formless abstraction “up there” when, in fact, the cloud is rooted in the ground. Or the seabed.

Despite rapid advances in satellite connection, almost all intercontinental data transfer that takes place every second of the day occurs via hundreds of thousands of miles of underwater cables. Reading a map of these submarine cables is like viewing a tapestry of international telecommunication.

It is perhaps strange to think that the email you just sent to your colleague in Africa traveled below the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an oddly analogue image in an online world. Yet, the digital capability that those cables unleash is increasingly the stuff of science fiction.

Submarine cables have historically been laid by telecoms companies, mostly in the form of consortiums that share out the extreme costs, often running into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Perhaps frustratingly for these investors, the cables are famously attractive to sharks who, for reasons not entirely clear to scientists, can’t resist having a nibble.

Large fish, however, are not the only things eating into telcos’ profits. Over the past few years, many undersea cables have been laid by internet giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, businesses that, in 2018, owned or leased more than half of the submarine cable bandwidth.

This expanding aquatic infrastructure grants these firms growing independence from telecommunications companies, allowing them to launch, even more aggressively, offerings that directly compete with telco products and services.

There is nothing new about this scenario.

A worrying habit

In stories that almost read like case studies for Kodak or Blackberry, telcos lost their core revenue streams to OTT providers in the early to mid-2010s, seemingly from nowhere. Between 2010 and 2014, telecom businesses saw revenue decline from 4.5 percent to 4 percent, EBITDA margins drop from 25 percent to 17 percent, and cash-flow margins decrease from 15.6 percent to 8 percent.

Then, when it became clear that cloud computing and networking was going to be the future of digital operations, telecoms companies again lost the advantage. On paper, telcos seemed like a solid bet to compete with the likes of Amazon, Google and Microsoft: network experts against booksellers, online advertising engines and packaged software suppliers.

But that hasn’t been the case. AWS, Microsoft, and Google have dominated the rapid evolution of cloud computing, leaving telcos to play catch up. Though their network infrastructure capabilities keep them relevant, it is possibly these very networks that account for telecoms companies’ sluggish response to accelerating change.

Some argue that “thinking digital” is deeply embedded in telcos’ business model because, in addition to offering their own digital products and services, they provide the infrastructure and connectivity that allow other players and sectors to operate in the digital economy.

However, it is not just technical capacity that counts. Thriving in the digital economy requires a different mindset. It’s the type of mindset that might have helped telcos see earlier on that the future of cloud wasn’t going to just be in networks, but rather the software and services that rested on those networks.

GSMA predicts that over the next five years telcos will spend USD$1.1 trillion on their networks, 80 percent of which will go on 5G. As we stand on the threshold of global 5G and perhaps the greatest leap into communicative novelty the world has seen, telcos are faced with another opportunity to take charge in the form of edge computing. How will they react this time? Will they capture the opportunity that relies on software, services and the security for the smart-everything world? Or will the cloud incumbents again capture larger returns on top of telecom infrastructure?

IoT in a post-COVID world

As we have learned, and continue to learn, through the COVID-19 pandemic, the world as we know it is fundamentally reliant on digital connection. The recent crisis has also made it abundantly clear that the nature of work is likely to evolve much faster than anyone previously expected.

After witnessing almost instantaneous shifts to remote working and the accelerated digitization of organizational operations, it is easy to see how the adoption of mass automation and AI-driven cyber-physical systems (CPS) might be sooner than many first thought.

Add to this the value that has been proved by utilizing national surveillance and monitoring systems to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and the case for a massive civil and industrial internet of things (IoT) becomes more visible and more compelling than ever before.

Such networks would incorporate billions of devices, sensors and machines in factories, cities and commercial environments managed by businesses and different tiers of government. The future prospects for consumer-facing IoT products and services are tremendous. In fact, the opportunities in all areas of IoT growth are abundant, but it is in the facilitation of enterprise and civic development that telcos could play a major role. The opportunities in developing the IoT ecosystem remain extensive. The question is, can they capture the possibilities?

McKinsey estimates that IoT’s potential economic impact on factories will rise to as much as $3.7 trillion a year by 2025. Though these figures were pre-COVID and don’t account for the huge downturn in the manufacturing sector, it is precisely this financial pressure that may force manufacturers to disinvest in human labor and prioritize the implementation of IIoT systems managed by AI.

However, with less capital available than before the coronavirus outbreak, companies – industrial and commercial – pursuing digital transformation are likely to be more risk-averse in their investments. Reliability and security will become more crucial than ever when choosing service providers, which should be to telcos’ advantage.

Finding the winning edge

The much-anticipated emergence of the massive internet of things (mIoT) is unlikely to be restrained by the economic impacts of the current pandemic. No-one knows for sure, of course, but more urgent development of new use cases in markets like healthcare, transportation, logistics, resource management or public surveillance will possibly stimulate the growth of the mIoT, not hamper it.

This expansion will continue to provide complex challenges in privacy, security, and even safety, an important concern when enterprises begin to incorporate more CPSs into their operations. With their vast experience in network management, telecom operators who are able to move beyond the mindset of selling connectivity or data have a number of advantages that can be leveraged to succeed in IoT.

The mIoT will be built on 5G, which is not just a physical network infrastructure. However, telcos pivoting into the development and management of virtual networks and multiple cloud-based applications should capitalize on their ownership of 5G network hardware to build an IoT ecosystem that delivers greater returns overall.

Security will be an important component of telcos’ proposition, not just as a market differentiator, but as a revenue stream. COVID-19 has highlighted the value of a humanity-serving IoT, but it has also laid bare the risks of sliding into a Big Brother society. Consumers and enterprises will demand greater IoT security, and telcos have a strong track record in keeping networks secure.

But success for operators will depend on their ability to capture a significant share of edge computing. This technology will facilitate most of the real-time cyber-physical use cases that often are used as adverts for 5G-founded IoT: autonomous vehicles and factories, remote surgery, massive drone networks, and so on.

These operations are extremely time-sensitive. There’s no tolerance for network lag when a driverless car traveling at 90 miles an hour suddenly needs to avoid a pedestrian. There’s no room for data delays at a critical stage of brain surgery.

5G’s near-zero latency is critical to the realization of these levels of operation, but even with 5G, we may not be able to rely exclusively on centralized cloud networking to deliver these use cases. IoT devices are also, by design and necessity, too small and too weak to take charge of the required data processing.

Edge computing, also known as fog computing, is a decentralized architectural pattern that moves computing resources and application services away from the cloud server, which is often hundreds of miles away, and closer to the point of data generation and action.

This improves speed as well as security and compliance. Edge computing removes the need for large packets of data to be transferred over great distances, and bypasses the potentially complex regulatory questions of data being generated in one jurisdiction but analyzed in another.

Telecom operators have a natural advantage in edge computing. Their physical networks with multiple data processing nodes mirror the distributed approach of fog processing. For edge computing to work, smaller data centers need to be located near the end device – telcos already have a lot of this hardware in place. This should give them the upper hand over AWS, Azure, and GCP.

These major cloud providers have largely relied on enormous data centers to deliver their services and will need to build out the components of an edge solution. Telcos, however, can reassign their existing assets in the service of computing at the edge.

Through their scale, infrastructure and networking experience, telecom companies should be able to leverage the move to the edge and reclaim a leading role in large scale and enterprise IT expansion.

The challenge, however, is not just technical, it is also mental. Can telecommunications companies make the mindset shift that will be required to re-imagine themselves as collaborative and forward-thinking players in a smart future?

Cloud 2.0

In politics, the principle of subsidiarity dictates that a central authority should only perform those functions that cannot be performed at a local level. This is a useful analogy for the future of cloud computing because, though almost all processes are currently run through centralized network hubs, what has been called “Cloud 2.0” will see more and more functions decentralized and moved to the edge.

Cisco predicts that the number of devices connected to IP networks will be more than three times the global population by 2023. Edge or fog computing will be critical to meeting the increased load of these devices, many of which will be built to run on the super low latency that we expect from 5G.

5G will also see network virtualization, which will allow telecom operators to redistribute the core network to be closer to the user or device. At the same time, Cloud RAN, which improves agility and flexibility by virtualizing non-realtime functions, effectively allows the edge to be brought closer to the core. These forms of optimized architecture will radically improve the user experience and are a major opportunity for telcos to take the lead in distributed cloud services.

The first obstacle telecoms firms face is a legacy of slow-moving, risk-averse operations. In a heavily-regulated industry, often with unnaturally low market competition, telcos never needed to be agile and responsive.

Of course, the landscape has changed quickly, but reputations and memory have not faded as fast. Numerous surveys show that telcos are less trusted than other types of technology providers in supporting enterprises with their digital transformation.

Businesses know that, in order to be as effective as the cloud giants, telcos need to alter their DNA. They need to shift from being a utility and a dumb pipe provider to acting as a business advisor and systems integrator. This is a major mindset and an organizational change that would affect every function within a telco. Not many have made that shift.

The inertia is understandable; there are some steep hills to climb. For one, telcos are geographically segmented and territorial. Yet, they are competing with worldwide cloud providers who are able to offer developers and software providers almost globally-consistent UI and capabilities.

Building the uniformity and reliability that enterprise clients need will require standardization and time. Time to build trust, and common standards to establish unity between telecoms operators. Such a collaborative approach may be difficult for telcos to implement but will be necessary if they are to claim the edge.

Another major obstacle is software itself. Virtualization and edge computing rely on software capabilities that telcos don’t traditionally have. By comparison, these skills are the lifeblood of cloud companies. Telecoms operators need to rethink their workforce and processes if they are to achieve the software efficiency and refinement that cloud competitors display.

One way telcos are dealing with this challenge is by working with cloud providers in potentially symbiotic arrangements. Recent announcements by Amazon Web Services and Microsoft see these behemoths using the networks and infrastructure of large telco carriers to deliver their cloud services to the edge. For many, this is a classic win-win, even if the telecoms operators do not get the ownership of the edge that they may have hoped for. Perhaps afraid of losing once again to cloud providers, telcos are willing to strike a deal that sees them capture at least some of the pie.

Were this the case, it would be another example of risk-averse thinking that will end with telecoms operators losing their play for the edge. Though cloud providers may be relying on carriers for now, they have already signaled their intention for the future.

Only last month, Microsoft acquired Affirmed Networks, specialists in fully virtualized, cloud-native networking solutions for telecom operators. This will release Microsoft from reliance on telecoms’ data centers as they build edge computing capability. In Microsoft’s recent quarterly conference call with analysts Microsoft’s CEO was boasting “We are the only cloud that extends to the edge, with consistency across operating models, development environments and infrastructure stack,” revealing more about Microsoft’s edge computing strategy.

Google Cloud has revealed similar aspirations with the launch of Anthos and Global Mobile Edge Cloud (GMEC). More than that, Alphabet also has Google Fi, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), as well as fiber and cloud offerings. Taken together, this represents a disruptive portfolio in telecommunications.

Similarly, Facebook is launching its Terragraph network in San Jose using 60Ghz spectrum, which could compete with 5G. Despite current agreements and collaborations, telcos’ competitors are making bold moves towards taking away more of telecoms’ business.


We have known for some time now that telecommunications firms are in need of new business models and approaches to market development. It is not novel to observe that telcos were too slow to react in the past, and as a result were beaten by OTT.

But reactive strategies, no matter how fast, are now altogether insufficient. Only proactive movement will do if telcos are to avoid losing the battle for edge computing. Cloud providers are already closing the gaps in their own capabilities, and telecom companies need to do the same, but faster.

This will require a new way of doing business, but also a new way of thinking about telecom business. It won’t be easy, but that doesn’t matter – right now, there’s no time to think about pain.

What COVID-19 Taught Us About the Need for 5G


There are many adjectives that could be used to describe the global outbreak of COVID-19, but perhaps the simplest might be: fast.

The disease has spread quicker than most people can mentally digest. By nature, humans process linearly. This pandemic has been a lesson in exponential thinking for the common man. Those who don’t spend their time contemplating Moore’s Law or compound interest have felt overwhelmed by infection or mortality rates that double daily.

In response, governments, businesses, monetary institutions, education systems and the many other players in corporate and civil life have acted at high speed. It is easy to argue that, in numerous cases, reactions should have been faster, but as a whole, shifts in policy and social management have been rapid.

A pace of change of this magnitude and on this scale is unprecedented. Seemingly overnight, entire societies have been atomized, people cloistered in separate homes with external face-to-face contact deemed illegal.

Predictions of a future in which people communicate primarily online have been rendered inaccurate by decades. In one giant leap, we have landed in a virtual reality facilitated almost exclusively by digital applications like Zoom, Houseparty, Skype, WhatsApp and Slack.

Older generations have received a crash course in teleconferencing. Millions are having their first experience of working from home. And many of those homes are shared with others in a type of ceaseless proximity that tests even the healthiest relationships.

All of this change has happened, and continues to happen, incredibly fast. That has made people feel uneasy. While everyone likes to speak of the “current situation”, there is a lot about this that will last far beyond the end of the coronavirus crisis. As Yuval Noah Harari writes in the Financial Times:

“Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours. Immature and even dangerous technologies are pressed into service, because the risks of doing nothing are bigger.”

A few months ago, before public debate was dominated by COVID-19 concerns, “immature” and “dangerous” were words regularly used by opponents of 5G. But, what do the extreme and rapid changes to social and economic structures mean for 5G, the technological poster child for ‘fast’?

Will growing fears related to privacy, cybersecurity and curtailed civil liberties affect the public perceptions of 5G, or will this technology’s benefits be crucial to a new world in which dispersed humans rely more and more on connectivity for communication and services?

The answer, of course, is both. 5G is about to become more critical than ever, but so will requirements for its responsible implementation and management.

Taking WTH? out of WFH

Covid-19 started as a health emergency but soon evolved into a social and economic one. Many parts of the world economy have ground to a halt. Despite record sums in fiscal stimulus and monetary interventions aimed at keeping companies open and citizens employed, the damage has been sharp and extreme.

In the United States alone, more than 22 million jobs have been lost since the middle of March. However, many jobs have been saved in companies who have been able to restructure themselves around remote working.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), until recently working from home was a luxury for the relatively affluent.

Only around 7% of U.S. workers had the option to regularly work from home (WFH), most of them “knowledge workers” such as executives, IT managers, financial analysts and accountants. The UK Office for National Statistics estimated the WFH contingent in the United Kingdom in 2019 was approximately 5%.

Though no authoritative figures have been compiled yet, the number of people currently teleworking around the world has multiplied dramatically. Whole organizations have moved online and connect via video conferencing.

In March, Zoom was downloaded 2.13m times around the world in one day, up from 56,000 times a day two months earlier. The company’s share price has doubled since 1 January 2020.

In many countries, schools have been closed, with children continuing their education at home. Families are in lockdown together, with the result that working parents are online almost fulltime, and at the same time as their kids who are streaming, surfing or gaming.

That amount of domestic traffic, most of it in the form of high-data video, is unheard of. In a recent press release, Verizon stated that demands on bandwidth had increased 75% over the course of one week.

Home broadband typically has a lower capacity than business networks and telecoms providers are being tested as they aim to meet the surge in demand. More challenging, though, is the fact that this ‘surge’ may be more of a new normal.

Yes, the current conditions could be expected to last for a few months, which will place established networks under strain, but questions are already being asked of how COVID-19 will change the work landscape after social distancing and limitations to freedom of movement are ended.

It is very likely that WFH will become a more pervasive and accepted mode of working for those whose jobs permit this type of engagement. Network operators will need to be prepared for that. More importantly, though, they need to be ready for the next major economic disruption, pandemic or otherwise.

The most obvious possible solution to these challenges is 5G, which has the large network capacity, high speed and low latency required to keep millions of connections stable in real-time without lag or loss of quality.

Not only are we likely to see an acceleration of 5G adoption over the short to medium term, we may also see this technology being prioritized further above other infrastructural focus areas. 5G could become the most critical of critical infrastructures, and its strategic importance has already been emphasized in geopolitical conflicts like the trade war between China and the US.

Below this public zeal for 5G capability, though, numerous questions exist about unequal access to basic internet services. Even in the US, households in rural areas are 12% less likely to have broadband than their urban or suburban counterparts.

Critics say the fanfare about 5G is obscuring, possibly even exacerbating, these inequalities. Existing socio-economic divides will need to be addressed if countries hope to move their working population online.

The COVID-19 crisis may justify an even faster 5G rollout. This is not simply because more people will rely on this technology to stay connected from home, it is because COVID-19 will have profound effects on our social systems, and only 5G will be able to support this evolution.

Smartification of a post-COVID world

On the 9th of January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced an outbreak of a flu-like disease in Wuhan, China. For most of the world, this was the first news of the coronavirus that would grow into today’s pandemic.

If, however, you were a client of BlueDot, a Canadian health-monitoring platform, you would have known about COVID-19 more than a week earlier, on 31st December, when the company sent out a notice to its customers.

BlueDot’s advance warning system is founded on an AI algorithm that scours news reports and airline ticketing data to predict the spread of diseases like coronavirus. This AI epidemiologist beat many top scientists to the diagnostic punch, but it was only the first example of AI and smart technology being used in the fight against COVID-19.

From autonomous machines used to disinfect hospitals to patrol robots deployed to monitor mask-wearing and body temperatures in public places, 5G-powered devices have been at the frontline of the battle against coronavirus from the outset. These use case examples come from China where 5G capability is more advanced than the rest of the world, but the lessons are clear: 5G can be a key ally in counteracting the spread of a dangerous disease.

However, the full value of 5G in response to COVID-19 will only be felt over the coming months, and it will be felt by everyone, not only those in critical healthcare services. The greatest impact will be seen in cities, where the virus has hit hardest, but where the concentrated benefits of 5G access can be leveraged en masse.

5G can support up to a million devices per square kilometre. In cities, that means the possibility of coordinating multiple public and private messaging systems to notify citizens of important health and safety announcements.

As cities become smarter, 5G also means that diseases like coronavirus can be tracked, mapped and neutralized much faster. Cameras in public spaces, licence plate readers, and mobile device data can be commandeered to trace the people’s movement and, therefore, the spread of the virus.

As we will see shortly, implementing this type of approach raises important questions about privacy and civil liberty, but the fact remains that 5G permits a new level of surveillance that can, if used responsibly, serve society in life-preserving ways.

As we become increasingly accustomed to the reality of social distancing and individual isolation in our own homes, it’s easy to observe how 5G-enabled machines will influence how we receive simple services like deliveries. It is fair to assume that delivery bots, like those being trialled on college campuses, will become ubiquitous in cities and suburban areas, delivering courier parcels, takeouts, groceries or medicines to self-isolating individuals or dispersed communities. Drone delivery technology is also reaching maturity, ensuring greater reach for healthcare systems and more support for the critically ill.

Though these developments have strong positive potential, there is also a possibility of high social costs. In economies already stripped of jobs, greater automation of supply chains through autonomous vehicles, drones and bots will further reduce the need for a human workforce.

Perhaps even more worrying, though, is the price we may be asked to pay with our own freedom. It doesn’t take a dystopian fantasy writer to imagine the many dangers of 24/7 surveillance systems that recognize our faces, know where we live, and monitor our every movement. When the disease is gone, this could form the new battlefront of civic concern, and 5G could be a primary target.

War is peace

In the first chapter of George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the reader is introduced to The Party’s three slogans: War is peace; Freedom is slavery; Ignorance is strength. 1984 was written shortly after World War II, when the author and all those around him had experienced a first-hand vision of what life may be like under totalitarian control.

These three tenets powerfully express the domination that Orwell saw as all too possible when the masses are manipulated by fear, propaganda, and misinformation, and leaders have absolute power. But the book’s most enduring statement is the ubiquitous warning from Oceania’s commander: “Big Brother is watching you.”

This caution has become the mantra of those who fear the creation of a surveillance state in which ruling powers are able to monitor all citizens and direct their behaviour. Such concerns have been around for a long time, since before Orwell, but we now live in an era in which technology undeniably makes the possibility of Big Brother a reality.

The coronavirus crisis has made this point all too clear. We already have the technology to track individuals by their mobile devices, their physical identity, their financial activity, their online behavior.

Under COVID-19 we have seen this technology employed by countries like China and South Korea to excellent effect in aiding quick responses to outbreaks of the disease. Some argue that this is because the populations of these countries are already accustomed to surveillance.

For the Chinese, especially, these conditions are already an accepted part of daily life. Eight of the top 10 most surveilled cities in the world are in China, with the most surveilled watched over by 2.58 million cameras–that’s one camera for every 5.9 citizens. Without the same democratic controls championed by nations in the west, the Chinese government is able to use the data it collects with relative freedom. This gives the ruling party the ability to mobilize new policies effectively, helping to get outbreaks like coronavirus under control relatively rapidly.

In the west, democratic safeguards are enacted to protect citizens from governments and corporations using their data against them. But as emergency laws are passed with little time for resistance or careful consideration, fears are mounting that privacy and security could be under threat.

Edward Snowden argues that legislative responses to Covid-19 could give governments invasive new “temporary” data-collection powers that could last long after the pandemic. As Yuval Noah Harari points out in his FT article, “temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon.”

It would be very easy to justify the maintenance of emergency surveillance powers by highlighting the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus, and then a dangerous outbreak of Ebola, and so on.

Effectively, we could forever be “at war” with some contagion, and that war could keep the populace lulled into a sense of safety that is provided by, and therefore justifies, levels of surveillance that would currently seem terrifying. War is peace. And that war could be neverending.

Believers in the strength of democracy do not see this scenario materializing, but vigilance and reason should not be abandoned. Only 5G would be able to deliver such an Orwellian nightmare. With its high speed, low latency and unprecedented device capacity, 5G networks would be critical to the construction of a surveillance state.

If 5G’s implementation was controversial before, COVID-19 will probably make it a matter of far wider debate. That is appropriate and necessary, provided that the powerful benefits of this technology are not forgotten. Like all the tools humans have created through history, 5G is agnostic. It can be used to do good or harm, the choice is ours.

Report: Inquiry into the deployment, adoption and application of 5G in AU

The Next Gen Future 5G Australia

Australian government’s committee – The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts – has issued a new report on adoption of 5G in Australia.

The report titled “The Next Gen Future – Inquiry into the deployment, adoption and application of 5G in Australia” lists 14 recommendations including these few related to technology independence and cybersecurity:

  • The Committee recommends that the Australian Government investigate ways to encourage the manufacture of 5G infrastructure within Australia.
  • To help enable this, the Australian Government should establish a 5G R&D Innovation Fund to fast track the development and scale-up of alternative manufacturing approaches to reduce the duopoly dependency on 5G related equipment.
  • The Committee recommends that the Australian Government conduct a review of current legislative arrangements enforcing network and data security for the supply of 5G equipment. Further, as part of this framework, it must be incumbent on vendors to enforce Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management throughout procurement, roll out and maintenance of the 5G network.

The report is available here: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Communications/5G/Report

White House Releases National Strategy for 5G Security

White House National 5G Security Strategy

The White House released its National Strategy to Secure 5G of the United States to formally frame how the nation will safeguard its 5G infrastructure.

The 7-page policy document sets forth the president’s “vision for America to lead the development, deployment, and management of secure and reliable 5G communications infrastructure worldwide, arm-in-arm with [its] closest partners and allies.”

This National Strategy to Secure 5G will fulfill the goals of the National Cyber Strategy
with four lines of effort: (1) facilitating the rollout of 5G domestically; (2) assessing the
cybersecurity risks to and identifying core security principles of 5G capabilities and
infrastructure; (3) addressing risks to United States economic and national security
during development and deployment of 5G infrastructure worldwide; and (4) promoting
responsible global development and deployment of secure and reliable 5G

Its release marks President Trump’s initial move to meet the requirements laid out in the Secure 5G and Beyond Act. The new law directs the president to produce a strategy “to ensure security of next generation wireless communications systems and infrastructure,” within 180 days of its enactment.

The strategy is available here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/National-Strategy-5G-Final.pdf EDIT: The strategy is archived and is now available here [PDF]: https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/National-Strategy-5G-Final.pdf

3GPP delays releases 16 and 17 for three months

In response to COVID-19 3GPP has delayed the next two 5G standards releases – releases 16 and 17 – by three months.

3GPP Release 16 stage 3 freezing will now occur in June 2020 while Release 17 will now be frozen in June 2021.

Release 16 includes specifications that cover:

  • Enhancement of Ultra Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) support in the 5G Core network
  • Physical-layer enhancements for URLLC
  • 5G New radio (NR) support for Industrial Internet of Things
  • LAN services
  • NR-based access to unlicensed spectrum (NR_unlic)

Release 17 is expected to address:

  • Asset tracking in 5G (ATRAC)
  • Communication Service Requirements for Critical Medical Applications (CMED)
  • Enhancements for cyber-physical control applications in vertical domains (eCAV)
  • User equipment (UE) power saving enhancements for NR
  • Enhancements to Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB) for NR

Many of the specifications in Release 16 and release 17 will address the use cases to go beyond enhances Mobile Broadband (eMBB). The URLLC specification addresses the industrial control use case. 5G NR support for IoT could also add industrial applications.

More info: https://www.3gpp.org/release-16

Unlocking the Future – Why Virtualization Is the Key to 5G

5G Virtualization

Depending on who you speak to, 5G is either humankind’s greatest imminent blessing or its greatest imminent curse. Still in its infancy, and not yet commercially standardized, this technology has already been the most polarizing advancement we have ever seen in communication.

Consumers worldwide are captivated by promises of super-fast download speeds, split-second responsiveness and next-level mobile phone communication, but are divided on the possible sacrifices of privacy and security.

Detractors continue to issue condemnations of 5G cellular’s possible health risks. Supporters continue to shake their heads in disbelief. Governments jostle for geopolitical supremacy; 5G is seen as both a proxy for power, and also a critical infrastructure for the furtherance of national economic interests.

Why has 5G been so controversial and divisive? We never saw anything approximating this level of contention and animosity in the rollouts of 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G. What is so special about the 5th generation of wireless connectivity?

Quite simply, the stakes are higher than ever before.

Though the possibilities that may be realized through 5G are still largely theoretical, even conservative predictions make it clear that this technology will have an unprecedented impact on the way humans live.

Everyone wants a piece of that pie. But it’s not yet clear exactly how they’ll claim it.

Many concerns around 5G are related to this discrepancy in strategy, and the fear that public and private interests are rushing into the rollout of something they do not yet fully understand.

The reality is a little less gung-ho. Outside China, widespread commitment to the establishment of 5G networks has been varied, and in some areas even slow to pick up. This is largely the result of financial tension: the upside of gaining a competitive advantage in this space may be significant, but the capital risks are just as great.

Because 5G is not the same as the Gs that came before. Implementing this technology does not simply require an upgrade of the current network, it demands a new type of network altogether.

Initially, 5G will need to integrate the established operations of 4G, especially LTE, but in order to scale their networks quickly and access 5G’s full potential, operators will need to redefine their network architecture, operations, and services.

5G virtualization is crucial and inevitable.

Without virtualization, 5G will be unable to meet its connectivity requirements. The network will not be able to adapt quickly enough to keep up with the rampant technological changes in ancillary domains. Telcos will not profit from their investments.

A critical evolutionary response

Evolution is not linear. Its course is determined by the emergence of a new need–or the redundancy of an old one–followed by a creative response. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. It is this way in the natural world, and the technological.

5G is a natural next step in the evolution of wireless networks because we are moving into a new era of human interaction. We are in the early stages of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), a redefinition of the way we live and work through the assimilation of the physical and the digital.

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to make decisions based on rapid analysis of vast amounts of information, our technology will soon begin to manage and constantly improve our industrial and commercial systems.

The social face of this dramatic shift is Society 5.0–a vision of the extraordinary advances in human society that will be precipitated by the integration of technologies like big data and AI. By merging cyber, physical, and biological we will see leaps of progress in areas like healthcare, mobility, infrastructure, agriculture and energy.

Two sides of the same evolutionary leap, 4IR and Society 5.0 will rely on the continuous transfer of huge amounts of data generated within a massive internet of things (mIoT).

Video traffic on wireless networks is expected to grow from 56 exabytes globally in 2017 to 240 exabytes globally in 2022. This is not just a lot of YouTube. Public surveillance systems, traffic control systems, industrial management systems–these will all rely on continuous streams of video, a data-dense medium of communication.

As augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) move towards ubiquity, data volumes will continue to grow at unprecedented rates. Current network structures are simply not up to the task. 5G is not a nice-to-have, it will be essential if we are to realize the potential of our current data development trajectory.

5G is also our best hope of supporting the mIoT, a planetary network of devices, sensors and processors that is expected to grow beyond 75 billion in the next five years.

As part of the performance standards set out in IMT-2020, an international 5G specifications campaign spearheaded by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the minimum requirement for 5G’s connection density is 1 million devices per km2. 4G supports about 5% of that density.

Enabling 5G is imperative if we are to facilitate the emergence of Society 5.0, but this technology will not achieve its full capacity on static physical infrastructure. We will need virtualization.

Only by transcending tangible hardware to become cloud-based and software-managed will 5G be able to liberate its whole array of latent benefits: high speed, low latency, lower operational cost, greater energy efficiency, improved scalability, and increased agility.

5G Virtualization, NFV, SDN, and a network slice for every snowflake

Network Virtualization (NV) releases the network from its anchor in hardware and runs a virtual network on top of the physical network. The result is a more dynamic system that can be controlled from a central plane, removing the need for humans to manually configure pieces of hardware.

5G network virtualization will permit the division of hardware resources into functions that can be controlled by software: network functions virtualization (NFV). In network management, NFV seeks to directly optimize network services. The associated network management approach, software-defined networking (SDN), establishes a centralized view of the network by detaching the control and forwarding planes.

As a result of NFV, network resources can be configured and allocated to service the needs of specific customers or service categories, without needing physical adjustments or dedicated infrastructures.

Such a restructuring will pave the way for much-vaunted 5G capacities like network slicing. This architecture introduces the possibility of multiple virtual networks on top of shared physical infrastructure.

Each network slice can be dedicated to specific functions, clients or use cases, delivering elevated service within each segment, and a higher-performing network overall. Network slicing will be the key ingredient in 5G’s ability to support and deliver value from the three ITU-specified generic services with vastly heterogeneous requirements:

  1. enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
  2. Ultra-reliable and Low-latency communications (URLLC)
  3. massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC)

Within these three areas, we will see the emergence of high-speed mobile applications, driverless cars, and mIoT. But, importantly, these use cases will all have different network requirements such as speed, latency, stability, and security. Network slicing makes it possible to satisfy these needs in a dispersed, yet coordinated and tailored way.

SDN and NFV are used to customize the network offering, supported by automation, service provisioning and orchestration. But the uncoupling of hardware and software does not only facilitate greater network efficacy and efficiency.

It inherently lends itself to a more democratic approach to wireless innovation, promising improved services, better network economics, and shorter times to market for new network vendors.

Open gates

Seen through the retrospective lens of a 5G-enabled world, the traditional structure of cellular networks borders on archaic. The arrangement favors a few vendors who control the architectural and infrastructural advancement of the ecosystem. The software in these networks is predominantly proprietary and vendor-controlled.

Such a hierarchical and closed structure leads to a handful of players wielding a disproportional influence in network growth. But, more critically perhaps, it stymies innovation, limits agility and slows evolution.

By effectively separating the hardware and software components of the network, and introducing new capacities like virtualization and cloud computing, 5G invites open source development of its various features and assets.

This opportunity is already being embraced by telcos who have aligned themselves to ONAP (the Open Networking Automation Platform), with the intention of improving their operations and business support systems.

The real gains from open source should ultimately be felt by the end user. The limitations created by having a small pool of vendors from whom equipment and networking services can be bought has long been a complaint among operators. By gaining more control over their own infrastructure, operators should be able to optimize the services they provide to their customers.

The spirit of open source is being championed by initiatives like OpenRAN and OpenAirInterfaceTM Software Alliance (OSA), who are focused on improving the quality and efficiency of network development through open source’s democratized, disaggregated, software-based approach.

Such platforms may currently be testbeds, not production-ready environments, but the path towards 5G open source stack is clear.

Though it will have some impact on the radio access network (RAN), open source’s most lasting effect will be related to virtualization, especially in “softwared” network domains and services, such as network slicing, automation, and mobile edge computing.

New opportunities, new threats

5G’s promised benefits are widely discussed, but, understandably, so are its risks. 5G brings into play numerous cybersecurity concerns that do not exist in earlier network generations.

The surge in connectivity broadens the network and provides a larger potential attack surface. And by facilitating a massive internet of things, 5G invites billions more devices to be connected to networks. Most of these devices lack baked-in cybersecurity, or are managed by applications that are themselves poorly secured.

5G networks are also inherently more vulnerable due to their achitecture. Previous network iterations were built on a hardware-based hub-and-spoke model that centralized processes and allowed cyber hygiene to be performed at hardware choke points.

The distributed software-driven routing that defines 5G, however, removes the need for such choke points. This improves speed and efficiency, but it eliminates a very useful security mechanism.

Virtualization has a multi-faceted role to play in 5G.

Firstly, it is part of the problem. Because of their open, flexible, programmable nature, SDN and NFV open up a new range of security threats. A cyber attack that targets the SDN controller, for example, could bring down the entire system.

When network functions are moved into software they become instantly more open to attack–software is by its nature hackable. Furthermore, because virtualized processes will increasingly be managed by AI applications, the wider network becomes more susceptible to damage as a result of those AI operators being hijacked.

However, virtualization should also be part of the cure. According to a recent AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Security at the Speed of 5G, “enterprises will need to take advantage of virtualization to make the network nimbler and more responsive, with the ability to provide just-in-time services.”

5G requires end-to-end security. But, in a virtualized network, virtualized security can be deployed rapidly to almost any network location and automatically respond when new attacks are discovered. Automation is a critical component of this strategy and is made possible through virtualization.

5G’s high speed and low latency, accentuated by virtualized services, will make effective cybersecurity (at least partly) reliant on AI or machine learning for timely threat detection and response.

It is imperative that we get this right. Failure to do so will have possibly devastating results.

One of 5G’s defining features is the potential for the convergence of the cyber and physical realms. Despite its many benefits, this union also spells a new type of danger. Cyber attacks that successfully infiltrate the virtualized world of 5G networks could have very real results in the physical world, where 5G will be used to drive autonomous vehicles or permit remote brain surgery or operate military drones.

As soon as these threats become cyber-kinetic in nature, the danger to human life is elevated.


5G will dramatically alter the way we live, work and play, but its full scope of opportunity is arguably so great that we don’t see it all yet. Regardless of what those diverse use cases eventually turn out to be, we will not get there without reengineering the architecture of the network.

Virtualization is a profound step towards the liberation of 5G’s genuine capacity. By uncoupling from hardware and moving network functions and management into software and the cloud, the network becomes more responsive, agile and open.

Unfortunately, however, this also means more open to attack. As we test and experience more of this quantum leap technology we may be surprised by how we can use it, but we will be equally surprised by how it can be used against us.

The choice is ours. 5G truly could be the network that changes the world, but only if we apply the same amount of innovation to its security as we are applying to its development.

Will 5G and Society 5.0 Mark a New Era in Human Evolution?

Society 5.0 and 5G
Society 5.0 and 5G

In their outstanding book, Wicked and Wise, Alan Watkins and Ken Wilber look at some of the most pressing ‘wicked problems’ facing the human race. ‘Wicked problems,’ they suggest, are difficult to define, but they are essentially unsolvable in the usual scientific sense.

The authors go on: wicked problems, such as climate change, are multi-dimensional, have multiple causes, multiple stakeholders, multiple symptoms and multiple solutions. They are by definition complex and difficult to process.

Crucially, they are created or exacerbated by people.

Our species has proved capable of producing challenges of unfathomable difficulty. We may, however, also prove capable of developing the novel thinking and technology required to overcome them.

Society 5.0 is the vision of such a future, in which humans and machines “co-create” the solutions to societal problems by integrating cyberspace and physical space. And it’s not as fantastical as some may think; much of the technology we will need is already here.

Beyond 4IR

We are in the emergent stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)–an era of rapid “cyber-physical systems” technological advancement leading to abrupt changes in society and re-imagining of production through the digitization.

The First Industrial Revolution employed steam and water power to improve output. The second used electricity to do the same. The Third Industrial Revolution used computers and automation to accelerate production.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) refers to the current fundamental shift of our economic world towards a new paradigm based on the fusion of digital and physical worlds in cyber-physical systems and growing use of emerging technologies such as AI, cloud, IoT, robotics.

The best known example of 4IR transformation is Industry 4.0 – a subset of 4IR focused on utilization of cyber-physical systems and AI to transform manufacturing. Industry 4.0 is already revolutionizing the way we manufacture products. It builds on the power of computerized automation by introducing machine and systems autonomy. Through wireless networks of sensors, receivers, and processors, vast amounts of manufacturing data are collected and processed by computers, big data, machine learning, and increasingly by artificial intelligence (AI), currently of the “narrow” or “weak” kind.

These autonomous arrangements of physical and virtual computing elements are effectively capable of learning in real-time. They continuously improve production processes, making decisions based on super-fast analysis of live and historical data collected from the production environment.

The First Industrial Revolution reduced the need for human labor. The second increased efficiency by mechanizing large production lines. The third used computers to automate these processes even further, but still required humans to manage production.

The 4IR goes further to make human intervention in production applications almost redundant. Smart factories, for example, are envisaged to be independent collections of cyber-physical systems (CPSs) in which people are necessary only for specialized jobs, machine maintenance, high-level network management, and strategic guidance.

Society 5.0 is similar to 4IR in terms of technologies used and the idea of merging of cyber, physical and biological worlds. However, Society 5.0 is a more sweeping concept that goes beyond manufacturing and commerce and envisages a complete transformation of our way of life. Society 5.0 is a human-centered proposition that seeks to use the same relationships between cyberspace and physical space as 4IR to solve social problems.

What, for example, will be the societal effects of 4IR?

As AI and automation make many human jobs redundant, what will the impact be on the nature of work, communities and social structures?

What will happen to economies as medical improvements lead to an aging population?

What will happen to the environment as human production and consumption continue to grow?

These are wicked problems, even though they are the result of largely positive trends towards more widespread human wellbeing. And they would not be vexing us were it not for technology.

Of course, this does not make technology bad, or even good–it is agnostic–but it does raise the question: if we used technology to get ourselves into these dilemmas, can we use it to get ourselves out?

The notion of Society 5.0 is an emphatic ‘YES’ to that question. It proposes that, through deep incorporation of technology, we can achieve a forward-looking society in which each and every person can lead an active and enjoyable life.

The Fifth Step

Human society has gone through a number of distinct evolutionary iterations.

Initially (Society 1.0), we organized ourselves in small groups or tribes of hunter gatherers, living off the natural output of the land. Then, through horticulture and agriculture (Society 2.0), we used tools to harness the growing potential of the earth, giving us more control over our food production. Society 3.0 saw us move into the industrial era, and Society 4.0 represents the information age we are living through now.

First proposed in Japan’s 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan as a future that the country should aspire to, Society 5.0 is seen as the next step towards a more successful human collective.

Rather than simply using technology to improve our means of production, this plan is intended to create a new social contract and economic model by fully integrating cutting-edge technological innovations into our social fabric.

The result? A super-smart society that leverages robotics, big data, AI, and the internet of everything to deliver services that improve the lives of all. It will need to be safe and it will need to be built on a new generation of wireless infrastructure, but the impact will be felt in multiple domains.

New solutions for new problems

The pace and extent of globalization have meant that new challenges have emerged that were either not anticipated, or at least not expected for some time to come. And, having a more integrated world means having more integrated problems that are more difficult to solve.

Sustaining economic growth while reducing income inequality and environmental degradation; improving the welfare of an aging population while ensuring opportunities for the youth; providing for more people using limited resources; slowing down, stopping, and then reversing the effects of climate change: these are, by Watkins’ and Wilber’s definition, wicked problems.

Society 5.0 imagines technology and humans working together to approach these Gordian knots in a number of different areas.


Japan is well-known for having a population that is weighted heavily towards older citizens–approximately a third of the country is 60 years or older–which is partly why Society 5.0 has a strong emphasis on better health and wellbeing, especially for the old.

However, as medical technology across the world improves in quality and affordability, all nations will face the challenges of having an aging population. These include increasing medical and social security expenses, and the demands of caring for the elderly.

In Society 5.0, wearable medical devices will allow health and physiological data to be captured, uploaded and analyzed remotely, permitting early (AI-driven) detection and diagnosis of illness. Medication and healthcare services will be delivered by drone and autonomous vehicles, giving elderly people in rural areas equal access to quality healthcare. Robots and AI will assist in giving elderly citizens living support, even offering them the conversation and companionship that is critical to greater mental health.

In combination, these results will lessen the burden on public healthcare systems, lowering the need for hospital visits and improving the accuracy and efficacy of diagnoses and medical prescriptions.


Expanding urban populations throughout the world are leading to the intensification of congestion and transport system overload. On the opposite end of the scale, depopulated rural areas have fewer public transport options or none at all.

As we move towards society’s 5th iteration, technology will play a significant role in addressing these problems.

In cities and concentrated urban centres, traffic management systems will be guided by ubiquitous sensors and cameras. These will generate vast amounts of data that will be combined, through AI, with weather data and regional event data to optimize traffic flows.

Individuals will also have their own preferences for travel, food and entertainment overlayed with universal transport data to deliver personalized journey recommendations.

In rural areas, driverless taxis and buses will be promoted for public transport. Distribution and delivery services will build a broader reach.


As with individuals’ health, social care for public infrastructure and services will become proactive in Society 5.0. This move will be the backbone of civil management in smart cities.

Installations like roads, buildings, tunnels and dams will be monitored by sensors supplying a continuous feed of data. This information will allow preemptive maintenance and efficient deployment of technicians with specialized skills.

As a result, accidents will be minimized, time and resources spent in construction and repair work will be reduced. Safety and productivity will increase.


A declining rural population worldwide is leading to a labor shortage in agriculture, This, in a sector that is under increasing pressure to raise production while working against the challenges of more extreme climate patterns.

In Society 5.0, AI analysis of big data, such as meteorological data, crop-growth data, market conditions, and food trends and needs, will lead to hyper-efficient agricultural management.

These “intelligent” data-based decisions will be carried out by autonomous farming vehicles and machinery. From soil preparation to crop collection to seed planting, robots, drones and driverless farm equipment will take over many traditional farm labor roles.

The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Only through AI and machine-optimized agricultural management will we be able to feed so many people.

Disaster prevention and response

As we see more examples of extreme weather around the globe, the future value of predictive climatological and geological information is becoming clearer and clearer.

As Society 5.0 unfolds, data acquired from terrestrial weather radar, satellites, geological sensors, drones and public observation systems will become invaluable. Processed in real-time using AI, this information will deliver those precious minutes or hours’ warning of impending disaster that can save lives.

Widespread access to mobile networks will allow safety and prevention broadcasts to be disseminated directly to end users, while devices can be used to geolocate individuals in trouble.

To those trapped by environmental disasters, relief and rescue materials can be delivered by drones, which will also be able to feed back video footage of victims’ state of wellbeing.


In a world of 9 billion people, much of the competition for resources will effectively be a competition for energy. Optimal energy creation and management will be crucial to a harmonious society.

As energy production moves more towards green alternatives like wind and solar, weather plays a more important role. Analysis of weather data and accurate prediction of weather patterns will a key aspect of reliable electricity manufacturing.

Big data processing by AI will also optimize electricity flows across the grid to meet vacillations in demand and supply. This will be particularly important in smart cities where responsive systems in buildings and public locations will manage energy down to the minute, and most forms of transport will become electric.

Cybersecurity 5.0

The true power of Society 5.0 will lie in its degree of integration. The more the cyber and physical worlds are combined, the greater the benefits we will experience.

However, the same is true of cyber threats. The more technology is incorporated into every corner of our social being, even our physical being, the greater the risk to our personal and collective safety.

Society 5.0 is built on an intricate network of sensors, devices machines and systems–a vast internet of everything. Each of these components broadens the cyber attack surface, but also elevates the stakes in the case of fallout.

When technology is woven into the tapestry of all we do, it is not hard to see the potential dangers. Autonomous vehicles, AI-operated public transport systems, fleets of drones, critical disaster prevention processes–these can all be hacked.

That is true today, but the difference in Society 5.0 is that all relationships are cyber-kinetic. Virtual events have physical results. People get hurt. Or worse.

Society 5G.0

The connectivity requirements of Society 5.0 are almost incomprehensible. In all areas–urban to rural–devices and humans will be engaged in perpetual real-time communication. This will not be possible without 5G.

With its lighting speeds, near-zero latency, and high device connection capacity, only 5G has the potential to deliver the Society 5.0 vision. It will facilitate access to AI’s full capability, processing ocean’s of data in an instant, using it to make key decisions that impact millions.

With the broad geographical distribution of services that Society 5.0 calls for, 5G services like edge computing and network slicing will become even more important than they are now.

5G is perhaps already the most critical of Critical Infrastructures. But, in the fifth generation of society, it may be the gateway to a better way of life for all of us.

Huawei Greenlit for U.K.’s 5G Network

UK 5G Huawei
UK 5G Huawei

The U.K. government greenlit Huawei for a limited role in the U.K.’s fifth-generation telecommunications networks. This is a blow for American efforts of the last few years to get its allies to boycott the Chinese telecom-equipment vendor.

The U.S. has been campaigning against Huawei ostensibly over spying fears. However, the real reasons are much more complicated. See Geopolitics of 5G and 5G-Connected Massive & Critical IoT for my analysis of the 5G-related geopolitical spat. The underlying question really being about who would take the lead in the nascent “Society 5.0” / “Everything Connected” era and who gets left behind.

The U.K. faced a dilemma weighing between the economic costs of being out-innovated and the relationship with China on one side, and the national security and the relationship the U.S. on the other.

I believe U.K. decision was the most rational course of action. The government is confident it can mitigate the risks by preventing Huawei’s equipment from being used in sensitive ‘core’ parts of 5G. It will also cap the involvement of Huawei at 35% of non-sensitive parts of Britain’s network.

For more information see Bloomberg article: Huawei Poised to Get Go-Ahead for U.K.’s 5G Networks Tuesday

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