Security as a Differentiator for 5G

By: Eduardo Holgado

As far as consumers are concerned today, 5G is about speed and to a lesser extent latency. But is that enough to attract subscribers to new 5G networks?

Mobile operators are scrambling to roll out 5G networks at great expense. For those consumers who have done their homework, excitement about new services is high. But just like any service, 5G operators will need to differentiate their offering to compete with other 5G networks. When you ask consumers today what the greatest benefit of 5G is, they almost unanimously say that it is speed, with some adding latency to the mix and the hope that 5G will be more reliable than 4G. But with a bit more thought, many current 4G subscribers recognize that there is no need for speed beyond what they already experience.

Some educated consumers realize that the benefits of 5G will enable a new generation of applications including augmented and virtual reality tools and games, cloud gaming improvements, fixed wireless access, and others. These applications will require more speed and lower latency. But all 5G networks will promise similar specifications. So, even in the best of circumstances, 5G can easily become a commodity like its predecessors.

According to a 2022 YouGov survey, 61 percent of consumers said that they believe that 5G would improve their digital experience. But only 34 percent said they are willing to pay more for 5G. In Europe, that number drops to a mere 19 percent. This gap illustrates that consumers know about 5G and even look at it favorably. But they are still unwilling to increase their investment based on the currently perceived benefits of 5G.

5G networks are rolling out now with 5G operators promising new services that have never been seen before. These are the services that are supposed to draw consumers to the new 5G connections. But it could be years before real 5G services for consumers are available. We frequently hear about industrial and commercial 5G services that are going to be launched soon—but those don’t interest consumers. So how can service providers attract subscribers to their upgraded networks, with upgraded pricing, so that they can recoup their 5G investment?

As communication service providers roll out new services that take advantage of 5G’s speed and latency advantages, new challenges arise for the communication service provider (CSP) and the service subscriber.

5G challenges: secure connectivity could be the answer

First of all, consumers will consume more data. How 5G operators will cope with the elevated traffic is not within the scope of this article. But it will certainly be an issue as 5G grows in popularity, just as it was with previous generations of connectivity infrastructure. The data itself is not dangerous, but with more traffic will inevitably come more cyber threats, which will also be increasingly complex. Those threats will increase even more when 5G operators and over-the-top (OTT) vendors start to offer new services based on 5G features. As the user experience becomes more immersive, with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and other enhancements, more new types of information, and therefore more opportunities for malicious attacks, will be pouring into the consumer’s view. This could be especially true as a new service is rolling out—when there is generally some confusion about how the service works. Confusion and uncertainty are the playing fields of cyber criminals.

All indicators show that cybersecurity threats are increasing globally. The threat level will increase, likely at an even more accelerated rate, as more 5G data is consumed and more services are offered. With every new service delivered, cyber criminals will be waiting with open eyes and ears for new vulnerabilities. For example, in an environment with augmented reality, there will be new opportunities to get very influential messages to consumers as they discover new commercial and entertainment realms. As new vulnerabilities arise, the 5G operator’s position as the “security hero” can be more firmly established. 

Secure 5G operators to the rescue

Network operators are perfectly positioned to offer cybersecurity protection that consumers and small businesses are looking for. Every bit of Internet traffic consumed and delivered transverses the operator’s network. Who better to maintain the cyber


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