5G: Is the UK ready?
It wasn’t too long ago when the world was going crazy over the revolutionary 4G networks, how much faster the internet seemed and the introduction of ‘The Internet of Things’. In fact 4G was only just introduced in 2008 but now the buzz is circulating around the introduction of 5G, boasting to be better than 4G in a hundred and one ways.
What is 5G?
First things first let's take a look what 5G actually is. 5G literally stands for fifth generation mobile networks. The speed of the network will be far faster than any of its predecessors. With some countries hoping to roll out the network in early 2019, countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and the US. However the UK has no plans to roll the network out until late 2019, early 2020.
How will we benefit from 5G?
In reality 5G will be exactly as everyone predicts, revolutionary. The network is going to up to 100 times faster than 4G, with much lower latency. This means that delays and buffering will be undetectable for users.
It will host a greater capacity, meaning that networks will be able cope under the pressure of various high demand applications all at once. This also means that various Internet of Things will be connected simultaneously, devices such as cars to virtual reality.
These devices will be able to communicate with each other over the network, alarm clocks telling the kettle to turn on with the assumption you are getting up. Smart fridges being able to order in more food that you might be running low on. Of course these are just some of the examples of how people expect Internet of Things will be like in the future using a 5G network
The future of technology predicts the promise of more virtual and augmented reality, one example of this would be satellite navigations being projected onto a car windscreen.
Experts also predict that by 2020 almost all devices will be connected to the internet. The introduction of more Internet of Things devices such as fridges, coffee machines, lights etc. Items such as these will benefit most from the introduction of 5G.
Another example of how we might benefit from 5G is the introduction of autonomous cars and drones. These devices can go to specific locations that they are programmed to, so deliveries by drone and people can get to a location without having to drive there themselves.
Devices such as these will need to be connected to a reliable network at all times and 5G will be the network to do this.
Robots and Machines will be able to be controlled from across the world, opening up various windows of opportunities especially in terms of medical and construction.
Surgeons will be able to perform complicated surgery through robots and buildings can be constructed without the risking the health and safety for workers.
By introducing 5G we can expect to see more efficiency and money cost reductions.
The Race to be the First
In the UK there is currently a race to be the first to roll out 5G networks, with the prediction for 5G to be introduced late 2019, early 2020.
Some companies are pushing to be ahead of these predictions, companies such as Vodafone, EE and O2 are in a rush to be the first comms company to roll the new network out to people in the UK.
To start we had O2 set up a localised 5G testbed back in March this year for visitors to access later in the year. But then we had Vodafone successfully be the first company to switch to on full 5G trial in the Greater Manchester in October. They also made history by making the first successful holographic call on a 5G network in the UK.
However EE seem to have taken first position in the race by publicly announcing the first 5 cities that they will have full access to a 5G network by mid 2019, way ahead of planned schedules to roll out the network.
They have also claimed to be rolling out the network to another 10 cities by the end of 2019
Naturally surrounding the news of anything that indicates advancing as humans, there are always going to be questions about the risks and dangers posed by 5G. There are those that are genuinely believe that by allowing a communication channel between smart devices, it opens up opportunities for these AI to turn against humans. Conjuring up images of dystopian future where robots rule the world. But it should be stressed that there will be some risks and threats that we will need to overcome as and when they happen.
With 5G needing to run on millimeter waves rather than the previously used microwaves, this will mean that as the network will not be able to travel far. So, more towers will need to be erected in order to carry 5G across the country.
So with the energy being more compacted people believe that will bring on various health problems in the long term such as cancers and heart defects. Also with studies confirming that 5G will be absorbed through the sweat ducts of humans, there is no way for sure to know if 5G will have serious health effects on the human population.
However it has been stressed that 5G is a non ionizing radiation so should in theory have minimal to no effect on humans and the reality is that people should be more concerned about the amount of radiation they get from eating a microwave meal than to be scared of their mobile devices.
Mike O’Malley, VP of marketing, over at Radware, a company that provides cybersecurity services for data centres, has kindly sent us over a few of his comments about the introduction of 5G and what this means for business owners.
Commenting that the future for 5G is looking bright and the introduction of more Internet of Things is a given he has said that of course there will be serious security threats that will come with the introduction of the network.
With the network taking most applications wireless this will in turn allow for hackers to gain access wirelessly. Due to the increase of these networks carrying over critical data this will make them more targeted. In addition with the increase of of this critical data that will be generated with these new applications it will create a target rich environment for ‘for-profit’ criminals.
Attacks typically carried out by cyber criminals on wired networks will also happen wirelessly. Attacks such as burst attacks, encrypted attacks and Internet of Things attacks to name just few. With all these being said though, Mike O’Malley has also commented that this means in turn there will need to be preemptive measures taken to ensure hackers don’t get the upper hand. He has said that there will need to be a security link from all parties, everyone opening in this new world must take ownership for security.
Lastly O’Malley has also commented on that with the introduction of the 5G we can also expect to see more ransomware being used by cyber criminals. Especially ransom attacks which will see services be made unavailable until a ransom is paid, this will include Internet of Things devices being held ransom too. This new ransomware could not only affect companies but individual may also be targeted.
Radware predicts that health authorities could be left paralysed by attacks such as these, in turn creating national emergencies and the delivery if care could also be compromised.
Radware also predicts:
“Based on developments seen on the dark web, Radware predicts that cybercriminals will upgrade IoT-based botnets with swarm-based technology to create more efficient attacks. Swarmbots will turn individual IoT devices from ‘slaves’ into self-sufficient bots, which can make autonomous decisions with minimal supervision, and use their collective intelligence to opportunistically and simultaneously target vulnerable points in a network.
Hivenets take this a step further and are self-learning clusters of compromised devices that simultaneously identify and tackle different attack vectors. The devices in the hive can talk to each other and can use swarm intelligence to act together, recruit and train new members to the hive.”
One of the greatest concerns over the improved latency of 5G is that hivenets could also benefit these improvements, making them even more effective.
Next taking a look at a recent press release we were sent over from Osborne Clarke, an international law firm. Jon Fell, partner, has said:
“There is a great deal of optimism among businesses around the adoption of next-gen connectivity – and rightly so. With greater speeds and capacity, along with lower latency, companies can transform how they do businesses and enable new applications – whether that’s driverless car technology, remote surgery, sophisticated real-time drone management or even building smart cities.”
Carrying on from this, he mentions that globally the businesses that were leading the race in adopting this new era of connectivity where countries Germany and the Netherlands.
However studies found that 42% of business owners globally said that talent and skills or there of lack of will be a significant barrier their organisation faces with regards to to next generation connectivity. This was more significant for UK business executives. They were the most likely to say that there is a lack of talent of skills in their organisation to capitalise on 5G. Despite this however, 92% of UK respondents were also most likely to believe that connectivity will be more important in the next 5 years.
In addition to the challenges posed by the lack of skills and talent organisation face. There is also the matter of the costs it will need for an organisation to full adopt next generation connectivity. 44% of businesses saying that money will be one of their greatest barriers.
Finally 39% of business owners voiced concerns over the security threats and more opportunities for cyber criminals to use the network for hacking, fraud etc. Also with over the past year data protection becoming more important, there are also concerns that privacy online could be compromised after the introduction of 5G.
However Jon Fell, did continue to say:
There is, of course, the risk that greater connectivity will lead to more opportunity for cyber-criminals to gain access to a company’s network and data. We shouldn’t, however, let this fear of the unknown hinder adoption. Instead, businesses need to take the steps to prepare, enabling them to respond to threats much more quickly in this new age of connectivity.
The final statistics gathered from the study on global businesses and their thoughts about 5G:
So what this mean for 4G?
The future is still bright for 4G networks, in fact until devices are made to carry a 5G network, 4G will still be used everyday for a few years. It is still a reliable network and with the plans to introduce more Internet of Things, these will probably still be running on some 4G.
5G promises to take mankind into the future we were all expecting to be living in right now. The past representations on how we should all be living in a futuristic metropolis with hover cars and holographic devices, well that all doesn't seem too far fetched anymore.
With the hopes that the right studies are taken to ensure that there will be no health and security risks to the greater population by introducing 5G. As previously mentioned by the experts, when these risks become a reality everyone needs to do their part to take back control. Finishing on a lighter note though the possibilities 5G can bring are quite endless and at the moment limitless, we will just have to wait and see what the future brings.