Tapping the True Potential of the 5G Digital Economy

Feb 12, 2020
5 minutes

Smart Cities. Smart Factories. Smart cars. By now we’re familiar with the concept of smart connectivity, and there’s a lot of excitement around the true potential this emerging technology can bring. Each new generation of wireless connectivity has driven a wealth of new innovations, and the upcoming fifth-generation cellular wireless (5G) may just be a game changer. But as much attention as 5G gets as an emerging technology, there’s a sense of uncertainty around how mobile network operators will unlock its true business value and shore up 5G security in the process. With increasing attention to 5G, it’s a perfect time to lay out our vision of the future of the 5G digital economy.

The move to 5G is well underway, with mobile network operators announcing 5G pilot trials and commercialization plans as they expand their geographic footprints. The latest 5G applications are consumer-driven, help governments implement 5G for smart city rollouts, and bring 5G service experience to the public by seamlessly covering major events such as the 2020 Olympics.

It’s our responsibility to make this new, hyper-connected world cyber-resilient.


5G Paves Way for New Emerging Business Models

The promise of intelligent connectivity will drive massive adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), and it doesn’t stop there. 5G has the potential to transform industries as well. We’re now talking about the Enterprise of Things – networked industrial devices, sensors, networks and apps that connect businesses. As today’s enterprises undergo digital transformation, they’ll be looking for 5G networks to drive true Industry 4.0 transformation, leveraging automation, AI and IoT. Gartner predicts that 5G networks will expand the mobile ecosystem to cover new industries, such as the smart factory, autonomous transportation, remote healthcare, agriculture and retail sectors, as well as enable private networks for industrial users. The stakes are high, but the opportunity is huge.  

Mobile network operators are not alone in this transformation – the 5G digital ecosystem is a network of diverse players – including cloud providers, managed security providers, enterprises and technology partners offering services through both competition and cooperation. 

It takes a whole ecosystem to bring out true digital transformation. While mobile network operators are tasked with providing the core elements of 5G network infrastructure, taking the vision of true digital transformation off the ground requires partnerships with all industry stakeholders who sit within the 5G use case value chain. 

Key players from business and mission-critical verticals, regulatory agencies and decision makers from county governments and city councils all have a role to play in bringing the vision of 5G use cases into reality. 


5G Adoption Introduces New Cyber Risks

Nonetheless, behind the promise of 5G, there is a caveat. To put it simply, 5G adoption puts the entire service provider ecosystem at a much greater risk for cyberattacks. As consumers and businesses become increasingly reliant on digital services, security shouldn’t be an afterthought.

With 5G networks comes a greater reliance on cloud and edge computing, creating a highly distributed environment that spans across multi-vendor and multi-cloud infrastructures. 

Adding to the complexity is an explosion of IoT and the transition of workloads to the cloud. Less understood are the myriad of new risk vectors IoT devices expose. To get more insight into this, Palo Alto Networks conducted a research study on how cyberattacks on IoT devices negatively impact the overall device performance, device usability and services offered by IoT devices. Securing applications and data across the network, endpoints, data centers, branch locations and cloud remains the key challenge.

The future will be filled with exciting new services, but an increasingly hyper-connected world will also open up new security vulnerabilities and threat vectors. This will raise the number of potential intrusion points and pose increased security risks for service providers, enterprises and consumers. Businesses will be looking for 5G networks designed around security so they can confidently deploy new applications and IoT services to maximize the business value of 5G. While the digital transformation is well underway, we have a short runway to figure out security issues. 

We at Palo Alto Networks work to ensure each day is safer and more secure than the one before. As such, it is imperative that any intelligent connectivity comes with intelligent security. Our approach to securing the 5G ecosystem is simple, to cut through operational complexity; intelligent, to provide contextual security outcomes; and predictive, to swiftly respond to known and unknown threats in real time. We believe three focus areas are critical for 5G transformation. 

Securing the 5G-Ready Telco Cloud

As you prepare for network transition by building 5G-ready telco clouds, you’ll need a resilient network with the right security posture in place to support diverse 5G-enabled applications and services.

Next-Gen Managed Security Services

Managed security service providers require a completely new approach to build agile and innovative managed security services to drive new revenue streams.

Securing Private LTE/5G Networks 

Industries are adopting private LTE/5G networks to drive digital transformation. Cybersecurity becomes more critical than ever to protect the interconnected landscape.

As key enablers of the 5G value chain, mobile network operators are uniquely positioned not only to connect, but also to secure the 5G digital economy. As the global cybersecurity leader, Palo Alto Networks is committed to being your partner of choice to help you secure industry transformation as well as accelerate 5G adoption and IoT growth

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