With 1.8 billion 5G connections expected globally by 2025, this mobile network technology is becoming increasingly important. In the same period, it is estimated that there will likely be 11 million South African 5G subscribers. Already, 18 African countries are testing or rolling out the technology, adding further impetus to its role in a connected society.
“The lower latency and faster speeds of 5G help ensure a virtual seamless integration between communication tools, cloud solutions, and other business software. Yes, consumers will benefit from faster content streaming, but, more importantly, the resultant improvements in mobile coverage will also enable more people to gain access to digital services than previously possible. 5G provides a bridge between rural and urban areas, thereby radically reducing the information divide. With the benefits of 5G available to more people, it helps democratise access to data and digital services,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa.
With 5G poised to replace existing 4G networks with improved speeds, coverage, and reliability, content distribution will be massively disrupted.
Simon Swanepoel, CEO of Rocketnet says; “The trick is to get governments, regulators and the private sector working together. Radiofrequency needs to be made available, and the new WOAN needs to come to fruition. 5G will offer high-speed Internet access to rural Africa, stimulating all aspects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution if we can strike this balance. Rapidly rolling out fibre will assist in the construction of more 5G towers. Fibre availability makes 5G development simpler.”
While 5G will enable the reality of more network-connected devices, increase speeds considerably for users and will serve as the foundation for advanced services and smart cities that will aim to give us more efficient, safer, productive work and lives, these advances and benefits do not come without risks.
With 5G being the first generation of mobile network designed for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, there are concerns around security. This is especially the case given the amount of personal data being collected through IoT devices. For instance, information related to people’s health, driving behaviour, and more. With not all device manufacturers prioritising cybersecurity, to ensure devices are secure by design, the threat of compromise and access to sensitive data is a clear and present danger.
“Just consider the dangers that hacking into children’s smart watches or baby monitors can bring. As 5G uses more mobile towers, it also becomes easier to geo-locate users, presenting additional risks. It significantly expands the potential attack surface resulting in companies having to defend against more attacks targeting these connected endpoints,” says Opil.
Although 5G security foundations in networks will be a priority in order for 5G to see solid success and for network providers to cover the unique risks of 5G, consumers and businesses alike will need to ensure they are prepared from a security point of view for when 5G moves away from being just hype and becomes a reality.
“Key to this preparedness is education on IoT cybersecurity and taking the necessary cybersecurity best practice steps to ensure the protection of the devices using 5G and the data these devices hold – whether personal or business related,” adds Opil.
From a developer and brand point of view, some onus is being placed on ensuring devices are secure-by-design, however, for users this includes installing an appropriate Internet security solution on all connected devices, practicing strong password security, and using a VPN. Users must also keep their devices updated with the latest security patches as they become available. This extends into the corporate environment with the continued growth of IoT devices.
“While the potential of 5G is massive, ignoring the risks that come with the evolution and connectivity of numerous systems can be detrimental to achieving the advantages that 5G has to offer.” adds Swanepoel.
“Maintaining a safe and secure connected footprint must be a business priority if 5G is to become the enabler of a more connected future. It is also vital for security vendors, government, and the private sector to join forces to mitigate against the risk of threat actors exploiting the potential of this technology,” concludes Opil.