Nokia Warns Operators on Pushing 5G Too Fast

At MWC Los Angeles, Mary O'Neill, VP Software at Nokia, issued a plea to service providers warning that prioritizing speed over network security could lead to huge problems in the future.

Nokia Warns Operators on Pushing 5G Too Fast
Nokia 5G at MWC/Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 

Speaking on a 5G security session at MWC19 Los Angeles last week on October 22 to 24, Mary O'Neill, Vice-President of Security at Nokia Corp., acknowledged that there was an ongoing race between service providers to get 5G out there "faster, faster, faster," she said. O'Neill is responsible for setting the strategy and building Nokia’s network security portfolio.

She spoke to the audience about how service providers are at risk of seriously compromising security. "It's easier to build security in from day one in the architecture, rather than having to patch it in later," O'Neill said. According to O'Neill, the specific security requirements for 5G have now changed and it is no longer possible to use existing solutions to counter the problem.

"We need more technology. When I set the strategy for Nokia, we are investing in Machine Learning, playbooks, workflows, and we really believe in automation to help solve this problem," she said. "The good thing about 5G is, it is a transformation. We can take all those 4G learnings and take them into 5G."

Mary O'Neill emphasized on the Finnish company's work on their 5G network security saying Nokia's security prowess is one of its differentiators. However, she also noted that there are similarities in this space between the company and its archrival: Swedish Ericsson. This rivality, though, seems to be working as an aid in the race to wider the two Nordic nations' security effort. "If I look at some of this, we have a lot in common, as we should," said O'Neill. "We do have to collaborate in the industry for our customers." 

 Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri: 5G is here 

Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia, source: Susan Fourtané
Rajeev Suri, CEO of Nokia / Source: Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 
"5G is not the future anymore. It is here." -Rajeev Suri 

Last year, after his keynote speech at MWC18 in Los Angeles, Rajeev Suri wrote that "every country in the world is desperate to unlock 5G’s new forms of value as soon as possible. And the nation that gets there first will become the de facto center of the new 5G ecosystem, with all its jobs, innovation, and intellectual property."  

"Given that we will soon embark on a massive international project to build that 5G infrastructure, this is the time to make sure that we are building it safely and securely," Suri wrote. 

Reminding that in just a few years, 5G will underpin every business, every school, every public service, he also posed an important fundamental question: "Why would we risk the security of something so important? We know only too well that the old methods of patch-on security have failed. Instead, we need 5G networks that have inherent security, built and operated by trustworthy partners." This fundamental principle about the importance of thinking security first was also supported by Nokia VP of Security Mary O'Neill in her most recent speech. 

Meanwhile, in China . . . 

This month, starting October 1, China began its nationwide 5G rollout in the city of Shanghai, which makes it the first city with a commercial 5G network. The move anticipates the Asian nation's strong position for widespread commercialization in 2020.

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China expects to reach 300 cities with its 5G deployment in 2020 as the nation looks for winning the 5G race, as China sees 5G as a game-changer. So, does this all mean that China is set to become the world's de facto center of the new 5G ecosystem, as Suri said? 

Analysts have anticipated that 5G revenues are going to reach $672 billion by the end of 2020. And even though 5G technology has been the so much expected next-generation of wireless network technology for quite a long time, now that it seems to be finally coming onto the market, the speed of the rollout might slow down. Or at least, that could be the case if service providers follow the warnings posed by Nokia. Except in China, as we have seen.

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