As we’ve previously discussed, 5G wireless service is expected to revolutionize nearly every aspect of our lives, from IoT-fueled production of consumer goods to roads full of autonomous vehicles to near-instantaneous download speeds. However, as with any new technology, 5G rollouts will not be without challenges on numerous fronts. In this article, we’ll examine a few of these challenges, and solutions that make us optimistic that 5G will deliver on its tremendous promise.
Physical Presence. While it may sound obvious (even insultingly so), it’s an often-overlooked concern: physical network hardware must occupy physical space. 5G deployments will rely on a lot of physical products. The ubiquity of the network coverage comes from strategically-placed small cells and massive antennas throughout local communities. Despite the improvements in bandwidth and quality of service, not all community stakeholders are overjoyed about this new infrastructure.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, residents in several small communities throughout the US have expressed concerns about the proliferation of new poles and “unsightly” installations marring their neighborhoods. Local governments have struggled to keep up with the sheer volume of installation applications. Since many municipalities are still developing comprehensive ordinances, carriers run the risk of having to undo or relocate new installations as new legislation evolves.
However, state and federal governments have largely been supportive of service providers’ initiatives, and certain local governments have also worked toward mutually beneficial solutions. For example, the city of San Jose, CA, has agreed to fast-track installations (e.g., by making them exempt from certain reviews); in exchange, service providers can rent space on municipal poles and other infrastructure, with the proceeds supporting connectivity initiatives for low-income residents.
Security. On one level, this is simple math: 5G networks will enable more connected devices, which creates more vulnerabilities simply by multiplying the number of potential entry points. The larger problem is many IoT devices in homes and factories have particularly weak security protections. As we grow increasingly reliant on a ubiquitous network, worst-case scenarios become easy to imagine: factories, hospitals, and even entire transportation systems could be paralyzed by malicious actors.
Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security has expressed concerns about the role of foreign technology in American network infrastructure, particularly from Huawei and ZTE. However, the DHS doesn’t have the capacity to regulate such matters, which has left a confusing jurisdictional void at the federal level when it comes to cybersecurity.
However, innovative threats can beget innovative solutions. As the networks offering 5G service increasingly adopt software-defined networking (SDN), a whole new approach to cybersecurity may arise, using tools from the open-source world to combat new threats.
Despite the scale of these challenges at this time, the potential benefits that 5G networks will provide vastly outweigh the current difficulties. To stay on top of 5G developments, you can subscribe to our blog, or contact us to discuss our 5G-focused solutions, including 25G CPRI transceivers for wireless fronthaul.