The 5G revolution is approaching

Author: Richard Coppens, CEO at Group 2000

Over the previous generations of mobile networks, we have seen a steady increase in bandwidth, and a move from traditional circuit-switched technology to an all-IP network. The 5G network takes this massive step further in various aspects. 5G is much, much more than the common perspective of mobile “ users” “just like 4G, but faster”!

Of course 5G will result in a higher bandwidth and as such unparalleled speed mobile users have not experienced before, (up to 20Gbps), but also lower latency (hence better customer experience, more devices (ioT), and better availability will be offered (less dropped calls – data hence better services and revenue). At the same time, a 5G Mobile core network is more energy-efficient, and has built-in security features as a response to increased cyber security concerns in society where the networks of mobile networks operators must be considered as highly critical (mission critical) infrastructures.

While the promised features of a 5G network are attractive from a consumer’s point of view, there is another beneficial side to it as well: the aspect of public and national safety. On one hand, we value our privacy and are reluctant that governmental agencies are allowed to intercept communications. On the other hand, we expect our governments to prosecute criminals and to protect us from individuals that plan to disrupt society. Some balance must be found and consequently, there will be some good and privacy respecting requirements to intercept and only intercept the communication of targeted individuals by law. This is known as lawful interception. In some countries, there is also a requirement for the mobile network providers to temporary store the metadata on for example the usage of their networks (cdr, location etc.); this is called data retention. Especially the properties that make the 5G network differentiate from the previous generations, are a challenge to the realization of such interception and retention capabilities.

The main challenges in this area are:

Much more network activity per mobile device
When much more network bandwidth is available, mobile device applications will find a use for this. This result in many short-duration communication sessions being set-up and torn-down.

Furthermore, cells can serve a smaller area, causing a more frequent cell hopping. All such activity generates information that must be handled by a lawful interception or data retention solution.

The high (peak) throughput of up to 20Gbps of a 5G mobile device
The peak bandwidth of the 5G network requires the whole chain from the 5G network to the interception-room of a relevant law enforcement agency to support these high bandwidths. Where such bandwidths are not available, temporary buffering might provide some relief. It is clear that interception-rooms must invest in equipment to make sense of the ever-increasing amount of information that has to be analyzed.

Temporary identifiers
In the 5G network, the identities of the mobile device and the user (telephone number!) are protected better than in the previous generation networks. This protects the subscriber’s privacy, and at the same time it is limiting the ways in which lawful interception can be realized: 100% passive solutions are no longer possible.

New technology
The 5G network introduces new kinds of mobile device and subscriber identities, and new technical interfaces are defined throughout the network. Together with the increased bandwidth, this mandates major

Network topology changes
Advanced virtualization techniques like NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) will be used to size the 5G network according to the bandwidth demand. In this way, energy consumption can be reduced. For lawful interception, this poses the challenge to adapt to the changing network topology in time. Also, NFV must support a security-model that shields the lawful interception and data retention functionality according to local legislation.

Although worldwide many initiatives have been started for the introduction and roll out of a 5G network already, local legislations demands that the challenges around lawful interception are addressed. With our next generation Lawful Interception and Data Retention platforms, Group 2000 took up these challenges. Are you ready to join?