COVID-19 has heightened existing operator and public awareness and fears of network vulnerabilities. Cyber criminals have actively weaponized pandemic news and accelerated network attacks of all types, and mobile operators are scrambling to meet new traffic demands on 4G networks as they evolve the networks to 5G.
Operators and their enterprise customers have voiced increased concerns about 5G security for some time. For example, in a recent survey conducted by the BPI Network and A10 Networks, security is cited as a top requirement for 5G networks, nearly on a par with network reach and coverage and just ahead of capacity and throughput. Virtually all respondents (98 percent) expect growth in network traffic, connected devices and mission-critical IoT uses cases to significantly increase security and reliability concerns for 5G mobile operators. Over 40 percent of global executives surveyed have stated that cybersecurity and data privacy will be “much more important” to their recovery from the pandemic, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit Global Business Barometer.
The global pandemic has changed traffic patterns as consumers, businesses and students work, play and study at remote locations. Traffic has shifted from urban centers to suburban homes, from peak levels in the evening to peaks during the day. Increases in voice traffic of 20-70 percent have been reported, with more and longer phone calls. For example, half of respondents in a consumer survey claim to have increased their use of video calls, with as many as 85 percent of consumers, including 74 percent of seniors, now using video calling. Mobile data traffic has also seen increases, primarily from bi-directional traffic such as video calls and streaming services and higher levels of mobile data usage overall. These changes have forced many operators to reallocate or augment capacity to suburban locations to avoid service degradation.
Aggressive 5G deployments are proceeding, despite concerns about the global pandemic. As of August 2020, 92 commercial 5G networks have been launched in 38 countries, according to the GSA. Worldwide, 47 operators in 24 countries that have been investing in public 5G standalone (SA) networks in trials, planned or actual deployments. At least 12 operators are expected to launch 5G SA during 2020.
Over the last few years, A10 has worked with multiple tier-one mobile operators in their 5G launches to provide stronger network security, migrate networks to 5G and more recently, augment capacity in response to the pandemic. 5G networks are now moving to the next phase, and operator attention is turning to tightening operating efficiency with a cloud-native, 5G SA core, often deployed at the edge.
Reducing OPEX and enabling a rapid, efficient response to dynamic new applications is a main reason a cloud-native packet core is so urgent. Operators need the operational simplicity and capacity flexibility to respond to unexpected shifts in traffic, such as those seen in this pandemic, and to support future 5G services. Ericsson is an industry leader in helping the mobile network transformation to 5G.
Today, Ericsson announced the latest addition to its dual-mode 5G core portfolio, the integrated Ericsson Packet Core Firewall powered by A10 Networks.
The Ericsson Packet Core Firewall powered by A10 Networks is ready for cloud deployment and 5G use cases. The Ericsson Packet Core Firewall will deliver in-line protection, advanced threat recognition, detection and mitigation of DDoS, roaming intrusions, IoT and other internet-based threats, while leveraging detection and mitigation functions of existing transport equipment.
Ericsson has designed its dual-mode 5G Core solution to address multiple operator concerns. The solution combines Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and 5G Core (5GC) network functions into a common cloud-native platform, helping to manage TCO with efficiency during the migration to 5G. The solution also protects investments made in operator networks, enables full integration of the new cloud-native network functions (NFs) with virtualized or physical NFs (VNFs and PNFs) in the same network, and offers different migration paths to bring all NFs into a fully cloud-native, dual‑mode 5G Core over time. Now, with the addition of the integrated Ericsson Packet Core Firewall powered by A10 Networks, user-plane security is included with this migration path.
The Ericsson Packet Core Firewall is an all-in-one security offering, combining cloud-native user-plane threat mitigation and advanced security functions. It addresses security use cases for user plane deployments in MBB and IoT segments. Ericsson Packet Core Firewall provides more than 50 percent TCO reduction, compared to a dedicated security solution, while maintaining lowest 5G latency.
By deploying Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core with integrated security powered by A10 Networks, operators are provided a seamless path to 5G migration with strong, consistent security using advanced threat recognition and machine learning for protection against DDoS attacks, roaming intrusions and other IoT and internet-based threats.
For more information on Ericsson Packet Core Firewall, visit https://www.ericsson.com/en/core-network/5g-core/packet-core-firewall
 GSA, “5G Market: Snapshot, August 2020”
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