A New Wave of Capabilities

5G holds the promise of increased data speeds and improved security features


Advancements in wireless technology have transformed the way we connect with the world. In 1896, Guglielmo Marconi developed the first wireless telegraph system, revolutionizing long-distance communication. In 1962, the first communication satellite, Telstar, was launched into orbit resulting in improved global communication. Each development enabled larger volumes and varied forms of data to move through these communication networks as the demand for increasing connectivity grew.  In response to that growing demand, the telecommunication industry developed the 5G networks, which will provide the foundation to usher in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

5G networks are projected to provide more responsive connections, faster data speeds, and carry a large amount of data to multiple users simultaneously. In 2018, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest carriers in North America, began to deploy their 5G networks.

The Best Mix of Speed and Coverage

Jill Singer | Photo Credit: AT&T

In 2018, AT&T introduced the U.S. to mobile 5G, and jumpstarted the next wave of innovation poised to significantly alter mission, business, and consumer experiences.

“As a leader in 5G, we expect the technology capabilities of Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) eventually to be transformed. New digital experiences will emerge that allow GEOINT to take advantage of 5G’s faster response time and increased speeds to transform operations and improve mission delivery,” said Jill Singer, Vice President of National Security at AT&T Global Public Sector.

The advanced capabilities of AT&T’s 5G network are expected to offer significant advantages to commercial and government applications. According to Singer, functionality can be moved around the network as needed to support user requirements.

One emerging application is the augmented reality headset display, which provides users with digital graphics or videos overlaid on top of real-world environments.

“The potential uses are many. We’re working across industries to deliver 5G-powered use cases like augmented reality to support training or deployment of first responders, disaster recovery teams, airline pilots, military operators, and a host of others,” said Singer. “Imagine a future where the precise geolocation of coalition and enemy troops can be confirmed immediately, including detailed knowledge of enemy weaponry, artillery, tanks, and other lethal and non-lethal assets. Broad battlefield awareness can be rapidly confirmed through additional analytics made possible by a computationally intensive network.”

Potential 5G applications are endless. According to Singer, additional possibilities include:

  • Supply chain lineage/provenance
  • Smart bases/campuses
  • Digital learning through AR/VR around the globe in near real-time
  • Global or distributed mission planning and execution using immediate tipping and cueing
  • Parallel processing of intricate financial intelligence data in the field

“As it becomes ubiquitous, we expect 5G will offer GEOINT the capability to significantly transform and improve mission achievement,” said Singer.

The company is working with business customers and all sectors of the U.S. government to explore and deliver transformative 5G-based use cases and solutions.

In early 2019, AT&T launched its 5G at the AT&T Stadium, the nation’s first 5G-enabled stadium. Then in October 2019, the United Center in Chicago joined the growing number of arenas in the nation to get a 5G boost from AT&T during the 2019/2020 NBA season.

According to Singer, it also offers 5G+, an ultra-fast and standards-based form of 5G, available in parts of 35 cities. AT&T 5G+ uses the millimeter-wave spectrum. And as of March 2, AT&T’s 5G service is available for consumers in 80 U.S. markets.

“We plan to have our 5G services available nationwide in the second quarter of 2020,” said Singer.

Nick Nilan | Photo Credit: Verizon

Also, in 2018, Verizon introduced its commercial 5G service, Verizon 5G Home, which is currently available for order in certain areas of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Chicago.

The following year, in 2019, Verizon expanded its 5G Ultra Wideband Network. The network offers users super-fast speeds, massive bandwidth and ultra-low latency, which could eventually be less than 10 milliseconds. It combines end-to-end fiber resources throughout the network, a large deployment of small cells, and significant spectrum holdings, particularly in the millimeter-wave bands.

“Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network uses mmWave which has significant physical properties, bandwidth and latency characteristics, and smart antenna technologies that lend themselves to dense collection of sensor data,” said Nick Nilan, director of Product Development for Public Sector at Verizon. “Coupled with high-speed local compute and machine learning technology, [the network will] enable near real-time data processing.”

Verizon’s 5G network is currently deployed in high-density areas of 34 cities where large numbers of people have connectivity demands. It’s also available in 17 NFL stadiums and seven indoor arenas, including the Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium, the Denver Broncos Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, the Seattle Seahawks CenturyLink Field, and the Detroit Lions Ford Field.

“We partnered with the NFL specifically to have Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband service in 17 NFL stadiums and counting. This is part of our continuing commitment to bring 5G to places where a lot of people gather with their devices at the same time, such as train stations, amusement parks, shopping malls, and museums,” said Nilan.

The company also partnered with ResponderXLabs to launch the5G First Responder Lab, a program structured to streamline the technical and operational resources to maximize 5G capabilities to aid first responders and the public safety industry.

Verizon has opened five 5G Labs in the U.S. and one in London, where they partner with universities, startups and established companies to co-create 5G concepts and trial them on 5G Ultra Wideband.

Verizon has partnered with Disney, the New York Times Company, Corning, and others to test and develop 5G solutions that will transform their industries.

“We have invested resources to build a 5G network that can support business use cases across industries and we’re partnering with companies large and small to explore the art of the possible and develop the next killer app,” said Nilan.

Cyberthreat & Security 

However, a totally connected world is especially susceptible to cyberthreats, partly because there are more vectors through which adversaries can attack. 5G technologies are set to enable a huge number of connected devices as part of the internet of things (IoT). IoT devices are targets that can be taken over and used for distributed denial of service attacks to paralyze networks.

With increasing industrial IoT reliance on 5G, it is critical to protect data in transport over multiple user interfaces, said Nilan. Verizon has embedded its Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) service across its Private IP networks to create a Zero Trust Architecture.

“Network security and customer privacy are very important to us and always have been,” he said. “We have very sophisticated measures in place to maintain that security and privacy, and we will maintain the same level of security and privacy on our 5G network as our customers have come to expect from us on our 4G network.”

Similarly, AT&T’s 5G Network was developed with security as a primary objective, according to Singer, incorporating extensive strong encryption and authentication down to the individual user and individual device. Security was embedded in the design from day one.

Security concerns addressed in the 5G standards include:

  • Enhanced trust models and security policy
  • Potentially misbehaving entities and devices
  • Static and dynamic security assurance
  • Identity management
  • Radio network security
  • Flexible and scalable security architecture
  • Energy-efficient security
  • Virtualization security

While the technology requires much more focus on security, the 5G networks will ultimately offer vast benefits.

“It’s an exciting time to be in this industry,” said Singer. “5G will help enable sustainable advantage across the global theatre of operations.”

Featured Image Credit: Verizon 

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