In “Making 5G A ‘Trusted Network,’ Part I: Cybersecurity,” we considered network security as a key factor in making 5G a “trusted network” for enterprise services. However, there are many more elements to making 5G networks trusted for enterprises.

As a refresher, a “trusted network” is one in which sensitive data can be reliably and confidently transmitted, and the use cases for enterprise 5G are sensitive indeed: businesses are looking to 5G to handle some of the most important functions, on which lives could even depend. These critical services range from automated factories to telemedicine (e.g. remote surgeries), transportation (e.g. self-driving cars), smart grids and more. They all have strict Service-Level Agreement (SLA) requirements that must be met, or else there could be serious business impacts.

Another crucial factor behind making 5G a trusted network is the protection of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. IoT refers to the rapidly expanding universe of devices that can monitor and adjust complex operations in real-time, and 5G will be the fundamental enabler for mass adoption. IoT has the potential to transform workflows and realize dramatic efficiencies in every industry, and thus the proliferation of IoT devices will be staggering; within the next five years, it is estimated 5G networks will need to support more than 21 billion IoT devices.

However, compared to consumer devices, which have dramatically increased in computing power in recent years (think of your smartphone, for instance), enterprise IoT devices generally lack the computing ability to protect themselves against attacks without the help of network-based protection. This is intentional, as the cost of making enterprise IoT devices “smarter” would be prohibitive in most cases. Take, for example, network-connected sensors on a factory floor monitoring for errant vibrations indicative of malfunctioning machinery — there is no need for these devices to be overly complex. Thus, service and security assurance will have to come from the network side for enterprise IoT.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of IoT services in 5G: mMTC and URLLC. mMTC stands for “massive machine type communication,” which 5G empowers by supporting device densities of 1 million per square kilometer as compared to 4G’s maximum of 100,000. But mMTC provides connections to large numbers of devices that intermittently transmit small amounts of traffic, and are generally not for mission-critical usage. On the other hand, URLLC (Ultra Reliability and Low Latency Communication) IoT services consist of the mission-critical use cases described above in telemedicine, transportation and so on. URLLC IoT services have strict SLA requirements for performance, security, and reliability that must be met, or else there could be dire consequences. Hence, network operators are focused in this area.

Ensuring these SLA requirements are met is no easy feat. IoT devices must be protected from inbound attacks that can compromise them and turn them into botnets to launch additional attacks. Furthermore, if IoT devices are compromised, then isolating and quarantining them to prevent outbound attacks, which can bring down other devices and cause damage to other parts of the network and applications, is equally critical.

But while cybersecurity is one possible cause of service interruptions, it’s certainly not the only one. For instance, latency problems can arise from simple misconfigurations, but still result in deleterious business impacts like factory robots not functioning as accurately as needed. High reliability requirements like zero connection failures, malfunctioning individual devices, and control plane problems (e.g. authentication failures) are other causes of concern not necessarily arising from a cybersecurity attack, but could still lead to very serious ramifications.

There are two courses of action that network operators must undertake in order to make 5G a trusted network. On the operational front, having the right personnel mix in place cannot be emphasized enough. The aforementioned service interruption risks span a broad spectrum of expertise, as do the solutions for mitigating them. From network diagnostics to machine learning, the experience and skills network operators must acquire is broader than ever. 5G architecture dramatically changes the way information is carried and managed, so a complete understanding of the underlying technology is even more important for those who are designing, building, operating, and securing the network.

The operational teams will also need the help of intelligent monitoring and diagnostic tools to allow them to proactively detect and troubleshoot service-impacting issues before they adversely disrupt the service. In order to do this effectively, Layer 7 visibility, coupled with AI/ML-driven workflows, is a must. Layer 7 visibility is the ability to gain precise insights through packet data on a broad range of service metrics, including but not limited to client type, control and user plane transactions. It is the only way to diagnose the range of circumstances within 5G’s incredibly complex and diverse ecosystem.

If enterprises are looking to fully realize the coming IoT revolution enabled by 5G, they must be prepared for a wireless ecosystem unlike any other. But with the right partners, personnel, and end-through-end visibility delivering timely operational intelligence into the networks in place, the business possibilities are endless.