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How Can Confidential Computing Enhance P5G (Private 5G) Networks

Confidential Computing offers an uncomplicated method of securing distributed edge computing, enabling the massive deployment of new 5G-based wireless networks

In recent years, there has been a lot of hype around 5G networks and their ability to deliver super-fast connectivity to users, humans, or machines. IEEE listed several 5G benefits, among them: Much higher data rates (up to 1-20Gbps), much lower latency (1ms), increased capacity as the network expands and scalability, high security, and reliability. Alas, the global rollouts of public 5G are still moving slowly, and it is obvious that they are years away from mainstream adoption. To maximize the enormous investment in spectrum licenses, private licensed 5G networks are being rolled out. This so-called P5G is shortening the ROI to Telecoms and are the new business enabler for a variety of verticals. P5G are not deployed seamlessly, and as in so many other new technologies pose technological and financial challenges. But even with these challenges, the many benefits create a springboard for businesses that require built-in mobility, ultra-low latency, reliability, and field-proven scalability.

Current Private 5G Status

Just recently Google announced its plans to sell Private 5G networks, or rather create a P5G ecosystem. This follows and Microsoft’s Azure private multi-access edge compute offerings. The three major Cloud-compute providers seek to expand to the edge, establishing new capabilities to offer three compute flavors: Cloud, Edge and Hybrid. In addition, Telecoms are also offering P5G (e.g. NTT Global) attempting to expand their off-the-shelf country-wide cellular services. Both Telecom and private entities (Cloud providers, System Integrators etc.) are hunting for specific vertical markets, verticals where the many technological advantages of 5G, while being focused on a rather limited area, can boost new business opportunities. Among the targeted verticals we can find: venues, warehousing, healthcare, manufacturing, industrial, healthcare, retail, government, transportation and more. There are numerous opportunities for deploying P5G in small geographies, geographies which can be carefully surveyed hence leading to a very effective wireless performance.

New security challenges in Private 5G

Traditionally, cyber security started with a firewall and a created protection perimeter. But over the years, this approach proved to be insufficient. The evolving complexity of the digital environment proved that a hard borderline could not be drawn around enterprises. Hence, in recent years the concept of Zero Trust emerged. Zero Trust is all about not trusting the assets, and any asset should undergo an authentication process should a user attempt to use it or invoke a service on it. When it comes to 5G and private 5G, this means that the networking functions do not assume trust in each other, and they will have to run mutual authentication to smoothly pass traffic. This defends the networks from breaches and penetrating threats.

Possible solutions for 5G security risks

Some vendors discuss the merits of secure identities and protocols as means to fortify the daily operations of 5G. In the case of P5G there will be many 5G-enabled devices that do not use the cellular phones, secure, hardware-based identity like SIM or hardware security module. The industry will have to develop a similar level of security to be embedded in, e.g., sensors, robots, and devices which will be wirelessly connected. The trusted identities should behave like cellular phones, easing the massive field deployment.

Confidential Computing strengthening P5G deployments

The other technology is Confidential computing. P5G offers the ability to deploy computing functions closer to the edge. This brings many advantages but also complicates overall cyber security careful planning. The need to trust the remote and distributed executed data is not straightforward. This is where Confidential Computing comes into play. Its ability to securely examine data in any part of the network is a wild card. Confidential Computing offers an effortless way of securing distributed edge computing, enabling the massive deployment of new wireless networks based on the 5G.