Open RAN for a Secure Digital Transformation to 5G

On January 26, 2022, the Open RAN Policy Coalition hosted a virtual discussion to address the security challenges commonly cited when discussing the shift of mobile networks to open architectures. While generic security risks exist regardless of the underlying network architecture, 5G and Open RAN will enable new capabilities that will allow operators to monitor, detect, prevent, and respond to threats quickly.

The discussion featured a keynote address by Andre Fuetsch, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, AT&T Services, Inc. and Chairman of the O-RAN Alliance board. In his remarks, Fuetsch noted that 5G’s wide range of services, applications, and spectrum means network operators face a much more complex array of choices and parameters. Building networks based on an open architecture with open interfaces to incorporate AI and machine learning technology can help navigate this complexity and enable operators to deploy security capabilities closer to the network edge, respond to threats more quickly and shift network capacity on demand.

Fuetsch noted that open architecture also allows operators to choose and apply up to date security patches and address security vulnerabilities proactively, instead of being dependent upon individual vendors to make these updates.

The event also featured a panel discussion moderated by Monica Paolini, Founder and Principal at Senza Fili, and featuring speakers Jeff Edlund, CTO of the Communications and Technology Group at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Douglas Gardner, Chief Technologist at Analog Devices, Inc. The panel discussion took a deeper look at what the telecommunications ecosystem as a whole can do to improve security as we move towards open network architectures.

Questions covered by the moderator and panelists included:

  • What tools are enabled by Open RAN that allow operators to identify and respond quickly to implied and real-world security threats?
  • How can innovation and supplier diversity in an open ecosystem encourage diverse security solutions to address potential threats and mitigate risk?
  • What is the role of standards-setting organizations with 5G security and Open RAN? How does their work enable technology providers and network operators to align on security requirements?
  • Where do we see the greatest progress and potential on real-world deployments of Open RAN solutions today?
  • What should policymakers consider when working together with the private sector to ensure security for 5G and beyond?

Last year, the Open RAN Policy Coalition released a white paper on “Open RAN Security in 5G,” which is available for download on our Resources page.