Ensuring Connectivity of Critical Devices

by | Aug 10, 2022 | 5G Technology

By Darren Cummings – President, Performance Defense

This is the third article in a five-part series exploring applications of 5G technology for the defense industry.

One of the main benefits of 5G networks is that they provide high-performance network access in areas that were previously unavailable.  5G networks are capable of using a larger range of frequencies than older mobile networks, increasing bandwidth and the number of devices that can be supported within a geographic area.  Additionally, the use of lower frequency bands provides greater range and reach than the bands used by previous generations of mobile networks.

However, 5G devices used for defense commonly need to provide resilient network connectivity.  The ability to support redundant connections to various types of networks and devices ensures connectivity in the event that 5G connectivity is unavailable or jammed within a region or if connected devices lack 5G support.

Heterogeneous Endpoints

Defense IoT devices may need to be connected to a variety of heterogeneous endpoints.  Some devices may only support Bluetooth, while others may be dependent on WiFi or mobile networks.

Supporting communications between these devices and coordinating operations requires support for a variety of network protocols.  If an endpoint only supports 5G networking, this limits the devices that can be used with it and renders it vulnerable to disruptions of 5G network connectivity.

For example, the DoD’s requirements for trusted microelectronics places significant limitations on available components and devices.  If certain needs can only be filled with components available via the Trusted Foundry program, then systems that offer a particular feature and communicate over the desired network protocol may not be available.  Rather than choosing a system that lacks the required features but offers support for the “right” network, endpoints should offer support for multiple, redundant networks to be able to support the best available devices.

Securing Network Connectivity

Cybersecurity is essential to ensuring high-performing and resilient network connectivity.  If network communications are jammed or otherwise interrupted by a cyberattack, then a device with support for a particular network protocol is nevertheless unable to do its job.

For example, a device’s TCP/IP networking stack may contain a Denial of Service vulnerability that renders the device unable to send and receive traffic over the network.  If an attacker can remotely trigger that vulnerability with a malicious packet, then the device is rendered unusable.

For this reason, 5G critical devices and endpoints should undergo extensive security testing to validate that they meet the security requirements of applicable regulations and are capable of sustaining operations in adverse environments.  For the defense industry, devices that have already been certified to meet security standards and have undergone security evaluations in 5G testbeds provide assurance that they are fit for purpose.

Ensuring Network Connectivity

5G networks provide new network connectivity options for IoT devices, enabling them to be deployed in various locations.  However, relying solely on 5G networks for connectivity can leave endpoints unable to connect to heterogeneous devices and vulnerable to the disruption of 5G networks.

5G endpoints should be designed and certified to securely and reliably connect via multiple different media, such as mobile networks, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.  This ensures that devices will be able to fulfill various applications within the defense industry.

Further Reading

Check out the previous blogs in this series:

Fleet of the Future: Next-Gen Naval Capabilities

Fleet of the Future: Next-Gen Naval Capabilities

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently released its Naval Science and Technology Strategy to help identify and implement a plan of action in efforts to accelerate maritime defense capabilities. While there were several key technological areas outlined in the...

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