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Are you prepared for the enterprise 2G/3G shutdown?

Mon 13 May 2019 | Donna Johnson

2G/3G shutdown

The looming 2G/3G shutdown represents an opportunity to deploy future-proof IoT solutions that prioritise network connectivity and security. By acting now, business leaders can enable a clear pathway to 5G in the coming years, says Donna Johnson, VP of product and solution marketing at Cradlepoint

Mobile 2G/3G networks are going away. Some carriers’ shutoff dates are already public and others are yet to be announced, but the end for this technology is inevitable. While many companies and public sector agencies stopped using 2G/3G a long time ago, the shutoff will cause significant turmoil for the hundreds of enterprises that are still using this technology for early IoT use cases or are in the midst of digital transformation journeys.

The turmoil will result in a positive outcome as much of the 2G and 3G spectrum will be repurposed for 5G, but it is nevertheless something organisations need to anticipate. For those that are using it for IoT, this is the ideal opportunity to deploy future-proof IoT solutions that both mitigate the potential network security risks posed by IoT devices and enable the connectivity necessary to future-proof rapidly expanding enterprise networks for innovations. The natural step forward is an upgrade to 4G LTE, but many enterprises are already looking ahead to 5G, which raises questions around timing, deployment strategies, and the best way to future-proof investments.

Innovations in wireless

Many organisations are making the shift to cloud-managed 4G LTE routers and gateways that have built-in modems with multiple SIM slots as a way to accelerate and secure their IoT deployments.  4G LTE is fast — and getting faster. Today, LTE Cat 18 offers up to 1.2Gbps and by the time 5G arrives in 2020, speeds will exceed an impressive 10Gbps. Organisations can harness multiple LTE providers to provide the redundancy they need should connectivity to one carrier be impacted.

The key to success in IoT deployments will be choosing a right-sized wireless edge solution based on specific bandwidth needs and security requirements, whether utilising software-defined perimeter (SDP) technologies to create a perimeter-secured overlay network or using cellular to create a separate, parallel network just for IoT.

Securing the network perimeter

The process of connecting, managing and securing IoT devices and data located around the world comes with a unique set of challenges that includes finding a way to separate IoT devices from sensitive data, such as point-of-sale information and other networks – including the corporate WAN.

To address this issue, organisations are adding software-defined perimeters (SDPs) that hide connections from the public Internet. A client is then used to verify the identity of an IoT device (pre-authentication) and user identity (pre-authorisation) before granting access to any application layer.

A key benefit of SDP technology is that enterprises can micro-segment users, devices, groups, applications, and resources with simple policies while offering LAN-like performance to remote users on virtually any device, without complex configurations. These invitation-only overlay networks are highly secure, as they utilise a private address space – eliminating the need for routable IPs on the Internet – that obscures them from potential hackers.

“While the imminent shutdown of 2G and 3G will cause disruption for organisations using those technologies, it’s also an opportunity for those organisations to accelerate IoT deployments and re-think network security for the IoT era”

Using SDP technologies, IT teams can create the overlay networks that provide the connection between IoT devices and the cloud utilising a secure private IP address space in a matter of minutes. Indeed, the Cloud Security Alliance has found that adopting the SDP model is one of the most effective ways to stop nearly all network attacks, including DDoS, man-in-the-middle, and advanced persistent threats.

Deploying parallel networks

Another effective way to mitigate the threat posed by attacks via compromised IoT devices is to use LTE routers that create physically separate networks for specific applications. These are effectively ‘air gapped’ from the secure network enterprise.

Instead of directing this network through the organisation’s WAN, these parallel networks use a completely separate cellular network with traffic directed to IoT applications in public or private clouds. Should a hacker gain access to a parallel network via a compromised device, they’ll be contained there – limiting the amount of damage they can potentially do.

Looking past 2G and 3G

While the imminent shutdown of 2G and 3G will cause disruption for organisations using those technologies, it’s also an opportunity for those organisations to accelerate IoT deployments and re-think network security for the IoT era. The shutdown of 2G/3G services means that companies will need to act now: to shift their enterprise networking models and put in place the 4G LTE connectivity that ensures they can reliably and securely connect devices and maintain services to users today, and into the future.

Experts featured:

Donna Johnson

VP of Product and Solution Marketing


4G 5g IoT network security
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