5G networks advance in U.S. with expanded trials

Operators' 5G networks move forward with expanded trials; wireless WPA3 standard will help secure public Wi-Fi; and Verizon acquires threat detection startup that uses machine learning.

In recent telecom news, the subject is 5G networks almost all the time, whether that means fixed broadband 5G mobile services trials. Telecom operators and equipment vendors have almost daily updates about 5G trials and rollout plans. AT&T and Verizon 5G have recently announced more specifics about their paths to 5G services in the U.S.

Beyond next-generation wireless, public Wi-Fi networks will get shored-up security with the release of the new WPA3 standard later this year. And on the subject of security, Verizon recently acquired a threat detection startup that uses machine learning to detect compromised equipment within an organization.

Here's a closer look at the details.

Operators move forward on 5G networks

Verizon plans to launch 5G fixed wireless service in three to five cities later this year, but the launch is only "one slice" of its broad 5G and overall network plans, Verizon CTO Hans Vestberg said at a recent investor relations event

The 5G networks economics of Verizon's fixed broadband service are good because the company is planning to move from operating seven vertical networks to one horizontal network that will work with a unified core, transport and fiber transport. Vestberg said Verizon will deploy an intelligent edge network that will be able to serve a particular customer whether the customer is on Verizon's FiOS fiber service or its wireless LTE network. That will make the economics of Verizon's 5G fixed broadband services better because most of the 5G network assets will be shared, Vestberg said.

The network evolution at Verizon will take years to complete, but it will be a major part of how Verizon reaches its target of saving $10 billion over the next four years, Vestberg added.

Looking toward 5G mobile services, AT&T plans to launch what it describes as mobile 5G services this year in 12 U.S. cities by using small cells deployed closer to the ground than the radios that support LTE placed at the top of towers. According to RCRWireless, AT&T's first round of mobile 5G will use millimeter wave spectrum (between 30 GHz and 300 GHz) that offers higher capacity rates than low-band spectrum doesn't propagate over long distances, so the radios need to be closer together than in LTE deployments. AT&T's VP of network architecture Hank Kafka said millimeter wave can be placed on telephone poles, building rooftops or on towers but at a lower height than a macrocell because of the propagation characteristics. Out of 23 cities slated to receive AT&T's 5G Evolution infrastructure -- described as a foundation to AT&T's evolution to full 5G while 5G standards are being finalized -- AT&T hasn't specified which cities will roll out the mobile services this year. Kafka said the rollouts will require significant zoning and permit negotiations.

Wi-Fi security upgrade incoming in 2018

Wi-Fi security is getting a long-awaited upgrade in 2018 later this year. The Wi-Fi Alliance recently announced plans for WPA3, a new security standard that will replace WPA2, a security protocol almost two decades old that is built in to protect almost every wireless device.

According to ZDNet, the move to WPA3 will make open Wi-Fi networks found in places like airports and coffee shops safer by applying individualized data encryption that will scramble the connection between each device and the router. The security will also block an attacker after excessive failed password guesses.

Verizon acquires autonomous threat detection startup

Verizon recently acquired Niddel, an autonomous threat detection service company that uses machine-learning to detect compromised or infected devices inside an organization. The acquisition price of the company was not disclosed. Founded in 2014, the company's primary product, Niddel Magnet, is a subscription-based automated service that reduces the need for organizations to hire qualified security analysts when dealing with compromised machines.

According to TechCrunch (a publication owned by Verizon), Niddel uses a variety of information from more than 50 internal and external sources to track security threats that could affect machines in customer organizations.

"Using machine learning to improve information accuracy significantly reduces false positives and significantly improves our detection and response capabilities," Alexander Schlager, Verizon's executive director of security services, said in a statement. Verizon has said it will look to incorporate this Niddel's technology into Verizon products and services in the coming months.

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