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Achieving fixed network costs for carrier networks

Inside Telecom Staff

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Achieving fixed network costs

Telecoms attention is transferring to the fixed network, which has to handle the data generated by 5G networks and needs to deal with the existing, increasing connection that is presented at the network edge by fibre access networks.

There is much of the so-called ‘mobile’ data that travels to and from smartphones and arrives via Wi-Fi and the fixed network. Nearly all the data going to and from PCs and laptops arrive in the same way. However, up until now, little has been mentioned about how operators plan to transform wired access edge, to ensure flexible, reduced cost, next generation services for customers on the end of a fixed Wi-Fi link.

Low latency services can’t just be reserved for 5G subscribers. The majority of big operators have huge numbers of customers on the end of Wi-Fi links that are not just in homes. Businesses use of indoor Wi-Fi networks is large and growing, with new Wi-Fi standards and new assignments for spectrum on the way to support many businesses in private, on-premises network plans. Wi-Fi gets huge contiguous spectrum assignment from the FCC). 

Customers will likely demand that next generation services become available over both fixed and mobile services. In a response to this, one supplier, RtBrick is preparing what it has labelled a makeover for the carrier network.

The company is pioneering the idea of a web-scale network for telecom operators, meaning that carriers flowing through disaggregation of hardware and software, with silicon hardware, providing a lower cost physical processing base and FullStack routing to run the resulting IP/MPLS infrastructure.

 “We realised that the huge ‘cloud-native’ IT companies can run their operations at lower cost  and with more agility than telecoms operators have ever been able to,” said Hannes Gredler, founder and chief technology officer at RtBrick, “so we took a similar approach to building IP networks. We wanted to transform networks from carrier-grade to web-scale… with an emphasis on automation.”

RtBrick’s Broadband Network Gateway (BNG) has already been chosen for trials with major telecoms operators. The initial release includes the support for main subscriber features like queuing, accounting and lawful-intercept, and major routing protocols, such as BGP, OSPF and IS-IS. The software is delivered as a container, which runs on Linux, which only includes the microservices required for individual use-cases.

Discover more about RtBrick’s innovative software solution from VP of Marketing, Richard Brandon. Exclusive interview, coming soon.

We’re a diverse group of industry professionals from all corners of the world. Our desire is to provide a high-quality telecoms publication that caters to an international market, offering the latest and most relevant telecoms information to businesses, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts.

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Feature Articles

A law issued in 1789 may put your iPhone at risk

Ranine Awwad

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A law issued in 1789 may put your iPhone at risk

“We have even put that data out of our own reach- because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business,” said Apple in a statement released in 2016. The company, that has been refusing orders from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to unlock devices seems to be in a pickle.

In 2019, the FBI started investigating the case of Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a military trainee who killed three US sailors and wounded several others in a terror attack on a military base in Pensacola, Florida. Back then, Apple refused to break into his iPhone and claimed that the company provided every piece of information available to it, including iCloud backup, account information, and transactional data for multiple accounts.

On May 18, 2020, Attorney General William Barr and FBI director Christopher Wray had a press conference after they successfully broke into the iPhone – with no thanks to Apple according to Barr. FBI finds out that the gunman ties with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) began in 2015. Barr said that Apple’s decision has dangerous consequences for public safety and national security. “We are confident that technology companies are capable of building secure products that protect user information and at the same time, allow for law enforcement access when permitted by a judge,” he said. On the same day, Apple issued a statement saying that “There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations.”

In May 2020, Digital Trends requested a comment from Apple on the incidence as to whether this would force the company to rethink its encryption, or whether the average iPhone user should be concerned. But there was no response from the company.

In 2016, the FBI was investigating the case of Syed Rizwan Farook, the gunman of the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting. Farook is killed and the FBI has a warrant to access information on his phone but they can’t ask him for this unique decryption key and Apple doesn’t have it either. In March 2016, the FBI was able to crack his iPhone 5C running Apple’s iOS 9 mobile operating system.

There was no other way for the FBI to unlock the iPhone but to guess the code. However, Apple designed a security system that can wipe a phone’s data following too many incorrect guesses. The FBI asked Apple to write a workaround that turns this feature off. Apple refused. But the FBI found a way to hack the iPhone. “Apple has attempted to design and market its products to allow technology, rather than the law, to control access to data which has been found by this Court to be warranted for an important investigation,” the US attorneys said.

Federal officials refused to identify the person/organization that helped them crack the phone. This came as no surprise. According to The New York Times, Stewart A. Baker, a lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson and the Department of Homeland Security’s first assistant secretary for the  police said: “The method used is proprietary to the company that helped the FBI so it’s possible that the government won’t reveal the method that allowed them to crack the iPhone”.

Apple engineers have also begun developing new security measures that will make it impossible for the government to open an iPhone. Experts said that the government might have used different methods in order to unlock the iPhone. One of these methods is removing a chip and fooling it. This mechanism blocks password guessing, in order to find the user’s password and unlock the data. Another mechanism used by the government might be the NAND chip. This method could allow the FBI to replace the original NAND chip by another one that has a copy of the content. This procedure mirror’s the phone storage chip and copies it onto another chip.

What is really interesting is that a new iPhone has upgraded a chip known as the A7 with Secure Enclave, a security processor that has a unique numerical key which is essential to the security of information stored on the phone. This numerical key is not known to the company. Thus, new iPhones may be less susceptible to NAND-mirroring. But how was the FBI able to unlock Alshamarani’s iPhone?

In fact, the Silicon Valley company was ordered by a federal magistrate judge in California to help unlock the smartphone. Timothy D. Cook, Apple chief-executive opposed to the order via a public letter he published on February 16, 2016. “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” he said.

Cook avowed that this order has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. “The US government is asking us to create a new version of IOS that bypasses security,” he said. This software does not exist today and if so, it would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession. The US government suggested that this tool can be used on one iPhone. But according to Cook, once created, this technique can be used to crack other iPhones.

What is more important, privacy or security? This is the FBI-Apple debate that would define the future of digital privacy.

In fact, the US government invoked the All Writs Act (AWA) signed by President Georges Washington in 1789. Courts have tended to use this law when there are extraordinary circumstances- which applies to cases such as Farook and Alshamrani. Under this law, federal judges have the power to issue orders to compel people to do things within the limits of the law.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) already limits the ability of law enforcement agents to dictate design and software configurations. According to the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, CALEA applies to the manufacturer- Apple is the case- and providers of telecommunications services.  According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, CALEA permits the strongest encryption deployed by a manufacturer under the section 1002 (b) (3): “A telecommunications carrier shall not be responsible for decrypting, or ensuring the government’s ability to decrypt, any communication encrypted by a subscriber or customer- unless the encryption was provided by the carrier and the carrier possesses the information necessary to decrypt the communication”. In fact, this act limits court orders written under the AWA.

Neil Richards, professor of law and a privacy law expert at Washington University in St. Louis pointed out that intermediaries’- Apple for example- decisions on our behalf directly affect our civil liberties, including our right to privacy. “Law enforcement demands would be unconstitutional in the physical world and few companies are courageously standing up for the rights of their users,” he said for “The Source”.

It’s completely understandable that the FBI is seeking criminals to Justice. But this might put the user’s privacy at risk. In fact, privacy is secured under the International Human Rights law as well as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Undoubtedly, the Apple and FBI dispute is opening a new debate on digital rights.

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Video Gaming Addiction – Will The Pandemic Cause A Rise In numbers?

Inside Telecom Staff

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Video Gaming Addiction - Will The Pandemic Cause A Rise In numbers

Most of us are familiar with the more conventional forms of addiction – alcohol, substance abuse, gambling. But in the recent years a new type of addiction has been making headlines – gaming addiction, which has been recognized and acknowledged in the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

What is gaming addiction? Gaming addiction is a compulsive or uncontrolled use of video games, in a way that disrupts other areas of a person’s daily life. Video games include computer games, console games, arcade machine games, and even ones on your smartphone. Games can also be found on social networking sites, which makes it all the more convenient for any child to participate.

The stereotypical scene: Parent hovers over child pleading with them to stop playing computer games and get on with homework, dinner or house chores.

Undoubtedly, people are concerned about the long-term effects of video game playing, particularly in children. It can even contribute to disruptive social behavior and sabotage productivity levels. Some researchers have argued that kids who play violent video games may end up showing signs of aggressive behavior over time.

Video games were first available in the form of commercial arcades in the early 1970s. Since then, it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Adults with gaming addiction are believed to be similar to other problem gamblers, who are experiencing a number of pressures including isolation, stress and unemployment. These compounding factors perpetuate a very negative cycle of addiction which disrupts the inclination to increase productivity levels.

Many experts have expressed concern that the lockdown period may present challenges – as those who are prone to gaming habits might be more vulnerable to addiction. According to Keith Whyte, executive director at the National Council on Problem Gambling, “Every risk factor for gambling addition is spiking right now, and the same is true for internet and gaming addiction,” he says. “There could be a wave of addiction, quite a big wave.”

According to reports, since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, there have been more calls to gambling and gaming support centers. Because of the social restrictions put in place as a result of the pandemic, many gaming software companies released free games as a way of keeping people entertained and connected. While entertainment has been a fundamental part of our happy home life, it may have triggered more compulsive habits in some. However, not everyone who plays has a problem with gaming. Some experts say that it’s harmful to label people who might just be very passionate about gaming.

According to DSM-5 you need to show five or more of the signs (persistently) for one year to be diagnosed with gaming addiction:

  • Thinking about gaming all or a lot of the time
  • Feeling bad when you can’t play
  • Needing to spend more and more time playing to feel good
  • Not being able to quit or even play less
  • Not wanting to do other things that you used to like
  • Having problems at work, school, or home because of your gaming
  • Playing despite these problems
  • Lying to people close to you about how much time you spend
  • Using gaming to ease bad moods and feelings

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Feature Articles

Voice over LTE launched in more countries including Indonesia

Karim Hussami

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Voice over LTE launched in more countries including Indonesia

Despite the pandemic, countries have been rolling out technology to help facilitate the need for faster and more efficient means of communication. According to a GSMA report voice calls over LTE are recognized as “the industry-agreed progression of voice services across mobile networks.” As such, VoLTE deployments are taking place in more countries across the world – driven by the market’s growing awareness of its benefits in terms of quality of service, cost and operation.

Voice over LTE is the voice over long term evolution which is a standard high-speed wireless communication for mobile phone and data terminals, including IoT devices and wearables.

With this technology, your carrier allows you to place a phone call over your LTE connection instead of the common voice networks. VoLTE also provides the ability to use more bandwidth to make phones calls with higher quality audio traveling both ways, when you are on a call with someone else and calling someone near you.

In addition, revenues for LTE will soar as high as $997 billion by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 58.2% from 2013-2020, according to studies. “It is estimated that there are around 1 billion LTE subscribers worldwide.”

Studies have also reported that 507 operators launched this technology in 169 countries to reach 51% of the population, while Voice and Video LTE has been launched by 78 operators in 42 countries.

In light of the growing market, VoLTE has arrived in Indonesia with Telkomsel, a leading Indonesian player joining the growing number of operators offering LTE-based voice calls to its subscribers.

Telkomsel says it has soft-launched its VoLTE service which is a new facility that is accessible to around 114,000 Telkomsel customers in the Jakarta metropolitan area (known locally as Jabodetabek) – with other areas to follow.

The company will focus on the deployment of LTE at 900 MHz as part of long-term plans to deliver 4G services to 95% of the population across Indonesia. Reaching the target last month with 209,000 base stations in total.

However, the service is for selected customers and outlines its benefits such as the ability to talk on the phone and browse the internet at the same time and quicker voice connectivity.

India, Peru, Uganda and Tanzania are among countries where some subscribers can use VoLTE, though VoLTE-ready smartphones are usually required and the approach to billing may differ from one territory and operator to another.

VoLTE could be an alternative for present telecommunication methods, offering much better quality and service for people and businesses around the world.

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