How 4G LTE, Cat 18, and NB-IoT Networks Improve IoT Security
By Scott Ellis
April 24, 2019
By Scott Ellis
April 24, 2019
As the speed of information gets faster and faster with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network solutions reaching more than 1Gbps, what role will LTE Category (Cat) 18 have in delivering data, and how secure will it be?
Beyond the Gigabit speed class of Cat 18, all cellular IoT technologies will enable everything from fitness trackers to fleet monitoring and even smart city utility management, improving efficiency and saving millions across multiple industries.
How do 4G LTE high and low speed protocols differ from past wireless network types, and how will they bridge the security gap for smarter, more resilient solutions around the globe?
There are many types of network protocols that can connect IoT devices. NB-IoT, LTE-M Cat 18 are quickly becoming standards for transmission as businesses rely on larger data sets and/or larger number of edge devices across enterprise networks.
Bluetooth – Bluetooth is ideal for short-range wireless transmissions, including device-to-device transfers, wireless speakers, and wireless headsets.
Bluetooth’s short-range linking capabilities offer a bit of security through permissions but lack in reach.
2G – 2G is the first broadly adopted cellular protocol for IoT/M2M.
Used extensively across Europe, it is a secure network, though many countries are disengaging their 2G networks. 2G was created primarily for voice calling and limited data transmission.
3G – 3G is the start of the modern, more data-centric high-speed cellular network.
It improved on 2G capabilities beyond SMS texting supporting video, and updated media capabilities.
4G LTE – The fourth generation, 4G LTE, increases the abilities of the 3G.
In order to deliver cellular connectivity for the high-speed data and the world of low-power, low-throughput, the technology developed into a 2-branch bifurcation with categories determining where things are in the split. From category 6 and above, incredible speeds reach up to 1Gbps.
On the low-power, low speed side, a grouping of 2 standards known as Mobile IoT includes LTE-M and NB-IoT. LTE upgrades can largely be done through software, which makes it easier to update network security without costly modifications. While mobile, one downside to 3G and higher categories of LTE technology is its reliance on a constant need for power.
LTE Cat 1 and 4 – These are the most broadly supported standards in LTE with nearly total global coverage.
With speeds from 10 to 150 Mbps these standards support traditional IP security protocols typical of wired, always-on connections.
LTE-M & NB-IoT – Cellular low-power wide area networking (cLPWAN) standards include LTE Cat M1 (LTE-M) and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), were specified in Release 13 from the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards body.
They are used across a wide range of cellular devices and services. Unlike other existing cellular solutions, Mobile IoT technology is engineered to securely support devices that only require a limited amount of bandwidth to function and aren’t communicating constant streams of information, such smart meters, vending machines and a variety of smart city IoT applications.
Cat 18 – Cat 18 ultra-high-speed LTE will undoubtedly remain among the fastest wireless wide-area network solutions well through the early stages of 5G.
Working with the right network adapter module, and with coverage from a mobile network operator supporting the standard, Cat 18-enabled devices have the potential to outperform a large fraction of wired internet connections used in industry, commerce, and enterprise.
And with these modules, data security will be easier to maintain through layers of protection and through the application of technologies like software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN).
For many companies, breaking into cellular technology is not easy. Since the dawn of cellular technology, wireless networks have traditionally been less secure than cable-based office setups.
Fortunately, LTE is, by its nature, secure, and new modules built with security features will only improve cybersecurity and seamless integration with a wired network.
Mobile technology is quickly becoming the gold standard for IoT connectivity in the age of LTE speeds. SIM-less technology, more reliable batteries, aggregation of licensed and unlicensed spectrum and upgradeable software are all contributing to smarter, faster mobile devices that don’t need upgraded hardware every two years.
Because of cellular connected devices, we can already use our phone apps to track our steps, stream media in vehicles, parley video conferencing, sync our home lighting preferences, remotely control the temperature of our cars and homes.
We can also or will soon be able to check energy usage and configure our energy profiles against the smart grid, wirelessly charge our vehicles in parking garages, send and stream more data than ever across wireless networks.
In the professional world, mobile devices have become a necessity.
Hospitals remotely check heart monitors and vital signs, city networks send out emergency responses, delivery companies track fleets and shipped goods, and distributors monitor produce health in transit to retail— all from mobile phones.
Having all that power in one portable device carries certain risks. Any number of applications, including social media, faulty password protection, or momentary use of an unsecured network, can leave all of our IoT devices exposed to hackers.
According to the New York Times, “On a typical 4G LTE network connection, your data is encrypted, and your identity is authenticated and protected […] Although 4G LTE connections are generally considered more secure, the software is not impenetrable.”
LTE modules rely on the Evolved Packet System (EPS) for protection against network cyber threats. EPS mobile communication technologies are designed to handle the higher bandwidth and quality needs of LTE networks that need cellular connectivity to deliver videos, reports, and wirelessly transmit large data sets.
The 3GPP telecommunications security architecture of the EPS, or 4G LTE-network, uses stronger algorithms, authentication and key agreement security gateways at security domain borders that protect the integrity of your network and controls traffic.
Ultimately, it remains the responsibility of the IT deployment strategist to ensure their LTE remains protected against security breaches as new threats emerge every day. Having a well-defined set of protocols in place remains the most effective agent against data breaches.
In what ways is Cat 18 able to help bridge the security gap?
Recent innovations merging mini card form-factors with Cat 18 support offer a carrier broadband-like user experience to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Many modules today are future-proof remaining current well into the lifecycle of 5G. These innovations will keep costs down and potentially transform the way mobile broadband is used in everyday business solutions.
Security strategies for mobile broadband applications include network service availability and strengthened Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) integration for rapid packet deployment.
When upgrading to an LTE-ready IoT network, it is crucial to consider three important questions:
1. Have you run a security assessment for your deployment?
2. Does your IoT platform address the security implications?
3. Is your provider working to create a more secure IoT future?
Telit offers a wide range of secure globally certified 4G LTE Cat 18, 11, 9, 6, 4, 1, M1, and NB1 modules, as well as 3G and 2G modules. Telit has the capability to deliver the highest available speeds that cellular networks can support for all solution providers and integrators.
In fact, Telit’s LM960 is the first global, full-size PCI Express Mini Card (mPCle) in the world available for enterprise cellular routers and appliances.
This global, 23-band product, which supports LTE Advanced Pro Category 18, has download speeds of up to 1.2Gbps, 150Mbps upload rate, and support to the increasingly popular CBRS unlicensed band leveraged by enterprises and campuses for private LTE operation.
To find out more, contact Telit today.