Top telecoms trends

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Mattias Fridström offers his take on the telecoms topics that are going to matter in the next 12 months.

It has been a chaotic year across the world – one that has been difficult to predict, and that has required all of us in telecoms and beyond to keep a watchful eye on events. We’ve all had to work harder than ever to try and mitigate risks and, at the same time, plan for the future more carefully than perhaps we would have before. For many countries, the immediate disruption of the pandemic may now be fading into the distance, but for many, there are still significant challenges that are impacting global supply chains.

That said, companies have shown both their resilience and determination to move back onto a positive trajectory. This is as true in telecoms as it is any other sector and, at Arelion, we are certainly looking at the opportunities that lie ahead for business and consumers and how our networks can support them. For us, that means looking forward to the new trends that are emerging, as well as assessing how some of the persistent challenges we face are going to develop in the year ahead. 

World events don’t stop the cyber criminals

One such “persistent challenge” is that of cybersecurity and protecting the network from the risks that bad actors pose to consumers and enterprises alike. With an increase in available network capacity overall, cyber-criminals are now targeting their victims with spectacularly large packet amplification attacks rather than persistent small packet SYN attacks. That said, in the latter part of 2022 we saw, for the first time, a slight decline in the volume of attacks taking place along with increased sophistication which can be seen in our 2022 threat report. We are seeing carpet bombing attacks grow, while DNS and NTP amplification have been the most common attack vectors. We are also witnessing an increased level of creativity from attackers, as they work harder and smarter to be successful.

Many companies focus on endpoint security, but network security is vital to address the evolving attack vectors of the modern threat landscape. Due to these unfolding trends, 24/7/365 automated network security is critical for high-risk industries such as automotive, manufacturing, and banking, where large distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks present dire consequences. 

Given this evolution, it is hard to predict what will happen this year, however mechanisms such as cloud-based DDoS mitigation services are expected to become a more commonly used method of defence, given they are already forcing cybercriminals to rethink their approaches. At Arelion, we're working toward Flowspec to enhance DDoS mitigation as the public Internet becomes the preferred underlay for many companies.

The final point to make on securing the network is that there is undeniably a need for all operators to work hard to protect the physical network, and ensure the bar is raised on resilience. Organisations are increasingly asking operators about how well protected their fibre pairs are, how many hours they can run in a power cut, how they generate standby power and how well they could recover from a major outage or sabotage at a key facility. Enterprises deem the risks of such events as rising, and network operators must respond to those concerns in an evidenced way that gives customer confidence.

The sustainability story

Consumption needs to be reduced in our sector, especially considering the current cost of energy. As an industry, we are great at installing new more efficient hardware, but constantly adding hardware is only part of the story. Through better planning, inventory management and preventative maintenance, we believe huge progress can be made on improving energy efficiency of active infrastructure as well as replacing and decommissioning older equipment. In telecoms, we need to get better at unplugging, and I expect this to be a trend that gathers pace over the coming months.

Networking further into the cloud

Corporate ethernet networks are now pushing their way further into the cloud and we can expect that trend to continue. Cloud-based networking offers a fantastic opportunity for enterprise customers to shift to a model allowing them to take advantage of experts outside their organisation to perfect server and network configurations, as well as define optimum load and resilience requirements. Cloud networks can be constantly and independently monitored to ensure consistent benefits. It also allows customers to move to bigger data centres that they couldn’t access in the past, with multiple points of connection with improved encryption and security. It also has the benefit of reducing the energy required to power a corporate network, compared with the owned infrastructure needed to achieve the same result.

Some data staying out of the cloud

One important consideration when it comes to the cloud is not to conflate your network being in the cloud and where data is stored. We have increasingly heard enterprise customers talk about not placing more of their data in the cloud, due to the sensitivity with it being located outside their country or region. This is being fuelled in part by the geopolitical situation in the world today, and the additional risks data stored in another country might pose. This will be increasingly important this year, and companies need to find the perfect balance between what can be in the cloud, and the data or services that should stay in their own premises or local private cloud.

An open future

Our trial earlier this year with Acacia and Cisco saw us leverage Acacia Bright 400ZR+ QSFP-DD coherent modules with greater than +1 dBm transmit power between Cisco 8000 and NCS 5700 router platforms, all on a live fibre route with existing ROADM infrastructure. It was a huge success. Traditional long-haul optical business is slowly shifting toward more disaggregation, but the addition of 400G ZR optics has changed the playing field completely and will accelerate the process. These fully standardised pluggable components bring a wealth of opportunities to mix and match between different suppliers and keep the operational side of running a backbone network under control. It is a big change and means more flexibility in supply chains for operators, enabling them to navigate component shortages, accelerate growth and network upgrades, while also improving response times to hardware faults.

A year to lean into

Recent years have been a real struggle for the telecoms industry for a variety of reasons. Today, we can all look back on that period and take a great deal of pride in what we achieved and that our company’s and networks are here to tell the tale! It has been an experience that has made us wiser and more confident about what we can achieve. 

In today’s environment it is more difficult than ever to say with absolute certainty how the year ahead might unfold. That said, at Arelion, we are certainly optimistic about the next 12 months and the exciting transformation that the sector is going through. We’ll all see together how things unfold, but, for now, let me take the opportunity to wish you a successful 2023! 

Mattias Fridström is VP and Chief Evangelist at Arelion.

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