In my previous blog post (link to “The Quest for Five 9s Making For Strange Bedfellows”), I mentioned how many of our enterprise customers are now achieving continuous (AKA “Five 9s” or 99.999%) network connectivity with wireless alone. In most cases, they do it by using two cell carriers per branch location. (If Carrier A’s network goes down, the routing device switches to Carrier B until Carrier A comes back online).
In my previous blog post, Specializing and Generalizing in the World of InfoSec, I mentioned the BSidesLV opening address by Adam Shostack, “Beyond Good and Evil: Toward Effective Security.” I’d like to pick up on his theme of information sharing as the ultimate act of self-preservation.
Today I’d like to discuss three facts that are leading to a tectonic shift in cellular carrier business practices, and the implications of this shift:
Fact One: The world of cellular carriers is fiercely competitive.
(After having spent 17 years with one of the largest cellular carriers, I can assure you it’s true.)
As with most professions these days, information security specialists need to continually strike a balance between focusing on the issues most relevant to their jobs—while keeping at least an eye on what’s going on everywhere else. One of the more efficient ways to do this is to attend conferences, which help you learn a lot about a lot of things—in a short amount of time.
As I noted in a November 2013 blog post (Is LTE the Winner? Follow the Money), the wireless carrier industry continues to be “engaged in a kind of horse race to see who would be first to offer the best, broadest, and most powerful LTE network.”
The most recent twist in the race concerns the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. As of August 6th, 2014 Sprint announced they were calling it off and long-time CEO Dan Hesse has been replaced. In the realm of LTE giants, these two companies rank well below both Verizon and AT&T with respect to numbers of subscribers. (There are other measurement criteria, which I’ll discuss in a later post.) Combined, however, the new company would have been on more equal footing—with about 100 million subscribers versus the other two companies’ 110-120 million. With less than half the subscribers of either AT&T or Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile lag their larger competitors in LTE network build-outs and the main rationale for the merger was to gain parity with their larger competitors.
Let's face it. For distributed enterprises, establishing and maintaining fast and secure networks at the edge is no easy task, especially in a world where hackers are more sophisticated than ever, and greater demands are being placed on the network for high performance and bandwidth. Today's branch locations process highly sensitive data but don't have onsite IT to perform hands on system monitoring to watch for attacks or connectivty outages. ......
I talked in an earlier post (Creating More and Better Customer Connectivity Options) about how Cradlepoint works hard to give our customers numerous connectivity choices. We’re also making improvements to the physical router hardware to make sure our products deliver durable, business-class performance. These improvements include metal construction, shock and vibe ratings, extended temperature and humidity ranges and rack mount kits. We’ve combined these improvements with the ability to centrally control our devices through NetCloud Manager.
Cradlepoint has led the industry by making it very easy for our customers to choose their cellular carrier by virtue of our routers supporting “plug-n-play” modem technology. Customers can also change their modem (and carrier) to reduce their data costs or improve their connection or service level. This flexibility allows companies to take advantage of the competitive swings in the cellular market and change carriers when necessary to obtain the best combination of price and signal strength for each of their office locations.
I work on Cradlepoint’s hardware side and one of the trends we're working on is to expand the number of ways our devices can provide customers with broader networking solutions. One example is the way we've improved our WiFi performance. We now cover both spectrum bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) with higher transmit power and “11ac” speeds. We also do quite a bit of work to make sure our WiFi and embedded 3G/4G capabilities perform well without interfering with each other.