RAD and Checkpoint Join Forces to Provide Cybersecurity for Utility Networks; and Other News

RAD and Checkpoint Join Forces to Provide Cybersecurity for Utility Networks

RAD Data Communications L.P. and Checkpoint Software Technologies (NASDAQ: CHKP) announced over this past weekend that they have embarked on a joint program to provide end-to-end cybersecurity solutions for utility operational technology networks (OT) and other critical infrastructure. The solution functions by eliminating remote terminal unit (RTU) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) equipment vulnerabilities while bolstering network defenses on the control and data planes.

The RTU is an electronic device that controls interfaces between real-world physical objects and distributed industrial control systems (SCADA). Threats of hacking and cyberattacks on a critical infrastructure (such as power grids and traffic networks) have long been seen as vital to national security. As these networks become increasingly digitized and administered electronically, the demand and need for network security solutions have increased.

RAD is a global telecom access solutions and products provider with a clientele that includes power utilities, transportation, companies and governments. They specialize in providing cyber-secure communications solutions for operational WAN, ruggedized substation LAN, and automation backhaul, wireless PTP/PTMP, and broadband mobility. Checkpoint on the other hand, is the largest pure-play security vendor globally, offering complete security architecture defending everything from enterprises and mobile devices.

The solution, which is part of RAD’s Secure Networking Portfolio, integrates Checkpoint’s proprietary ICS Security Gateway with RAD’s secure-by-design networking platforms. This integrated system manages all electronic access to a substation’s electronic security perimeter, preventing all manner of attacks from within and without, including man-in-the-middle attacks, session hijacking, source-spoofing, and distributed-denial-of-service attacks. The joint solution is also flexible and applicable to any network, including those built on RAD’s networking platform or as an overlay to pre-existing network solutions.

According to David De Laine, Regional Director for Checkpoint, this ICS/SCADA security solution provides advanced threat protection and comprehensive protocol support for vital assets such as “power generation facilities, traffic control systems, water treatment systems and factories are never compromised. Our partnership with RAD adds a new way to deliver these advanced capabilities to our customers and will help us to drive further awareness of the importance of cyber security in the community alongside the Federal Government’s recent investment of $230 million in its own cyber security strategy.”

French Telco Orange To Move Into Mobile-Only Banking, Acquires Majority Stake in Groupama Banque

Orange, the owner of France’s legacy phone network with 28 million mobile clients in France, made waves in the financial world last month when it announced its purchase of a 65% controlling stake in Groupama Banque, the banking arm of a local insurance mutual, for an undisclosed sum. The entity, which owns a modest $2.2 billion in outstanding loans, will be given a digitally revamped and renamed Orange Bank. Orange Bank will offer mobile-only banking services, which will be marketed under the Orange brand within Orange’s distribution network, in France beginning in 2017.

Through Orange Bank, Groupama and Orange will offer essential banking services such as current accounts, savings, loans and insurance services, as well as payment. The pair hope to garner 2 million consumers in France and have ambitions of expanding into Belgium and Spain.

Whereas Orange will provide the network capabilities and digital services expertise whereas Groupama Banque will bring its banking expertise and experience with remotely managing customer-service and experience to bear on the venture.

Orange’s CEO Stephane Richard noted that “This agreement is a major step forward in our ambition to diversify into mobile financial services as we outlined in our Essentials2020 strategy. Groupama Banque will bring an existing banking structure as well as considerable experience in managing customer relations remotely within a banking context. This will enable us to move forward rapidly in order to provide our customers with an innovative, 100% mobile banking service”.

The European telco is following in the footsteps of other startups and Silicon Valley companies in seeking to diversify and enter into the financial services industry and Internet of Things. Telcos have already driven a large part of the African banking system. Notably Vodafone announced that its text-message driven transfer service M-Pesa had 20 million users. Orange’s service boasts 18 million customers across 14 countries.

That being said, penetrating the mature and extensive French banking system is a different proposition entirely from servicing the needs of a budding African market.

China Unicom Announces $2.15B Investment, Partners with Shanghai in New Smart City Initiative

China Unicom announced a significant investment of $2.15 billion in Shanghai over the weekend, underscoring a large-scale project to enhance and upgrade it telecoms infrastructure in the city and build new data and IoT centers. The announcement follows in the wake of its recently inked “Internet +” cooperation deal with the municipal government under which the Chinese telco committed to upgrading its fixed broadband and wireless optical networks in the city.

The deal stipulates that China Unicom deploy 10 Gbps passive optical technology in the city that is slated to cover 6 million residences with FTTH (fiber to the home) by 2018, and 7 million by 2020.

The mobile operator, which is the second largest in China, plans to deploy tri-band carrier aggregation on its 4G network in order to augment speeds from 150 Mbps to 500 by 2013 and 1 Gbps by 2020. In select parts of the city, China Unicom will offer high-speed fiber and and mobile broadband services at speeds of up to 1 Gbps. It also aims to have VoLTE coverage installed citywide by the end of this year.

In order to support Shanghai’s ambitions of transforming into a smart city, China Unicom will also deploy a citywide narrowband IoT platform (NB-IoT), which provides a low latency and low power wide area network focused on servicing machine to machine connections. The NB-IoT platform will support applications such as intelligent parking and environmental monitoring and is expected to be completed by 2018 with over 3000 network base stations installed across Shanghai.

AT&T Details Forthcoming Updates to Mobile Network, Touts 5G, Small Cells, and IIoT Capabilities

AT&T revealed further elements of its plan to expand and innovate its US mobile network during the Jefferies Technology Conference which took place in Miami over the weekend. Scott Mair, SVP for technology and engineering at AT&T announced the wireless service provider was on track to test fixed broadband services using spectrum in the 15 GHz band and pre-5G technology this summer. It plans on adding 28 GHz band spectrum to its tests later this year, which are expected to have a mobility component in early 2017.

Although the specifications and standards for 5G have yet to set (they are expected to be released by 3GPP in 2018), Mair reiterated that it was important to conduct early testing of 5G components in order to gain familiarity with the technology and smooth the network’s transition into a 5G later down the line. Enhanced broadband wireless constitutes the first use case of the pre-5G standard technology.

IoT and interconnected devices are another use case that require tailored solutions. Mair also spoke to AT&T’s commitment to “re-architecting LTE” in order to build a network capable of handling millions of connected devices (M2M connections) within a smart city, including connected cars, parking meters, and mobile healthcare services, which rely on extremely low power and low latency networks of less than one millisecond in the air interface.

Finally, AT&T has been building on work that it began last year to densify its network operating on the 2.3 GHz spectrum in urban and suburban areas that are starved for capacity by deploying thousand of small cells. Mair noted that while spending on small cells will increase, this wouldn’t necessarily increase capex.

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