Fixed wireless access (FWA) is a secure networking option
Author: Keith Shaw
When making decisions about network access, businesses need to be aware and assess the security implications associated with network technology to help keep their digital assets protected. Cyber hygiene best practices include device security, cyber security education, and secure networking strategies. Businesses considering adopting fixed wireless access (FWA) solutions—whether over 4G LTE or 5G networks—should understand both the security advantages of and potential pitfalls associated with the technology ahead of a deployment.
Modern security challenges
Data from the Verizon 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) shows that the three primary ways in which attackers access an organization are stolen credentials, phishing and exploitation of vulnerabilities. All of these attacks can occur regardless of network access type, whether it's cable, fiber, DSL or wireless. Hackers take advantage of out-of-date systems, software, and known security issues. This shows that many modern cyber security challenges are network-agnostic, which means the most popular cyber attack methods typically don't focus on the network technology the company uses to access the internet. However, outdated operating systems can be more vulnerable to security risks because they may lack the latest security updates and patches, serving as an entry point for hackers to infiltrate networks.
What is fixed wireless access?
Fixed wireless access is a type of 5G or 4G LTE wireless technology that enables fixed broadband access using radio frequencies instead of cables. FWA can be used to connect homes, businesses, and organizations to the internet using radio waves to send high-speed signals that offer data transfer to and from devices. And as organizations are seeking fast speeds and quick deployment of access services to both public and private networks, FWA is becoming an increasingly attractive option.
Customers in rural areas with minimal or no wired broadband options can benefit from a fixed wireless solution. The need for improved rural internet service has been recognized by both governments and businesses alike. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes multibillion dollar investment in broadband with the aim to "deliver reliable, affordable, high-speed internet to every household." The U. S. Department of Agriculture's ReConnect Program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs to construct, improve, or acquire the facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.
Compared to satellite connectivity, FWA reduces latency (it’s faster and more efficient) and is less expensive. According to CTIA.org, FWA can be defined as a last-mile technology to provide internet service by using wireless links between fixed points—such as a cell tower and an antenna located at an individual location—instead of running fiber or cable lines.
FWA offers streamlined deployment, since in many cases it allows customers to install the service themselves, rather than waiting for a technician to visit their location. In an FWA deployment, transmitters located on a cellular tower send their signal directly to a fixed location. Once a receiver accesses the wireless signal, it can then be connected to a router to provide wired or Wi-Fi access within a building, a temporary worksite, or even a food truck, depending on customers’ needs.
The benefits of FWA
Fixed wireless access:
- Can provide high-speed internet to areas without existing infrastructure as FWA does not require a physical wired connection
- Reduces the need for separate wiring at all locations which provides cost-effective network architecture
- Provides an easy and fast deployment, for example, many FWA solutions are designed to be “plug and play”
- Provides flexibility in being able to move a router/receiver, such at a construction site
- Can achieve last-mile network access diversity as a strategy for business application resilience
- Has the ability to manage and configure multiple locations nationwide over a centralized management platform
Use cases for FWA
Forecasts show the total amount of 5G fixed wireless access connections are predicted to reach 236 million connections worldwide by 2028, highlighting the demand for connectivity.
Several use cases for fixed wireless access deployments for business include:
- Setting up branch offices in rural areas where a wired connection is not available
- Supporting internet access for remote employees working in hybrid office/home environments
- Providing connectivity after a natural disaster
- Installing temporary internet access for an event or interim location
- Providing additional capacity at large sporting events to support increased crowds
- Providing secure internet access to companies that set up pop-up stores within a retail shopping mall or larger box store on a temporary basis, such as a tax preparation office during the spring or a Halloween costume store in the fall
- Providing backup or failover options for companies that want to have extra protection, such as preventing "backhoe" incidents that can often disrupt a wired connection within an urban area
Wireless networking is secure networking
Point-to-point (P2P), or device-to-device, is a private transmission, meaning the voice, data, video being sent is not traveling over public internet lines. Additionally, 4G LTE and 5G NR (new radio) technologies encrypt data and signaling to help prevent it from being heard or accessed on the radio access interface. Verizon’s fixed wireless access allows users to enjoy speeds comparable to a wired broadband connection while running on our 4G LTE or 5G Ultra Wide Band networks.
5G FWA and security
5G networks can provide secure networking because it has additional attributes such as separation of keys, backward and forward security for keys at handovers, idle mode mobility and secure algorithm negotiation. 5G also includes secure identity management, enhanced authentication and a core network architecture that can support network slicing, continuous secure connectivity for mobile devices and lower latency.
Companies considering fixed wireless access secure networking options would benefit by working with a reputable provider that offers a robust suite of cybersecurity solutions to help identify and manage potential security issues. The Verizon Threat Research Advisory Center provides monthly webinars packed with insightful analysis to help unmask threat actors' evolving tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), and provides other insights to help you stay informed.