Lawyers Will Have Field Day with 5G’s Monolithic Cores


Lawyers Will Have Field Day with 5G’s Monolithic Cores

September 24, 2019

Operators and vendors planning to build 5G with monolithic cores need to consult their legal departments. The issues of monolithic cores are many.

Owing to 5G ubiquitousness and its impact on society, regulators are going to request a 5G monolithic core have a “Black Box” similar to what airplanes have, today. That presents a new way of thinking around the 5G ecosystem.

While the design of 5G is in the hands of engineers, leaving it only to them means the civil courts will be busy. Mr. William Webb, an academic and former director of telecoms regulator Ofcom said, “5G adds more complexity and novelty to the core, providing more opportunity for new types of failure.” That presents some interesting scenarios since points of failure have yet to be identified.

Say, for example, a 5G network crashes causing the A8 in Germany, the M5 in England, the A1 in Stockholm to go offline and those results in a huge smash-ups. Alternatively, picture a blackout that leaves 10 million people in the dark since electric utilities will run on 5G. Immediately, there will be resounding demands for explanations.

In this vast and complex 5G ecosystem, operators and vendors will not be able to, simply, say “It was the overheating of a few base stations during summer. Or the result of expired software licenses.”

Do you Watch Airplane Crash Investigation?

That gives one an idea of how regulators will examine the 5G black box monolithic cores. They will approach from a similar perspective as NTSB does it with aircraft black boxes. Why? Because 5G systems will carry not just data, but mission-critical data.

There is the specter of civil courts getting involved, just as they do in airplane disasters. In this case, vendors and operators providing some data, top up, and issuing apologies will not do. There will be profit and loss lawsuits, class action lawsuits and billion dollar fines on the line.

Questions such as, “was the network designed so these failures could be avoided?” will be asked.  Operators will shift the blame vendors. “It was a turnkey project,” they will say. Was everything done, that was reasonably possible, to avoid such failures? Everyone will say it was.

Lawyers will smell blood. They will try to find liability by probing all angles from related industries. For example, let us use the hospital ecosystem as the model. “Is the health system designed around a single national hospital?” Does the health system concentrate all doctors and medical facilities at a single point?” scenarios will be reworked around the 5G infrastructure.
On top of that, costs will be astronomical. The numbers of “DOAs” would be enormous. Babies would be delivered inside buses and taxis because they could not reach the monolithic, centralized, hospital, in time.

“No,” the defendants say. “The hospital system is de-centralized and clinics and technical medical facilities and tools are distributed across the country to be close to the population. This is how a mission-critical system should work, your honor.”

A 5G network must operate in a similar manner as a decentralized hospital system. There will be regional clinics. They will take care of constrained geography, and can operate independently of the rest of the network and can draw resources from the cloud or have split cloud and in-premises.


However, as the legal case for monolithic cores unfolds, shares of operators and vendors start plummeting because the case is already lost. The lawyers will show precedents, such as the crash of the UK O2 4G mobile network in 2018.

While the technology is available, poor core network 5G designs are not an improvement over the network designs of the 80s and 90s, when they were hardware-based. Today, with the software-ization of the networks, they are cost-effective to deploy across the countries and create a more robust, fail proof network. But, the million dollar question is “will they do so”? If not, then operators will build monolithic networks at their own peril.

Osvaldo Coelho is in charge of Business Development – Africa for Athonet srl. He received his degree in electrical engineering from the Instituto Maua de Tecnologia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1994. He has over 20 years’ experience in senior telecom network engineering positions, which are the result of a progressive technical advancement with medium to large fixed and mobile operators.  His primary focus is on mobile network expertise. He works with leading network suppliers, as well as has international network consulting experience.

This article originally ran in Applied Wireless Technology.

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