VENTURES AFRICA – Securing the network is a top priority for telcos and carriers as LTE becomes increasingly mainstream across Africa, says Fortinet, an American multinational in the business of selling high performance network security products and services.
Perry Hutton, regional director of Fortinet for Africa, says: “LTE is changing the playing field. The previous generation of mobile technologies relied on mobile operators’ proprietary infrastructures, so security was not a major concern. They were less susceptible to hacking and attack. But with LTE, the traffic uses IP as a transport method, which essentially puts it in the public domain where it is extremely vulnerable.”
While a relatively small percentage of operators in Africa is using LTE right now, major players have started the ball rolling in many regions. “Unless some new technology comes along to bypass LTE, we see it becoming mainstream in Africa over the next few years,” says Hutton.
Hutton says for many operators, LTE is almost uncharted territory, but they are well aware of the potential risks. “So when they start looking to LTE, security is one of their top concerns. With tens of thousands of customers’ traffic on the network, they can’t take risks.”
At the same time, the security solutions in place cannot be allowed to degrade network performance. “People are moving to LTE because 3G was too slow for them. So performance is crucial – any security solution must have as little latency as possible,” he explains.
Fortinet, which has been working closely with telcos since the early 2000s, saw these challenges coming, says Hutton. “We have been working with telecommunications operators and carriers for over ten years. They were Fortinet’s initial focus market and a lot of our functionality was built around meeting their needs. So we’ve purpose-built solutions to take network security to the next level. For example, we’re the first network security vendor to deliver the world’s fastest firewall – the new FortiGate 5144C – that exceeds 1 terabit per second (Tbps) throughput performance and offers 10GbE, 40GbE and 100GbE connectivity options.”
Fortinet is fast penetrating the pan-African market, and expects significant growth as operators and carriers move to LTE and seek more advanced, high-performance solutions. Hutton says there has been keen interest in Fortinet solutions’ performance, functionality, lower costs, unlimited user licensing model, and the fact that the security solutions are not tied in to specific network hardware.