MulteFire – Bringing LTE-based Security to Unlicensed and Shared Spectrum

By Asimakis Kokkos, Technical Specification Working Group Chair, MulteFire Alliance and Head of Industry Environment Strategy, Nokia

When transmitting data wirelessly, security must always be a top consideration. While other wireless technologies operating in unlicensed spectrum have security protocols, history has shown that these can occasionally have security vulnerabilities, for example as seen with the recent KRACK vulnerability.  Only MulteFire comes with LTE-based security baked in when operating wireless networks in unlicensed or shared spectrum.

Based on 3GPP Release 13 and 14, the MulteFire specification was designed from the outset to minimize the differences between LTE and MulteFire, including how security is implemented. Inherently, LTE incorporates strong security mechanisms, ensures authentication of devices and networks, and encrypts data traffic.

Supporting SIM & Non-SIM Credentials for Secure Networks

In addition to leveraging LTE’s inherent security, MulteFire architecture provides multiple options for device authentication—such as with or without a SIM card— to support a wide range of use cases and deployments and provide services for subscribers from different types of services providers. MulteFire devices could either have physical SIM cards or virtual eSIMs to support service continuity from external mobile networks and regular mobile subscribers, while maintaining a secure network. Alternatively, any MulteFire network could issue its own SIM cards or eSIMs for use with its own services, or standalone networks can allow access from devices without a SIM card using certificates.

Keeping Local Traffic Local – and Secure

Another advantage of MulteFire technology is that it can be deployed as a private LTE network that keeps data locally controlled and independent of surrounding cellular network infrastructure. Keeping data on-premises adds additional security. One deployment example is the emerging private networks for the Industrial IoT applications where local deployment is key to further reducing end-to-end latency and serving use cases such as transportation hubs, manufacturing facilities and container ports.

For more in-depth information on MulteFire technology and security mechanisms, download the MulteFire Release 1.0 Technical Paper here. For more information about the Private LTE Opportunity for Industrial IoT, download the white paper here.