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Mobile operators are moving towards 5G commercialisation, but new use cases will take time

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The security of 5G networks is currently the hottest of topics, but beneath the political headlines there’s plenty of activity centred around the regular business opportunities offered by the next generation of mobile technology.

A10 Networks — a supplier of high-performance 5G Gi/SGi-firewall, GTP firewall, DNS firewall and integrated DDoS mitigation services — is one company pursuing those opportunities. That’s why Gunter Reiss, A10’s VP of worldwide marketing, recently sponsored “an independent survey around 5G among the world’s largest network operators” to assess how the market is developing.

The survey was conducted by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network and is the basis for a report, ‘Securing the Future of a Smart World’, which is released today. The survey population comprised 145 IT and business leaders at communications service providers (CSPs) around the world (44% North America, 29% Europe, 17% Asia Pacific, 6% South America, 4% Middle East).

Key findings are that over half (54%) of CSPs are either ‘Well along in pilot testing and trials’ (28%) or ‘Moving rapidly toward commercial deployment’ (26%). More than two-thirds (67%) will deploy their first commercial 5G networks within 18 months, while another 21 percent will do so within two years. The vast majority (94%) of respondents expect growth in network traffic, connected devices and mission-critical IoT use cases to significantly increase security and reliability concerns for 5G networks.

Heading up those security concerns is advanced DDoS protection to address larger and more sophisticated attacks:


Image: A10 Networks/BPI

Describing himself as “one of the biggest proponents you can find of 5G,” Reiss spent 21 years at Ericsson before joining A10 Networks in 2014. His final task at Ericsson was leading 5G engineers in developing new use cases such as autonomous vehicles exploiting Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC) — “which you see finally coming to the world in 2019,” he told ZDNet.

“4G was exciting, but it was really just mobile broadband — mobile apps, user experience, video (YouTube), coverage and, in the enterprise, bring-your-own-device,” Reiss said. “But what very quickly happened with mobile operators — particularly in the US, with unlimited data plans — was that they had a hard time increasing their ARPU [Average Revenue Per User].”

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) is still a priority for 78 percent of CSPs in the A10/BPI Network survey, but Massive Machine Type Communications (MMTC) and URLLC are also identified as early priorities by 44 percent and 38 percent respectively.

With 5G, network operators can partner with vertical industries to sell new MMTC and URLLC services. In the A10/BPI Network survey, 66 percent of CSPs said they planned to launch commercial 5G services in advance of the final 3GPP Rel 16 standard that will cover use cases like connected cars, smart factories, enterprise and private networks and public safety.

“I’m a big believer that almost every vertical industry will be disrupted by 5G,” Reiss said. In the A10/BPI Network survey, respondents expected the automotive industry to see the most disruption, followed by cloud services and manufacturing:

a10-5g-survey-sector-disruption.png

Image: A10 Networks/BPI

The reason this will happen is down to a new architecture for 5G networks. “The operators are moving to a totally distributed telco cloud — they call it ‘cloudification’. They want to build networks like Facebook, Google and Microsoft — flat, agile and fully automated. We need this kind of SDN-driven architecture to get the low latency required for new use cases,” said Reiss.

a10-5g-survey-cloudification.png

Image: A10 Networks

Network operators are making significant strides towards virtualising their packet core infrastructures, with nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents in the A10/BPI Network survey reporting completion (19%), near-completion (21%) or good progress (32%).

The 5G security question

The recent furore over Huawei has thrust 5G network security into the spotlight, but operators are already well aware of its importance both in the core and at endpoints, Reiss said. In the A10/BPI Network survey, security was identified by 68 percent of respondents as a ‘very important’ concern, just behind network capacity and throughput (72%).

“I get the Huawei question very often, and being European myself but living in America, my opinion is that Europe is a bit caught in the political crossfire between the US and China. Every European nation needs to evaluate the security risks and create a diverse supply chain. Decisions should not be geopolitically driven: they should be driven by technology, and also by collaboration between different entities in terms of security standardisation, validation and lab testing before you put things into a network. We have so much technology nowadays to make sure that no back doors are being exercised.”

As a vendor of carrier-grade network security and application delivery solutions, A10 naturally sought survey respondents’ opinions on their upgrade plans in this area. Only 11 percent have upgraded their Gi firewalls (between the mobile network and the internet), while 68 percent plan to do so. Similarly, 13 percent have upgraded their GTP (GPRS Tunneling Protocol) firewalls, while 60 percent plan to do so. Most CSPs (85%) also said that consolidation of security and application delivery services in the Gi-LAN is important (51%) or very important (34%) given the critical need to reduce latency and lower costs.

5G and AI: a disruptive combo

“5G is not just a technology question any more: it could determine the future GDP of a nation,” Reiss said. “The combination of 5G and AI will be one of the most disruptive technology combinations we have ever seen…we’re going to have access to so much data,” he added. 

All of which makes the security aspect even more critical. “With today’s legacy DDoS capabilities you can detect and mitigate an attack in 10 seconds to maybe a few minutes. Now we have to get down to 1-3 milliseconds. The only way to do that is to apply new machine learning algorithms and full automation,” said Reiss.

And the timescale before we see all these exciting new 5G use cases come to fruition? “I think it will take two or three years before we see a massive impact,” Reiss said. “Everybody wants to be the first to launch a new service, but most of these are non-standalone 5G projects — we won’t see standalone 5G for a while.”

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The NHTSA is opening an investigation into the Tesla Model S and Model X

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The NHTSA announced this week that it was opening a preliminary investigation into potential safety concerns raised by owners of Tesla Model S and Model X cars. The agency has received 53 complaints alleging failures of the left or right front suspension fore links. Of those 43 complaints, 11 incidents occurred while driving.

In its statement issued about the investigation, the NHTSA says that the complaints appear to indicate an increasing trend with 34 complaints received in the last two years, with three of them occurring at highway speeds. The agency intends to assess the scope, frequency, and consequences of the alleged fault.

The investigation will cover Tesla Model S cars ranging from 2015 through 2017 model years and Tesla Model X SUVs made from 2016 through 2017. As these vehicles age, they could be prone to defects that didn’t surface when they were newer. As of now, there has been no official statement from Tesla on the investigation.

There is also no indication that a recall has to be issued at this time. Tesla vehicles have had their share of issues with fire potential from battery damage during accidents. Several fatal accidents have also been blamed on inattentive drivers and Tesla Autopilot driver assistance systems not recognizing hazards in the road.

On Wednesday of this week, Tesla announced that it was issuing a recall on over 9000 Model Y and Model X vehicles due to issues with bolts. The Model X also had an issue where roof trim could detach over time, leading to potential accidents or road hazards. Despite the recalls, Tesla shares are booming, having gained more than 600 percent in 2020 despite the pandemic.

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Ford Bronco Sport EPA fuel economy figures published

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One of the most anticipated vehicles that Ford has produced in a long time is the new 2021 Bronco and Bronco Sport. One of the key facts that many will use to decide whether or not to buy the Bronco Sport is its fuel economy ratings, and the EPA has published those. The 2021 Bronco Sport achieves a fuel economy of 25 MPG in the city, 28 MPG on the highway, and 26 MPG combined.

Those ratings are for the version of the Bronco Sport featuring the standard 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. Keep in mind that the Bronco Sport comes with an all-wheel-drive standard. Those fuel economy numbers put the Bronco Sport at a disadvantage compared to some vehicles in its segment. It’s at the most significant disadvantage compared to the Toyota RAV4 AWD, which gets 27/34/30 MPG.

The Bronco Sport also returns worse fuel economy than the Honda CR-V AWD and Subaru Forrester AWD. However, the Bronco is more fuel-efficient than the Jeep Compass all-wheel. Fuel economy gets worse for the Bronco Sport when fitted with the larger 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

With that larger engine under the hood, the Bronco Sport achieves 21 MPG in the city, 26 MPG on the highway, and 23 MPG combined. The upside is the 2.0-liter Bronco Sport is one of the most powerful vehicles in the segment, and its fuel economy isn’t that far off from the three-cylinder version.

However, the reduced fuel economy will certainly make the Bronco Sport with the larger engine one of the least fuel-efficient vehicles in that segment. It’s also one of the most off-road capable vehicles in the segment, so it has that going for it. Many buyers will pick up the Bronco Sport for its off-road capability and style and won’t feel bad at all about its fuel economy.

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2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray C8 Convertible Review – Heritage only goes so far

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Heritage can be a lodestar or it can be a crippling anchor holding you back, and few cars illustrate that quite so well as the Corvette. America’s homegrown sports car star has the history, sure, but it’s fair to say that in its last few generations it’s felt more “quarterback gone to seed” than all-out contender. The 2020 Corvette Stingray changes that.

Chevrolet didn’t set itself a small challenge there, either. Mid-engined for the first time, more capable of directly competing with the Porsche 911 that Corvette fans always used to say their car rivaled, and to which the rest of us politely nodded and smiled and hoped they’d change the subject. It couldn’t just be a big engine and a comparatively small price any more.

The result is a performance car that feels shaped by both demands for speed and practicality; built to a price and with hints of racing game and “show it off in the parking lot” whiz-bang gimmickry. Cold, hard pragmatism butting up against that omnipresent recognition that a Corvette has to feel like a Corvette else, really, what’s the point?

That’s a lot of directions to be pulled in, and it could’ve left the Corvette C8 a deep disappointment. The fact that it isn’t, well, that’s something of a surprise.

Style-wise, it’s one of those cars which is far more successful in person than on the screen. Sure, it feels like Chevrolet’s designers have spread their inspiration net wide, and there are some angles where the C8 is a little ungainly. The rear decklid is particularly exaggerated – though in this convertible form it hides a trick folding metal roof as well as a fairly sizable trunk – while the vents just aft of the doors look more ungainly the longer you look at them and the rear is somewhat busy. I wouldn’t have chosen “Accelerate Yellow” paint, either; the Corvette doesn’t need to do quite so much work to stand out.

Pricing kicks off at $66,400 (plus $1,095 destination) for the drop-top, though it’s hard to imagine most C8 buyers stopping there. The standard car isn’t poorly equipped, but the $11,450 3LT package upgrades the infotainment, adds a Bose audio system, a head-up display, GT2 bucket seats with heating, ventilation, and power bolsters, the Performance Data Recorder that now captures both 1080p footage from the track and everyday video of your trip to Costco. It also throws in a front curb-view camera – its view summoned with a mercifully easy to locate button – and must-haves like blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alerts.

I say “must haves” because rear visibility is fairly dire, and side visibility isn’t all that grand either. The rear spoiler that comes as part of the $5,000 Z51 Performance Package doesn’t help with sight-lines but it sure looks good. The rest of the package is more focused on speed, with special suspension, brakes, an electronic limited slip differential, high-performance tires, a special exhaust and rear axle ratio, and a heavy-duty cooling system.

$1,895 adds Magnetic Ride Control, and it’s an option every Corvette buyer should check off. Chevrolet’s trick dampers can adjust the viscosity of the fluid inside, crisping things up for coccyx-punishing firmness or mellowing out for long-distance cruising. It’s suspension witchcraft and more than worth the money, as is the $1,495 front lift system which can either be triggered manually or programmed to automatically raise the nose for the same tricky incline every time.

What every Corvette Stingray has at the moment is the same LT2 6.2-liter V8 engine, good for 490 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. The Z51 package nudges those up to 495 hp and 470 lb-ft, and trims the 0-60 mph time to 2.9 seconds. There’s no manual option – that’s part of Chevy’s aforementioned pragmatism, blaming traditionally low sales of stick shifts even if purists say they’re non-negotiable – only an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters.

The engine’s in the middle, and it’s the rear wheels that are driven. There’s been plenty of chatter about AWD and hybrid options, but for the moment the C8 is keeping things simple. Simple and effective, mind.

It goes fast, of course. In a straight line, the Stingray leaps ahead like a beast scalded, monstrously quick and with a soundtrack to match. I’m not typically a convertible fan, but the drop-top C8 allows you to lower the rear glass window independently, letting in more of the V8 howl.

Six drive modes span inclement weather through to full-on track use, and there are all manner of traction settings to tinker with if you dig through the menus. The sluggish drive mode dial isn’t really set up for fast spinning through to take advantage of an unexpectedly rewarding road, mind; better to stab the “Z” button on the wheel, which you can preconfigure with your pick of the settings.

Speaking of the wheel, Chevrolet’s decision to fit a weirdly rectangular one with droopy-jowl spokes feels like another of those misguided gaming-inspired decisions. It’s thick-rimmed and – in 3LT form – heated, while $595 gives it a sueded microfiber wrap that’s going to one day be a time capsule of every greasy palm that gripped it. Does the shape help? Probably not.

The Corvette C8 does, at least, respond well to it. Indeed cornering is one of the Chevy’s key charms, even with some sensible understeer dialed in from the factory. There’s a predictable linearity to it, combined with a sharpness of turn-in that leaves things feeling just plain playful. Factor in ridiculous levels of grip and little in the way of body roll, and it becomes abundantly clear that this thing was tuned for fun.

The same can be said for the gearbox. Sure, it’s a little lacking in slush at low speeds, but I’ll stomach the jerkiness there in return for the snappy response to the paddles (or, if you’re feeling lazy, eager willingness to downshift when you push on in auto mode). Switch to Tour, meanwhile, and the engine/transmission/dampers combo is unexpectedly refined. This needn’t be just your weekend plaything.

There’s room for two inside, though things feel snug. Part of that is pure dimensions, and part of that is Chevrolet’s packaging. The high center console – particularly the long ski-slope of HVAC buttons cascading confusingly down between driver and passenger – could easily leave larger occupants feeling claustrophobic.

All C8’s get an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen within easy reach, and a 12-inch driver display with different gauge displays depending on which mode you’re in. It feels, frankly, light years ahead of the old Corvette, though you’ll need the 2021 model year car to get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rather than their wired counterparts.

What stands out, though, is just how much the C8 feels focused on the pleasure of actually driving. For all the new platform, and the fancier tech, and the slick hard-top convertible roof, that 6.2-liter V8 is the star here. When you’re cruising, it’s burbling happily; push harder, and it serenades you like only an eight-cylinder can, while still delivering the urgency that rivals have turned to smaller, turbocharged engines to deliver.

It’s fun that’s contagious, too. Few cars I’ve been in recently have turned so many heads, and prompted so many questions, as the Corvette C8. People love this car, and it feels like everyone has a ‘Vette story of their own to share in turn.

Factor in time for those conversations, then, and for being more watchful than you might expect in a modern vehicle. Chevy doesn’t offer adaptive cruise control, nor lane-keeping assistance, and there’s no automatic emergency braking. Rear cross-traffic alerts were added for the MY21 C8.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Verdict

Not having grown up in the US, sometimes the charms of Americana are lost on me. The old Corvette was a good example of that: I knew people loved it, I just could never quite figure out why. The good news is the Corvette C8 isn’t just playing to the home crowd.

Maybe it’s the personality it brings to the table, or the usability. Some sports cars leave you wary of their power or temperament, but like anything with a Chevrolet badge on the hood, the Corvette doesn’t demand blood sacrifice in order to get the job done.

Value is subjective, of course. No, this particular $93,660 Corvette isn’t cheap but, given the sort of cars it competes so strongly with, it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t punch above its weight. I’d keep the Z51 package and the MagneRide, and maybe compromise on the 2LT trim to keep the overall sticker down, but even if you maxed it out and made the dealer’s day you’re still well under the 911 and even McLaren Sport Series I think the ‘Vette can spar with.

History, and heritage, can be great. At their best they set expectations, just as long as you avoid falling into the same old ruts as before. While what’s new about the Corvette C8 is special, then, it’s how Chevrolet maintains its old values like attainability and everyday usability that really makes this car shine.

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