Industry Blog

Why encryption in 2021 could be toxic for operators

Time to read: 2 minutes

Today over 90% of traffic on mobile networks is encrypted. HTTPS is the norm and the internet has been driven dark by OTT content providers. With HTTPS traffic management technologies, although the content of data packets were invisible, the destination, via a field called “Server Name Indication” or SNI, was still accessible. This meant that services based on packet inspection and classification, such as content filtering, parental controls and video optimization, could still be offered. No more.

Now, a new depth of encryption is emerging via the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) which allows subscribers to gain a higher level of privacy and helps to prevent phishing attacks. However, mobile operators’ abilities to manage subscriber Quality of Experience (QoE) are being jeopardised as the destination of data packets becomes inaccessible to them.

OTTs tighten their grip

This rapidly emerging deep encryption also introduces issues such as the centralization of authority within the internet. As the content and destination of data packets become inaccessible to mobile operators, it is a few players – notably the Silicon Valley behemoths, who determine what can be seen, who can see it, what value added services can be provided, and who can provide them.

It is coming to be that hyperscalers are able to dictate the whole content delivery process. For an example, it is now almost impossible to use an Android phone without Google services. The search giant hosts the applications, creates the developer communities and are even deploys their own networks.

New encryption in 2021 restricts the operator’s ability to filter content by removing their access to domain names. In most countries the enforcement of laws to protect children from inappropriate content or for crime prevention and detection increasingly depends on identifying domain names. Without access to the destination of data packets, mobile operators cannot in turn perform essential value-added services such as enforcing parental controls. Operators are being blinded.

Seeing through the darkness

China and Russia may have prohibited these new protocols, but in all likelihood the new encryption could go mainstream later this year.  So, operators need to prepare for a new phase when data traffic once again becomes dark, potentially rendering services useless including current traffic filtering, parental control, and video acceleration. Conventional traffic management services will not work as new encryption techniques are deployed. It is now critical for operators to consider the coming changes and the impact it could have on their networks.

Register now for our exclusive eBook – 8 Trends That Will Shape Mobile Data in 2021 – for operators to gain access to a greater discussion on rapidly changing encryption. It provides unique insight and expert advice on how to prepare for these coming changes.

There is light at the end of the encryption tunnel.