U.S. operators—including Sprint—conspicuously absent from Global Telco Security Alliance

The global security market grew 10% in 2017 to US$31b (Image fotomay / iStockPhoto)
Cybersecurity remains a key topic for global telecom operators. (fotomay/iStockPhoto)

Last week a quartet of major global operators announced they would team together to create the Global Telco Security Alliance in order to sell a “comprehensive portfolio of cyber security services” to enterprises.

Specifically, Etisalat in the United Arab Emirates, Singtel in Singapore, SoftBank in Japan and Telefónica in Spain said they would partner to “share network intelligence on cyber threats and leverage their joint global reach, assets and cyber security capabilities to serve customers worldwide,” according to a release from the companies.

The alliance also promised that their telco members would consider jointly developing “new technologies such as predictive analytics using machine learning and advanced cyber security for the Internet of Things. The alliance will also consider developing a joint roadmap for the evolution of their security portfolios and explore joint investments in security products and services, SOCs, platforms, start-ups and R&D.”

Such partnerships among telecom operators are relatively commonplace, considering the tightly interconnected nature and global scope of today’s communications industry. Indeed, the alliance made clear its desire to expand its footprint by noting that it is “open to bringing in new members over time.” However, the largest operators in the United States are not part of the founding Global Telco Security Alliance membership, including Sprint, which is roughly 85% owned by SoftBank.

“As a SoftBank company … we’re aware of the alliance, and are reviewing the possibility of Sprint joining in the future,” a Sprint spokesperson noted in response to questions from FierceWireless.

Representatives from AT&T and Verizon didn’t respond to questions on the topic.

However, cybersecurity has remained front and center for many of the top U.S. wireless network operators. For example, last week Verizon issued its 11th annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), reporting data from 67 contributing organizations and analysis of over 53,000 incidents and 2,216 breaches from 65 countries. Not surprisingly, the report is part of Verizon’s own cybersecurity sales effort: “This 11th edition of the DBIR gives in-depth information and analysis on what’s really going on in cybercrime, helping organizations to make intelligent decisions on how best to protect themselves,” said George Fischer, president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, in a release from the company.

At least one analyst offered a decidedly droopy reaction to the launch of the Global Telco Security Alliance. “I’m not all that optimistic about the Global Cyber Security Alliance,” noted Patrick Donegan, founder and principal analyst of security consulting startup HardenStance, in a post on LinkedIn. “A global pitch of the kind the Alliance is pitching is most likely to resonate with Fortune 500 companies. But these companies require a level of leadership and customization in cyber security solutions that I suspect these telco partners are a long way from being able to deliver.”

Donegan added though that the alliance may appeal to smaller businesses, where he said there is a lot of new market opportunity and where bigger suppliers like IBM, SecureWorks, Trustwave, Verizon, BT and others may not yet have reached.

Another issue that could weigh on U.S. operators specifically is the nation’s heightened focus on international security threats. Indeed, the FCC just today voted to prevent federal money from funding equipment supplied by companies deemed threats to national security—just the latest action to highlight growing concerns around cybersecurity threats to the United States. Thus, an international partnership that could involve sharing intelligence and developing new technology may not sit well in the current American climate.