Vodafone Turkey keeps its rapidly growing network secure with PKI

With thousands of base stations and a rapidly growing network, Vodafone Turkey made a transition from GSM to LTE technology, using public key infrastructure to manage the important encryption of the mobile traffic.

The transition from Global System for Mobiles, GSM, to Long Term Evolution, LTE, was done in April this year. From then on, traffic through the base stations, the physical threading, and the gateways were encrypted. This is important, as LTE mobile networks are connected with IP-based services. This increases the risk of intrusion, compared to GSM and older technologies from the era when mobile networks were, to a greater extent, isolated.

But encryption management can quickly turn into a very complex matter. Issuing certificates for identifying trusted network devices and using a single certificate authority, CA, are keys to avoid chaos in encryption management.

Oncu Inan Yazicioglu is an IP planning expert at Vodafone Turkey.

“The encryption part was very important for us and had to be managed by a proper supplier. Issues may arise in any operation if the encryption does not work properly”, he says.

The transformation from GSM to LTE was a big venture for Vodafone Turkey by all means, involving around 35 people working full-time from September until April on a budget of about 0.5 billion dollars. The encryption was part of the main transformation from GSM to LTE and employed around five people for two months. The major challenges were to get the redundancy of the servers right and to get the database running properly with the software installed.

“The biggest challenge was technical. Now everything is running in production and working well”, says Oncu Inan Yazicioglu.

Vodafone Turkey has a fast growing network and a high increase in traffic volume. The major part of the encryption project is now completed with some minor parts in the network still to be finished. Since Vodafone Turkey now has a certificate authority managing the encryption, Vodafone have flexibility in how to expand the network without changing the encryption management.

Onur Önoglu is a network engineer at Bntpro, a supplier working closely with Vodafone Turkey.

“Vodafone Turkeys is always expanding its capacity. Traffic is increasing day by day and challenging the capacity, but the certificate authority that we are running is handling that well.”

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