Authentication Mechanisms in the 5G System


  • Xiaoting Huang China Mobile Research Institute, Beijing, China
  • Takahito Yoshizawa ESAT, COSIC, KU Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 Bus 2452, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium
  • Sheeba Backia Mary Baskaran Lenovo, Motorola Mobility, Oberursel, Germany



5G, 5G security, AKMA, primary authentication, secondary authentication, slice authentication


The 5G system introduces multiple new authentication mechanisms. The initial 5G specification in 3GPP Release 15 defines the initial security solution including primary and secondary authentication. Further enhancements and additional security features are added in Release 16; some of them introduce new types of authentication. As a result, the scope and meaning of ‘authentication’ has expanded. This is a new trend in the 5G system as it introduces new concepts that did not exist in the preceding generation systems. One such example is the slice authentication for which the authentication is performed at the network slice level. As a result, the authentication mechanisms become more complex. This paper clarifies the details of each of these different authentication mechanisms.


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Author Biographies

Xiaoting Huang, China Mobile Research Institute, Beijing, China

Xiaoting Huang received her B.Sc. degree in Telecommunications Engineering with Management from Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications and Queen Mary University of London in 2014. Subsequently she received her M.Sc. degree in Communications and Signal Processing from Imperial College London in 2015. She is now working in China Mobile Research Institute as a research engineer and standardization delegate of 3GPP SA3 and NGMN. She has been an active contributor to standard organizations, mainly focusing on 5G service capabilities and their related security aspects.

Takahito Yoshizawa, ESAT, COSIC, KU Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 10 Bus 2452, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium

Takahito Yoshizawa received B.S. degree in information and computer science from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1992 and M.S degree in Telecommunication from Southern Methodist University in 2002. He has over 30 years of industry experience in mobile communication systems, including product development and standardization, and has done engineering work of all phases of mobile system development lifecycle. He has participated in and contributed to standardization such as 3GPP, and holds over 10 granted patents on communication systems. He received inaugural Femto Forum Industry Award (current Small Cell Forum) in 2009 for his contribution to standardization. He is currently with COSIC group in Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, focusing on research on V2X communication security.

Sheeba Backia Mary Baskaran, Lenovo, Motorola Mobility, Oberursel, Germany

Sheeba Backia Mary Baskaran received Ph.D. degree in information and communication engineering from Anna University, Chennai, India, in 2017. She worked with NEC India Private Ltd., as a Research Engineer since 2016 until 2019. She then worked as a Senior Researcher with Huawei Technologies, Sweden during 2019. She is currently working as an Advisory Researcher with Lenovo, Motorola Mobility, Germany. She is also a delegate to 3GPP SA3, NGMN and ETSI working groups. She carried out her research in security aspects of 4G and 5G Technologies. She has four plus years of industrial research experience in mobile communication networks security aspects. She has also contributed to Global ICT Standardization Forum for India. She was a recipient of the UGC Maulana Azad National Fellowship from 2013 to 2016. She holds significant patents on 5G security aspects and has numerous journal publications.


3GPP TS 23.501 (v16.4.0), March 2020, System architecture for the 5G System (5GS)

3GPP TS 23.502 (v16.6.0), September 2020, Procedures for the 5G System (5GS)

3GPP TS 33.501 (v16.4.0), September 2020, Security architecture and procedures for 5G System

3GPP TS 33.102 (v15.1.0), December 2018, 3G security; Security architecture

IETF RFC 5448, May 2009, Improved Extensible Authentication Protocol Method for 3rd Generation Authentication and Key Agreement (EAP-AKA’)

IETF RFC 3748, Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), June 2004

3GPP TR 33.813 (v0.9.0), May 2020, Study on security aspects of network slicing enhancement

3GPP TS 33.220 (v16.2.0), September 2020, Generic Authentication Architecture (GAA); Generic Bootstrapping Architecture (GBA)

3GPP TS 33.163 (v16.2.0), September 2019, Battery Efficient Security for very low Throughput Machine Type Communication (MTC) device (BEST)

3GPP TR 33.835 (v16.1.0), July 2020, Study on authentication and key management for applications based on 3GPP credential in 5G

3GPP TS 33.535 (v16.1.0), September 2020, Authentication and key management for applications based on 3GPP credentials in the 5G System (5GS)

3GPP TR 33.846 (v0.7.0), September 2020, Study on authentication enhancements in the 5G System (5GS)

3GPP TR 33.845 (v0.4.0), September 2020, Storage of secure parameters in 5G System (5GS)






5G Enhancements

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