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4G LTE in the enterprise: myths and misconceptions

Todd Krautkremer

4G LTE offers always-on, reliable internet connectivity

Over the past few years, we have seen heightened adoption and growth of 4G LTE. According to Cradlepoint’s study of more than 100 enterprise IT decision-makers in North America, 60 percent are already deploying 4G LTE and are seeing an increase in wide-area network (WAN) flexibility, reliability, security, and cost-effectiveness.

In branch, mobile, and IoT realms, LTE is becoming an essential technology for the WAN infrastructure. Today, with the proliferation of IoT, cloud, and SaaS applications, there is no choice but to have always-on Internet connectivity, which is causing a fundamental change in the way we design enterprise networks. Regardless, there are still uncertainties — as there is with any new technology — about implementing an increasingly wireless WAN. Let’s address a few recent myths and misconceptions about LTE in the enterprise.

Myth 1: 4G LTE is only available in major metropolitan areas

OK, when was the last time you could not get a signal on your cell phone? Whether in a major city or in the middle of a South Dakota farm field, chances are you have plenty of bars of coverage. If you can make a clear and reliable call on your cell phone, you can deploy an LTE data connection. Today, Cradlepoint has numerous customers with sites in secondary and tertiary cities and towns that have “cut the cord” completely and have gone all wireless — with LTE providing faster and more reliable connections than the available wired options. Seeing enterprises make this kind of shift shows that wireless WANs are no longer an anomaly, but an indelible trend.

Use Case – Visio Health

Cradlepoint is helping extend the reach of healthcare professionals and subject matter experts to more distant, rural locations with reliable connectivity, providing remote telemedicine capabilities. Visio Health supplies carts within rural hospitals that have a telemonitoring portal and screens so that the patient and doctor can have a face-to-face experience. There are also sensor diagnostic tools on the carts that provide real-time diagnostic data back to the doctor.

Myth 2: LTE is too expensive

Not so long ago, getting data overages on your cell phone bill was a regular occurrence. Not anymore. With unlimited and “roll-over” plans, we are using data more than ever and have more gigabytes to burn. The same trend is happening in business data plans. The ability to pool and share data across all 4G LTE connections is all but eliminating data overage anxiety.

Now, more help is on the way. AT&T is trialing flat-rate business data plans that work just like a cable provider; just pick a bandwidth and get a flat rate every month. Cradlepoint’s SD-WAN solution for branch and mobile networks is specifically designed to make application traffic steering decisions between wired and wireless links, or even multiple 4G LTE links from different carriers, based on data plan consumption across an enterprise’s WAN and across carriers.

Use Case – MainGate

MainGate provides portable retail stores that are installed at remote venues such as sporting events. By leveraging 4G LTE as their WAN, they have been able to cut data costs by 50 percent over wired connections or the premium fees charged to utilize the venue’s WiFi network.

Myth 3: LTE is not as reliable as wired networks

Dropped cell phone calls rarely happen anymore, whether you’re standing still or on the move. That’s because cellular providers are constantly upgrading and “densifying” their networks to deliver more speed and reliability to meet the mobile application performance demands and expectations of consumers. What’s good for consumers is great for businesses.

Today, Cradlepoint has more than 23,000 enterprise and government customers worldwide that have deployed over 2.5 million 4G LTE endpoints to connect mission-critical people, places, and things. Time and time again, our customers report better reliability on their 4G LTE connections than wired, and many experience better performance as well. These customer reports are validated by the WAN availability analysis capabilities within NetCloud Manager.

One final thought on reliability: 4G LTE is impervious to backhoes and resilient to weather. In the recent hurricane-related flooding in Houston, Florida, and other communities, the wired infrastructure to millions of homes and businesses was literally underwater and out of service. Thousands of businesses were opened and back online in days by deploying Cradlepoint 4G LTE branch network solutions provided by our service provider partners.

Use Case – City of San Antonio

San Antonio deployed 4G LTE for its Smart City initiatives, which has improved the efficiency of many city functions, including first responders, traffic management, energy conservation, utility monitoring, and infrastructure security. As a Smart City, thanks to reliable 4G LTE connectivity, San Antonio can provide a better quality of life for their citizens while reducing the cost of city services and infrastructure.

Myth 4: 4G LTE networks are easier to hack than wired

We’ve all heard the horror stories of hackers sniffing around public WiFi networks and breaking into unsuspecting users’ computers. 4G LTE connections are completely different. Service providers utilize private virtual networks over LTE, called APNs or Access Point Networks.  An APN uses a private address space to isolate enterprise traffic across the LTE network and provide an authentication layer to prevent unauthorized access. It also can provide IP-layer encryption and allows for dedicated gateways to securely connect the APN to data centers.

For another layer of security, especially for APNs that connect to the Internet, Cradlepoint offers Software-Defined Perimeter (SD-Perimeter) capabilities that provide device-to-device network virtualization and security. You can’t hack what you can’t see and address, and LTE APNs and SD-Perimeter provide a wealth of options to obfuscate and protect enterprise traffic end to end. 

Use Case – DSC Dredge

DSC Dredge sends its unique, custom-made dredges all over the world, making real-time visibility into and maintenance of dredge operations a requirement. To accomplish this, DSC implemented Cradlepoint’s COR Series routers, NetCloud Manager, and NetCloud Perimeter — drastically reducing IT costs with 4G LTE, cloud management, and SD-Perimeter services.

Through SD-Perimeter, the organization can create perimeter-secured overlay networks in minutes to connect remote vessels. Technicians can pull open the web interface from their computer desktops and track vessel functionality and drive key adjustments without setting foot on the vessel.