Finding the best 5G routers and modems for performance, security, and scalability is critical for WWAN deployments
5G is at the forefront of many industry leaders' minds as it continues to dominate the conversation about digital transformation in enterprise networking. In other words, organizations aren’t questioning the merits of 5G for Wireless WAN. But they are asking this: What is the best 5G router for business?
With its ultra-low latency and high bandwidth, organizations utilizing 5G for their wireless or hybrid WAN architecture can transmit and process large amounts of data faster than ever — up to 100 times faster than 4G and offering as much as 1,000 times the connections and mobile data volumes as 4G. 5G also gives enterprises the flexibility needed to grow and expand their network by enabling seamless deployment and day-1 connectivity for services and devices across many use cases, whether it’s for a fixed location, in a vehicle, or for IoT applications.
Incorporating cellular technology into day-to-day operations can help an enterprise increase operational efficiency, reduce costs, gain a competitive advantage, and meet rising customer expectations. But enabling Wireless WAN (WWAN) requires the right enterprise-class 5G router — one that supports the unique characteristics of all 5G spectrum layers and enables secure, customizable, and easy-to-manage connectivity — to realize the full benefits of wireless technology.
Explore Cradlepoint's 5G for Business Guidebook to learn more about how 5G solutions can transform modern-day enterprise operations and our endpoints webpage for more information on cellular-enabled solutions for every use case.
What are the three types of 5G spectrum, and why are they important?
When diving into the topic of 5G, understanding the three layers of 5G spectrum is key. Although all three layers provide some level of 5G coverage for use cases such as enhanced mobile broadband, IoT capabilities, and failover, there are exclusive use cases adapted to each spectrum band. The three 5G layers include:
- Coverage layer (low-band 5G, gigabit-class LTE or 4G LTE): Providing the highest propagation, meaning its signal can penetrate obstacles and travel long distances, the low-band 5G coverage layer, which is commonly used across the U.S. is composed of sub-2 GHz frequencies, meaning it has the slowest speeds out of the three layers.
- High-capacity layer (high-band 5G or mmWave): Generally found in densely populated areas or areas where high bandwidth is essential (airports, stadiums, etc.), the high-capacity layer is made up of cellular frequencies found in the millimeter spectrum (mmWave), which includes frequencies at or above 24 GHz. While its low propagation characteristics may limit its scope of coverage, high-band 5G offers the highest speeds out of any other spectrum layer.
- Capacity layer (5G mid-band): Falling into the 5G “sweet spot,” mid-band and C-Band 5G comprises frequencies between 2-7 GHz and offers a balance of speed, capacity, coverage, and propagation that works with bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive use cases, including mobile HD video streaming and facial visual recognition technology.
Knowing which spectrum layer your application needs is important to consider when choosing the best 5G router for your needs, but this isn’t the only factor to keep in mind.
What other factors should be considered when choosing a router besides the type of 5G spectrum?
Apart from faster throughput speeds, 5G-enabled routers provide a host of capabilities that benefit enterprises in virtually every industry, including supporting 5G, compatibility with a full range of cellular technologies, advanced security features such as Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and more.
When it comes to finding a 5G router best suited for your organization’s networking needs, it isn’t one size fits all. Ultimately, it depends on a few essential factors, including where the router is being deployed and where your priorities lie as a business. Some features to keep in mind include:
- Better flexibility: The ability to deploy 5G routers and adapters in diverse locations gives businesses the flexibility they need to stay connected. A large-scale enterprise location such as an office building needs the flexibility to place the 5G adapter or router in the best spot to ensure the best signal coverage. Traditional wiring closets in large buildings usually don’t have good signal since they are typically located centrally in the middle of the building.
- Simplified management: As more cellular-enabled routers connect to a network, centralized management and zero-touch configuration are critical. IT teams can use a cloud-based platform, such as Cradlepoint NetCloud Manager, to monitor and manipulate performance and security while also troubleshooting downtime and other issues.
- Cellular intelligence: Networking IT teams can also benefit from using software features that help visualize and optimize their cellular connections. This provides a level of Cellular Intelligence that significantly improves quality of experience, enables massive scale, and reduces complexity.
- Easier scalability: Wireless technology is especially important to rapidly expanding organizations. A 5G-enabled router eliminates schedule stall caused by traditional wired services by providing day-1 connectivity at new sites, giving enterprises the flexibility they need to grow quickly and efficiently.
- Advanced security: As more devices are connected across a WAN, and your organization’s attack surface swells, data breaches become a significant threat. Having multiple security options that provide flexibility and choice on how to best suit your scenario is important:
- Add fundamental protection with VPN, application-aware firewall, IDS/IPS, and content filtering on every WAN edge router.
- Consider a network and security WAN architecture built upon zero-trust principles that converges 5G-optimized SD-WAN, ZTNA, and a VPN alternative to use a unified solution with centralized policies and hidden network addressing.
- Enhance enterprise-class network security with 5G routers using network slicing — a fundamental capability of 5G infrastructure that provides the ability to partition radio spectrum into different slices. While network slicing is mostly known for providing a prescribed performance and latency, its logical separation also becomes a useful segmentation tool for security.
Exploring the differences between 5G use cases
5G routers for fixed sites
Cellular broadband solutions for fixed locations allow businesses to utilize more connection-dependent technologies in more locations without investing in outdated and sometimes unreliable wired-line services. For business-critical use cases with high-bandwidth requirements, enterprises benefit from using 5G and LTE connections. Enterprise-class 5G routers built for fixed sites enable easy setup and reconfiguration — capabilities that are especially useful for businesses such as retail chains that frequently adjust the layout of their store. With 5G’s faster speeds, increased network performance, and reliability, enterprises can also enable applications like pop-up stores and mobile command centers.
5G for vehicles
Vehicles are becoming increasingly dependent on digital technology. Police cruisers, for example, often feature a complex array of devices, including a laptop, high-definition dashboard camera, license plate reader, and automatic vehicle location (AVL) integration, all of which require constant high-speed connectivity. In-vehicle routers should support dual connectivity, which allows streams of LTE and 5G to flow simultaneously, to minimize gaps in coverage due to inevitable changes in the coverage area as a vehicle moves. A 5G router for a vehicle must also be compact and rugged enough to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as vibration, shock, dust, and more.
5G for IoT
More connected devices are entering the networking scene as organizations utilize IoT technology to help drive business using applications such as interactive kiosks, digital signage, and more. As this technology progresses and IoT applications include features such as HD video, real-time decision-making, and artificial intelligence that require higher bandwidth and lower latency, 5G connectivity is key.