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How 4G, Gigabit LTE and 5G are changing network use cases

Roger Billings

Wireless use cases are poised to expand & improve with new technologies

For many organizations in a wide variety of industries, wireless WAN links are becoming an essential tool, often as a primary link, for bringing reliable connectivity to today’s increasingly mobile workforce and ever-expanding network edge.

4G LTE is revolutionizing network architectures—but that’s merely the beginning. With 4G LTE, Gigabit LTE, and soon 5G, wireless networking’s imminent impact on the world is immense. Wireless networking use cases that many organizations already utilize with 4G LTE connectivity will be vastly improved and expanded with Gigabit LTE today. 

With enterprise-grade 5G poised to take off in 2019, many customers are investigating how all of this new technology will affect their business models and are actively planning to get on the pathway to 5G to take advantage of this fundamental shift in network architecture.

Cutting Wires

Cutting Wires Today

Many organizations are getting rid of wired WAN links at their branch locations, thanks to 4G LTE broadband that is reliable enough not only for Day-1 connectivity, but in many case serving as the primary WAN on a long-term basis. 

Widely distributed businesses are moving away from MPLS because of the exorbitant price. Even those who are attracted to DSL and other broadband providers are leery of managing dozens of regionally based ISP vendors. It’s simply too laborious and complex.

Unlimited cellular service plans for enterprises are coming. AT&T already has announced it, and others soon will, too. Organizations realize they can have better reliability with Gigabit LTE than they receive with consumer-focused wired broadband.

For enterprise with dozens of distributed locations and edge use cases, cutting cords greatly reduces management complexity and total cost of ownership. Often companies are able to consolidate their ISP vendors from about 50 or more to just one or two cellular providers that offer nationwide coverage.

Most customers that are using slower MPLS circuits see immediate benefit with 4G LTE, with average U.S. download speeds at 27.33 Mbps and uploads at 8.63 Mbps, according to Ookla. However, for some organizations with applications that require low latency and high upload bandwidth for applications such as high-end video conferencing, there are drawbacks to cutting wires. For instance, 4G LTE is asymmetrical in terms of bandwidth (4G LTE has been optimized for download speeds vs. upload), and it is more prone to latency and jitter than wired connections. Advancements in Gigabit LTE and 5G will alleviate these challenges over time.

Cutting Wires with 5G

Once 5G arrives, with performance rivaling fiber, enterprises will begin attaching 5G adapters to existing all-in-one 4G LTE branch routers. This will add high-bandwidth and low-latency transport to existing 4G LTE networks, while keeping their existing investment current for another three to five years. Organizations that are interested in adding more challenging and newer applications, such as video conferencing or augmented reality, at their branch locations will be able to do so with plug-and-play scalability.

Video Surveillance & Advanced AI

Video Surveillance & AI Today

Many organizations use IP-based surveillance cameras every day, capturing valuable footage that could help catch improper or illegal activity. At the very least, video cameras usually make potential criminals think twice before acting.

Enterprises that use wireless networks to connect video surveillance mainly store that data, then they forward it to the cloud or headquarters on an “as needed” basis. However, if an organization wants to take advantage of video analytics, it must invest in local analytics engines that only operate on locally stored footage. Savings can be gained by centralizing the analytics servers.

With unlimited data plans, organizations can sometimes even leverage real-time footage during emergency situations. However, advanced analytics are not feasible in such circumstances; real-time streaming normally is too strenuous and/or expensive for 4G LTE networks to handle. Latency limitations prevent agencies from using the software that would instantly scan video footage for a certain person—for instance, a criminal suspect wearing a red hat and gray jacket.

Video Surveillance & AI with 5G

Unlimited data plans and low-latency, high-bandwidth 5G will transform real-time video streaming, advanced analytics, and machine learning into viable tools for public safety agencies. They’ll be able to cost-effectively stream video with quicker response time, which will allow them to monitor and analyze footage as it happens during emergencies.

5G will allow agencies to find specific people with economies of scale as machine learning combines real-time footage from many sites, sifts through all available data, and identifies at which location the suspect in the red hat and gray jacket was identified.

Mobile Networking in Vehicles

Mobile Networks in Vehicles Today

Today, enterprises with fleets use network solutions with one or more embedded 4G LTE modems to connect the rapidly growing number of in-vehicle technologies and applications that are necessary to serve customers and taxpayers and improve operational efficiency.

Eventually 5G will help extend technologies such as advanced video surveillance to the road, as well as improve the speed and performance of existing use cases, but not until carriers begin rolling out the sub-6 GHz spectrum necessary for LTE and WiFi. Initial 5G rollouts center on fixed wireless access because the carriers are first utilizing millimeter wave spectrum, which is unable to penetrate objects such as walls, windows, people, and even foliage. Gigabit LTE will provide an interim solution today for faster downloads and allow for more advanced applications to be rolled out.

Mobile Networks in Vehicles with 5G

Once sub-6 GHz spectrum is deployed, organizations will be able to attach 5G adapters to existing all-in-one mobile routers, enabling many of the same use cases that people are anxiously awaiting for fixed locations. In addition, Gigabit LTE will allow those use cases to continue when a vehicle travels outside of the 5G service area.

For example, police officers could stream real-time video back to headquarters when they’re in or around their vehicles—providing vital information that could save lives when seconds count. 5G will drastically increase how fast data can be uploaded, which is what’s necessary to enable this type of use case.

Learn More

To learn more about the potential of 5G, check out our infographic.