The second wave of WAN transformation begins
Technologies often need catalysts to take them to the mainstream. For example, while digital audio was invented in the ’70s, it wasn't until Apple introduced iTunes and the iPod in 2001 that digital music exploded. Later, digital audio experienced a second wave of adoption when smartphones were introduced — and it then became ubiquitous. The takeaway is that digital audio needed the portability of a player to go mainstream.
Wide-area networking is following a similar pattern. Over the last decade, SD-WAN drove the massive shift from private and MPLS WAN circuits to hybrid connectivity featuring broadband over the internet.
On July 14 AEST, the wide-area network (WAN) got a significant second wave. The world’s first 5G solution for business went on sale in Australia. Although wireless wide-area networking has grown rapidly over the last 10 years due to its tremendous flexibility, it was still missing high-performance capabilities. With speeds that will rival fiber, 5G will be the catalyst to usher in a new era for wide-area networking — the Wireless WAN era.
The First 5G Solution for Business
The first 5G solution for business is designed for fixed wireless access use cases; 5G for transportation will come later. The 5G solution is composed of a Cradlepoint W-Series 5G Wideband Adapter, an E3000 Series 5G-optimized enterprise branch router, a Telstra Enterprise Wireless service plan, and optional managed services.
The 5G adapters comes in two form factors. The Cradlepoint W2000 5G Wideband Adapter is an attractively designed indoor unit made of stylized plastic. The Cradlepoint W2005 5G Wideband Adapter offers nearly the same functionality and features as the W2000 but is designed to be placed outdoors for optimal signal acquisition. With an IP67 rating, the hardened metal casing of the W2005 is architected to withstand extreme temperatures, water, and high winds.
Due to the complexities of 5G, the W-Series 5G Wideband Adapters have significant architectural differences from prior solutions. For instance, engineers designed the solution to address much higher power and heat dissipation requirements as well as physical positioning challenges for signal acquisition while still maintaining the simplicity expected from a Cradlepoint solution. Perhaps that is why Cradlepoint is now a finalist in the Most Innovative 5G Strategy category of the Leading Lights Awards for 2020.
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
If you are a business in Australia, it means you now have a new and valuable category of WAN service to consider. If you are a business outside of Australia, it means that finding your 5G just got a fresh layer of asphalt. As evidence, network operators in regions outside of Australia are already testing these new 5G adapters. Cradlepoint expects that by Q1 2021, U.S. customers will be able to purchase 5G Sub-6 models. Availability in EMEA and other APAC countries will follow throughout 2021. As the Wireless WAN wave moves forward, it seems clear that most companies will deploy some type of Wireless WAN solution. Here are the most likely deployment modes.
Primary wireless is an excellent use case for sites that require the full flexibility of a Wireless WAN and the performance of 5G. Organizations that are growing, frequently change locations, have poor wired options, or have large national footprints are ideal users. Recent natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have shown the importance of this kind of flexibility.
Extending the use case further, think of locations that would like to run high-performance applications but may not have access to adequate wired broadband services. For instance, think of a retail clothier in an airport that would like to offer a virtual dressing room application. The airport authority would not likely provide network services that could support augmented reality. With 5G, the retailer could bring its own high-performance network.
Wireless failover is critical for organizations that rely upon outside connections to run their business — which seems to be most businesses. Cloud applications, POS systems, and employee systems are dependent upon always-on WAN connections. Often dual wired links share the same trench or terminate into the same local node. With a wireless connection, construction accidents and shared pathways are minimized. Tens of thousands of customers worldwide are using wireless broadband as a failover solution for wired connections.
Bandwidth augmentation, or a hybrid network, is an excellent option for sites that require a diverse failover path and need more bandwidth. A wireless link can be turned up immediately. Here, an organization uses both wired and wireless connections simultaneously. Each link can be assigned to a traffic type or can be effectively bonded with advanced SD-WAN solutions.
Now, there may be a temptation from some organizations to wait until 5G is fully mature before deploying. However, the risk to this strategy has been demonstrated repeatedly — think taxi cabs and Uber. On the other side, there seems to be little risk and much upside for customers to start planning for a 5G future today. Happy planning.
For more on 5G, visit Cradlepoint’s 5G for Business webpage.