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What is the Pathway to 5G for businesses?

James Weaver

Organizations with multiple sites need ability to run 4G LTE, Gigabit-Class LTE & various 5G technologies at the Edge

It is clear that 4G LTE has been a gift for businesses and organizations globally. As cloud application usage skyrocketed, 4G LTE gave us an alternative path when network connections went down. 4G LTE extended customer reach by turning vehicles into mobile offices, and 4G LTE brought educational opportunities to millions in remote areas throughout the world.

For those with technology responsibilities, 5G may be viewed with the wide eyes of a child: “My last birthday was great, but boy, I can’t wait until my next one; it will be the best yet.” The reality is, it will be. Most technology experts agree that 5G will be even more disruptive than 4G was.

For instance, consider the following applications that become viable with 5G. Businesses that could only use 4G LTE to fail over its most critical traffic can now use wireless to fail over all of its traffic. Organizations using wireless video for facial recognition can deploy machine recognition. Firefighters whom today can use cellular-based sensors can now have building diagrams stitched together and fed into their masks, allowing them to virtually see through the smoke.

However, here is the catch. Think of being promised the best gift ever — but you must receive it in increments over roughly a five-year time frame. Although this might sound a bit deflating, the fact is that each of these incremental gifts will be valuable and adaptive.

Because 5G is a collection of new technologies and spectrum that will roll out over time, 5G is less of an event and more of a pathway. However, this does not mean organizations should wait five or so years to realize the opportunities of 5G. Conversely, the time has arrived for organizations to learn about and invest in the new technologies that are available now and that will prepare them for fully deployed 5G.

Because of the differences between wireless WAN and wired WAN, it’s important for organizations to spend time now getting comfortable with LTE. More so, organizations can benefit today by deploying new wireless technologies such as Gigabit-Class LTE.

With download performance 2X-7X faster than 4G LTE, Gigabit-Class LTE can greatly extend an organization’s reach customers, patients, and constituents. Think about interactive media in public places, diagnostic services in vehicles or remote locations, and smart city video applications with machine learning. The diagram below shows a two-dimensional view of the Pathway to 5G.

The Pathway to 5G



The diagram above shows wireless WAN technologies on the x-axis and application categories on the y-axis. Organizations will move from the lower left to the upper right of the above diagram as they advance their wireless edge networks. In most cases, organizations with wired WAN could add wireless failover to their deployments for high availability. Organizations already using wireless may want to supplement their bandwidth with Gigabit-Class LTE, while those using wireless as an active link may choose to go all wireless with Gigabit-Class LTE today and 5G shortly.

For each organization, different locations may be on different pathways, depending upon the availability of operator services in each area. An organization with multiple sites must ensure it can effectively run a hybrid wireless edge network composed of 4G LTE, Gigabit-Class LTE, and various types of 5G technologies. Now let’s explore how your organization might move along the Pathway to 5G.

Situation: If Only 4G LTE is Available

What if some of your small or medium-sized sites are in remote areas where 4G LTE is the only feasible wireless WAN option, and Gigabit-Class LTE isn’t available? Your first step on the Pathway to 5G could be to deploy 4G LTE for failover or as an active link.

With most organizations moving to cloud-based applications, and with the general reliance on Internet services, the cost of downtime due to a WAN link outage is dramatic. All organizations with branches or distributed sites should consider the value of high availability. A wireless WAN link provides a diverse pathway to divert traffic if the wired links go down.

Situation: If Both 4G LTE and Gigabit-Class LTE are Available

What if both 4G LTE and Gigabit-Class LTE are available? There are two important reasons to consider deploying Gigabit-Class LTE today. First, Gigabit-Class LTE solutions are 4G LTE backward-compatible. This means even if you implement a Gigabit-Class LTE solution in an area where Gigabit capability has not been turned up, you can use 4G LTE in the meantime and turn on Gigabit LTE once it is available. Second, industry-leading, enterprise-class Gigabit-Class LTE solutions are 5G Ready. They support 4G LTE or Gigabit-Class LTE today and also will support enterprise-class 5G adapters — via an Ethernet port — once they hit the market. (See the diagram below).

Operators are rolling out Gigabit-Class LTE rapidly; soon it will be available in most markets around the globe. With minimal effort, an organization could deploy Gigabit-Class LTE today and gain double or triple the performance of 4G LTE when the service lights up. So, how do you know a Gigabit-Class LTE solution is 5G Ready? Here is a blog post that lists 5G Ready capabilities.

Situation: If Sub-6 5G is Available

If Sub-6 5G is available in your area, you should consider using it for wireless failover, as an active link, or for all-wireless broadband. The performance of Sub-6 may enable your failover to include all traffic, not just critical data, depending on the type of traffic running at each of your small to large sites. Using Sub-6 as an active link will greatly increase your overall bandwidth while using SD-WAN to intelligently load balance and have built-in link diversity for failover.

The performance of Sub-6 may rival fiber performance in your area while also offering more flexibility and operational simplicity. Many national organizations have switched from using many regional wired broadband providers to one nationwide cellular operator.

Situation: If mmWave 5G is Available

If you are fortunate enough to be in an area where mmWave 5G is available, you definitely should consider using it or failover, as an active link, or for all-wireless broadband. However, the most compelling use of mmWave 5G is as an all-wireless-WAN deployment. In some locations, mmWave

will offer better performance and lower cost than fiber, but with the hallmark flexibility of wireless. With Gigabit-Class LTE as a failback and with a second Gigabit-Class LTE modem in the connected router, you can run a wireless high-availability deployment.

While some like their gifts all at once, the rest of us can experience immediate gratification by jumping on the Pathway to 5G now. Further, that gratification may come in the form of a greater competitive edge sooner than later.

Find Your Spot on the Pathway to 5G

For a more graphical view of the Pathway to 5G, download the Pathway to 5G infographic.

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