Cellular broadband is disrupting networking conversations by blurring the distinction between the modern LAN and WAN
A lot has changed since enterprise networks made their debut in the 1980s — most notably in the transition from wired to wireless connectivity. Rather than relying on wired connectivity or Wi-Fi, enterprise businesses are shifting to cellular broadband solutions powered by LTE and 5G to accommodate distributed networks and wireless edge communications in the cloud while improving security and reliability. As companies move toward an all-wireless future built on wireless broadband connectivity, the distinction between Wireless WAN and Wireless LAN (WWAN vs. WLAN) becomes increasingly blurred.
What is the relationship between WWAN, WLAN, and 5G?
A WWAN takes advantage of LTE and 5G technology already suited for covering large geographic areas — including campuses, parks, cities, and industrial sites — to provide connectivity for fixed and temporary locations, vehicles, and IoT devices.
While WLANs continue to stake their claim as secure networks connecting devices and computers in small areas like homes, offices, or schools, the data transmitted on those networks must eventually break out into other sites, data centers, or the cloud via an internet connection such as a WWAN.
What impact does 5G have on WWAN?
Improved network capabilities and transformative use cases make 5G both evolutionary and revolutionary. 5G business solutions for WWAN are at their best when connecting fixed locations, providing connectivity in motion, and advancing IoT innovation.
Connectivity for fixed locations
A WWAN can provide connectivity over extensive areas that lack accessibility to reliable wired broadband or to locations that require a secondary connection to provide more bandwidth. When based off a 5G network, that connectivity is capable of handling increased bandwidth with faster speeds and lower latency.
Henley Enterprises, for example, uses an all-in-one, wired and wireless hybrid WAN solution to connect more than 200 Valvoline Oil Change locations across the United States. Cellular broadband enables these locations to seamlessly access applications housed in the cloud including scheduling tools, video training, perimeter monitoring, and more. With cloud-based management and policy-based security on the WWAN, their lean IT team can manage each location’s network from anywhere.
A network on the go
A mobile WAN is a reference to connectivity in motion. This includes fleet vehicles traveling throughout various coverage areas, pop-up locations, and any other location that would not typically have access to a fixed network because it’s either temporary or in motion. Regardless of their status, these locations still need secure, reliable network access.
The Gidarjil Development Corporation puts the mobility of WWAN to the test by using ruggedized 5G outdoor adapters to facilitate high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity to livestream 1080p HD video footage from aerial and underwater drones in ever-changing locations to viewers across the Queensland coast in Australia.
Cellular IoT connectivity
5G is the key to realizing the full potential of cellular IoT connectivity by providing improved speeds and security for IoT devices in dispersed or remote locations.
Neelands Group Ltd. is an example of an enterprise business using IoT connectivity via edge routers to provide advanced data analytics of in-store refrigeration and HVAC systems in food retailers across North America. Continued adoption of 5G will further improve the integration of machine learning and AI in their distributed warehouses.
Private cellular networks: the new wide-area LAN
Private 5G networks are increasingly taking the place of traditional LANs in locations where Wi-Fi would normally be used to connect devices. When comparing a private cellular network to Wi-Fi, a private network can provide secure, high-performance connectivity in larger areas at a lower cost than public cellular networks.
Smart cities, logistics and warehousing, manufacturing, and other major industries are taking advantage of these benefits. Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions in particular have incorporated advanced technologies such as autonomous driving and vehicle networking, digital twinning, and augmented reality into their daily operations thanks to private 5G.
5G and the enterprise networking conversation
What used to be a discussion of WWAN vs. WLAN is now simply a conversation centered on wireless connectivity. In stark contrast to many points throughout the history of wired and WWAN, it is now possible for an entire enterprise to be connected through a cellular broadband network. While Private 5G can be used to replace the LAN that connects devices in small areas, 5G can also serve as the backbone of the WAN that connects those devices to the cloud.
Right in the middle of those two nearly indistinct networks is a wireless edge solution giving enterprise businesses the freedom to connect people, places, and things that drive more experiences, more ways to work, and better business results — anywhere.