By Frank Cittadino, CEO, QOS Networks
Ah, the topic of the year. Every day I seem to see a new article about the carriers racing to deploy their 5G connectivity. Every day I see new vendors popping up with solutions to connect to that fifth-generation cellular network technology and deliver the new capabilities. While there are a lot of nuances within the 5G realm, from carrier methods to delivery capabilities to on-track availability, there’s one main theme that we’re keeping an eye on: How 5G will affect customers, enable them and ultimately integrate 5G with SD-WAN capabilities.
The new speeds that 5G promises are game-changing. Mentions of 5G being 100 times faster than the current 4G technology have opened up the ability for some incredible new technologies to spring to life. We’ve long had the conversation about how SD-WAN can significantly lower latency, and 5G can help drive that story home. As a result, IDC is predicting a 40.4% CAGR from 2017 to 2022 for the SD-WAN infrastructure market.
As more businesses integrate IoT and AI into their workflows, the bandwidth constraints that come with that are compelling enough to slow the implementation of those technologies. The costs alone on increasing bandwidth can be a deterrent. However, when customers are relying on real-time results for their in-store shopping experience or a medical device relies on real-time responses during surgery, an advancement in the network can be all that it takes to open the floodgates. And here is where 5G with its decreased latency steps up to the plate.
Let’s talk about how 5G and SD-WAN will complement one another. First of all, SD-WAN devices are (usually) built for carrier-agnostic functionality. With a whole slew of 5G opportunities, it may be a mix-and-match play for a while across the network. 5G is rolling out in phases, with particular cities or regions coming online before others. Each carrier seems to have selected its own regions for early-stage roll outs and beta testing, meaning you’ll likely have just one carrier option in your region for awhile. One unique benefit of SD-WAN is it can enable readiness for when that 5G platform comes online. Because of the slow roll out, 5G is really more of a hybrid approach, one that’s relying heavily on 4G while it’s still not widely available. This makes it critical to have devices that can connect and interact with not only 5G, but 4G as well. That 5G capability is the critical point.
Let’s use an example. If you’re McDonalds (disclaimer: we are not affiliated, nor are they our customer) with more than 30,000 sites across the globe, wouldn’t it be excellent to have a platform that allows those sites to be turned “on” – when 5G opens up in California – without having to replace every piece of hardware on-site? And subsequently across the rest of their sites, globally? That’s how SD-WAN can enable 5G in an enterprise.
So, when is 5G expected to be available? Carriers have announced their own launch dates over the next few years. AT&T is live in a handful of cities with an ongoing roll out. Verizon has already brought some cities online and is expected to roll out about 20 more cities throughout 2019. Sprint and T-Mobile, which have begun to deliver 5G as well, are focused more around …