By Zeus Kerravala

In tech, we always like to hype the latest and greatest technologies and promise they are “game-changing.”  One technology that’s reached a massive level of hype is 5G, and that makes sense because it promises to bring wired-like speed to wireless networks. Thinking back, however, 4G and even 3G were both positioned as the “next big thing.” This raises the question: Is 5G really all it’s being positioned as, or will it disappoint as the previous version of cellular did?

Admittedly, I was a skeptic of enterprise 5G for quite some time. But as I dug into the technology and compared it to current iterations of WiFi, my opinion has changed, and I do believe 5G has tremendous potential in businesses. It won’t replace all WiFi, but it will complement it and allow companies to expand the use of wireless.

To get a better understanding of what’s ahead for 5G, I recently interviewed Ozer Dondurmacioglu, VP of Marketing for Celona Networks, a startup dedicated to enterprise 5G. Celona’s solution delivers 5G with the operational simplicity of WiFi. Highlights of my ZKast video with Dondurmacioglu, done in conjunction with eWEEK eSPEAKS are below:

  • Celona Networks leverages the CBRS spectrum for its enterprise 5G solution.
  • CBRS gives enterprise IT and OT teams access to cellular wireless for free without having to go through a service provider.
  • The Celona solution deploys very much like WiFi where 5G access points are connected to the network and managed with a centralized controller.
  • Network engineers that can work with WiFi access points and Ethernet switches will find Celona’s solution easy to deploy without much training.
  • WiFi 6 is on the horizon and is also promising a much better wireless experience but because WiFi runs on shared spectrum, it’s subject to interference and quality issues.
  • CBRS based 5G has advantages over WiFi in three areas:
    • Dedicated spectrum and will always be interference-free.
    • Low latency network so as more devices are added, CBRS won’t get congested.
    • Ability to guarantee a specific error rate, latency and throughput metrics.  This is in addition to the type of QoS that’s available for WiFi.  This enables companies to dedicate bandwidth for video cameras, medical devices or other endpoints.  This “express lane” gives companies more options for wireless.
  • 5G won’t replace WiFi because WiFi is nearly ubiquitous and the endpoints are relatively inexpensive compared to 5G-enabled devices.
  • Businesses should plan to use WiFi for general connectivity and then augment the network with 5G.  The latter can be used to connect mission-critical systems that businesses would not put on WiFi for performance and availability reasons.
  • As businesses return to work, mission-critical IoT endpoints will be deployed to keep the workplace safe. Examples are cameras, environmental sensors, cleaning robots and more.
  • Celona’s CBRS 5G solution is equivalent to WiFi in terms of cost per square foot of coverage.  Businesses can redirect some WiFi budget to 5G and run a hybrid network that performs better than WiFi alone.
  • The end-to-end nature of Celona’s solution helps pave a path to a fully intent-based network where configuration tasks are automated.

5G is coming to the enterprise and it’s coming fast. IT and network professionals should consider 5G for any mission-critical systems their company plans to move to wireless. The technology leverages the predictability and stability of cellular and combines it with the simplicity of WiFi creating a “best of both worlds” scenario. Businesses should expect more from wireless, but that requires a different kind of technology.

 

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