LTE and 5G: The Role of Wireless in Future SD-WAN


As the debut of Mobile World Congress Americas approaches, I'm writing a series of blogs to describe how the solutions related to mobile carriers affect general enterprise networking.



SD-WAN has traditionally been a solution for branch networks that involves the combination of landline networks, such as MPLS, broadband, and even DSL. What’s not well appreciated is the participation of mobile networks, specifically LTE, to provide one of the paths for branch networking.

This is particularly relevant now that LTE speeds match or even exceed those of traditional MPLS lines, and is useful for mobile or remote uses where fixed lines are impractical. Another important attribute is the speed of provisioning, since LTE data services may be provisioned rapidly, so this applicability to pop-up stores or construction sites is ideal when provisioning speeds for traditional MPLS lines takes many weeks. 


Of course, the modem and routers need to be made available, but it’s reasonable to assume that a larger enterprise will have a stock available for distributing rapidly to the remote sites. Many SD-WAN vendors have created remote routers with zero touch provisioning capabilities, where the unique IDs associated with the routers are pre-registered to the management controller, so the requirement to have a technician visit in truck-roll to the remote site to physically provision the network is minimized.


Given the interest in upcoming 5G deployment at MWC, the key issue is to understand what additional capabilities at remote branches may be enabled. It’s not just a matter of data rates, which of course will increase under 5G, but to understand how reduced latency will enable higher quality real-time applications, such as IP-based video teleconferencing.


There are networking companies that focus on LTE data networks such as Cradlepoint with its LTE-based SD-WAN solutions, and Digi with its mobile routers. I would not be surprised if other vendors incorporate LTE and future wireless technologies into their SD-WAN solutions, and I firmly believe that branch networking will undergo rapid changes in the coming years.





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Topics: Networking Enterprise Mobility