5G and fixed wireless: Where does it fit in your SD-WAN connectivity strategy?

Avatar for Terry TrainaBy Terry Traina|May 26, 2020|7:30 am CDT

Fixed wireless connectivity (or cellular service) allows enterprises to incorporate DSL, 4G, and now 5G into their SD-WAN hybrid access strategy. But many are confused when it comes to knowing exactly when and where to deploy this network connectivity type. Where should 5G service fit into your site connectivity plan? According to a 2020 survey from Nemertes Research, more than 42% of organizations deploying or planning to deploy 5G in the next 18 months aim to use it for connectivity at some sites. And with employees working from home, wireless is serving as a primary network for many virtual workforces. What are the implications? Here’s how Masergy advises its clients.

Fixed wireless: Most use it for backup or temporary use (until now)

Just like broadband, fixed wireless is a public internet access option. While it’s less reliable than private access and dedicated internet access, it has one unique advantage. A wired connection can be physically cut, but wireless connectivity is naturally immune to that threat.

Fixed wireless connections can be beamed across relatively long distances, but doing so often increases lag time which creates a slow experience for the user. With these drawbacks, many enterprises prefer to use wireless connectivity only as backup circuits or as an interim solution–providing a temporary link until the main circuit is delivered to the site. Using 4G or 5G as permanent primary network connectivity can be done as we’re learning today, but the connections can be unpredictable when compared to more reliable access methodologies.

This explains why many IT leaders are working to turn their temporary COVID-19 connectivity solutions into more sustainable strategies for the long haul. Working from home is here to stay. Whether you’re using it as a startup network, a failover strategy, or as primary connectivity during the pandemic, the future of the wireless WAN will largely be determined by how carriers charge for it. More on that below.

Pros and cons of fixed wireless



5G bandwidth could be a game changer, but…

There’s a lot of excitement around 5G, which promises increased speeds without data caps. Connectivity is already available for large cities in the United States and Asia. This has many ready to assign 5G’s additional bandwidth to their IoT and big-data strategies where more computing power is required. But, much remains to be seen.

Deployment is still limited, and the price of the service has many wondering whether they will be able to justify an investment–particularly early in the game when the price of service is higher. Because 5G still needs considerable infrastructure investments in order to be rolled out to the entire U.S. and worldwide, many are taking a wait-and-see approach and bracing for the cost.

Will new pricing models help with cost justification?

While the service needs more time to mature, 5G may bring with it new fixed monthly pricing models based on symmetrical bandwidth speeds. This is very different from the consumption-based models with data limits and overage fees. Fixed pricing could open the door to new and novel use cases for fixed wireless that many IT leaders likely never considered before. While IoT seems to be the default use case for 5G, there will be many others to come. Whether you’re planning on being an early adopter or not, 5G is worthy of close attention.

Fixed wireless: Quick buyer’s guide

Fixed wireless is typically not offered as a standalone service, meaning clients often have wireline services to their office location as the primary connection (e.g. SD-WAN, direct internet access, or broadband internet circuits) then purchase fixed wireless service to use if the primary wireline goes down. Given the limitations of 4G and the still-maturing status of 5G, IT leaders should carefully consider these aspects:

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