5G – can it work for business networks?

5G partnerships and launches have been in the news recently, and it seems that the 5G rollout may finally be getting underway. A lot of what we are seeing at the moment are the formation of ‘Network Sharing Agreements” – which according to TelecomTV may be the ‘new normal’ for 5G rollouts.For those that aren’t aware, these are agreements usually between carriers in one country about who is going to build network infrastructure and where they are going to build it. There are several reasons for these agreements, the first is that building a new network is expensive, so all carriers want to minimalize their CapEX on building new networks. The second is that not all regions are the same in terms of average revenue per user, or in terms of what sort of spectrum is available/ideal for serving that area. Lastly you have to remember that carriers in most countries are usually bound by regulation as part of the deal that lets them purchase spectrum to roll out complete coverage across the country including to low-density areas where the revenue is very unlikely to match the cost.
To make this workable, carriers agree who will build what, where, and by doing so spilt the cost, and in return promise access and usability of the network they build to the customers of the other carriers, thereby guaranteeing service across the country for any customer on any network. This should speed up the roll-out of 5G, which is good for businesses as one of the promises of 5G is that through its increased speed and reliability it would be able to further drive flexible, remote, and mobile working.
Once your mobile signal starts being able to offer speeds comparable to backhaul networks, it can start to be offered as part of business package for a flexible worker/remote site/branch office. Cavell predicts a point where 5G is used as an additional connectivity pathway into a business, maybe as a backup at first, but eventually treated as an equal network resource that can be monitored in real-time and utilised as needed based on the performance of the rest of the lines.
One of the main factors enabling this new approach is SD WAN, which offers the ability to monitor traffic and connectivity over the network, including line degradation, and quality of service. This is vital for cloud comms providers hoping to provide services that operate over 5G, as the ability to track where the issue is on the line is the difference between being able to provide an SLA with guaranteed service from your solution and not.
If you can identify the fault as part of the mobile network then you can make the customer aware of this, avoiding user frustration and incorrect blame on your application/service. This approach will also be vital for carriers looking to offer cloud comms packages to customers that aren’t on their network. If a customer is registered in another part of the country that is only covered by a network sharing agreement you will need to be able to monitor that network and provide customer insight into the potential errors, even if repairing the actual problem may fall to a partner company.
This sort of transparency is vital, because without it we cannot rely on 5G to provide a business level of service with the commitment to quality that implies. It is no longer enough for a service provider to tell the customer that the service isn’t working, they can and must provide the why and the how as well. Many network problems can be solved by load balancing across multiple networks, and one prediction we are making about 5G is that many companies that do not want to pay for a dedicated line or MPLS network may find themselves operating quite comfortably with a mix of multiple public internet lines and 5G coverage. This is because using SD WAN it is possible to actively monitor packet loss, signal degradation and latency across all of these connections and to prioritise sensitive traffic (e.g. voice) down the line with the least issues. Added to this, SD WAN can with the right integrations offer quite a high level of security through firewalls, application monitoring and additional tools. Many of the risks of using the public internet and 5G over a private network or MPLS can be mitigated by the right SD WAN.
So with all of this discussion of 5G in the news service providers should start to consider how they are going to implement 5G into their offerings over the next few years. Customers will certainly be asking for 5G deals for their remote workers, what is your answer?
Additional News/Insights:
Beyond the service provider SD WAN is also helping with the 5G transformation itself – you can hear more about this here https://www.telecomtv.com/content/sd-wan/service-assurance-and-sd-wan-help-telcos-overcome-5g-transformation-challenges-35694/
For some of the recent 5G news – see here:
Three is planning its switch on in August – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48582957
In Italy, Wind Tre and Fastweb have agreed a network sharing deal – https://www.mobileworldlive.com/featured-content/top-three/wind-tre-fastweb-ink-5g-network-sharing-pact/
Meanwhile Vodafone have reworked their pricing model just for 5G – http://telecoms.com/498296/vodafone-rips-up-the-rulebook-with-new-5g-pricing-model/
Mobile Working Will Continue to Rise

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