Wireless is good – but wires are better!
That’s the general feeling from the people who know IT networking – and there’s good reasoning behind that attitude – primarily around the speed of data delivery over wires vs. the speed that same data would transmit to and from a satellite.
So, what happens when 5G cellular connections come along? Will they offer the speed we need to truly become wireless? Or will the humble ethernet cable continue to be a mainstay of network engineers around the world?
What will 5G offer?
To get an understanding of what 5G technology will deliver, we need to take a brief glance at how it compares to the cellular transmission methods that have gone before. They are:
- 1G: This first generation of communication, established in the 1980s, was voice only – and was delivered over analog radio waves.
- 2G: Second generation cellular networks offered a great deal more than their 1G predecessors, owing entirely to the move on to digital transmissions. Very small amounts of data could be transferred with a call, meaning you got to see things like caller ID, SMS text messages, and basic email functions.
- 3G: Third generation developments in cellular networks saw true internet come to our handsets. Greater transfer speeds were possible, which meant greater amounts of data could be sent in reasonable amounts of time.
- 4G: It’s difficult to pick any technical differences between 3rd and 4th generation cellular internet to deliver – other than the fact 4G has heralded much fast transmission of data, meaning a lot more information can be sent or received in the same period of time vs. 3G. As a result, there’s a far less network congestion.
So, the question is – why don’t we use current 4G technology to power our business systems?
Can 4G power our businesses?
The answer really hinges around the massive amounts of data that business networks send and receive every day. While the SIM in your phone allows for a fairly large amount of data to come and go, it’s not even close to the amount of data that even a small business would require.
This fact is compounded by the amount of “as a service” software, platforms and infrastructure that’s now used via the cloud by businesses.
Now, it might sound like 4G doesn’t come close to meeting our networking needs – but that’s not strictly true…
It is possible to establish a good network connection with 4G technology – you’ve just got to use it correctly.
The key is to use multiple 4G SIMs to deliver one connection. To do this, you need a specialist enterprise spec 4G router.
A 4G router has multiple “slots” that allow for 4G SIMs to be added. The data that each of these SIMs delivers is then “bonded” or “balanced” – meaning it either provides one extremely robust and fast connection to many devices (bonded) – or it provides numerous connections that are designed to service individual applications or devices (load balanced).
So, a lone 4G SIM isn’t going to come close to business level use – but many might.
If you read the tech specs on a 4G router you’ll find that many of them are configured to adapt to the performance requirements of 5G SIMs – so if we’ve got the equipment that can harness the power – what would that mean for business networks?
Before we can answer that, we’ve got to look at what 5G is promising…
At 2018’s Mobile World Congress Samsung showed off their 5G home routers – capable of a blistering 4Gbps transfer speed. Now, it’s hard to say how likely we are to get these speeds (owing to the fact they were transmitting and receiving within a meter or two) but, even if we were extremely cautious and suggested that 1Gbps was possible, that would still see a 4K movie delivered in just over 10 minutes.
And, don’t forget, these are single SIM home routers we’re talking about.
1Gbps internet delivery speeds
You may not be overly impressed at 1Gbps delivery speeds – after all, in the UK and the US, some providers say they can offer that now.
While they might be able to, don’t forget, they’re delivering it through wires – and in actual fact, it’s highly unlikely they’re going to be able to deliver it to you, owing to the huge amount of infrastructure that needs to be physically put to your premises.
So, 1Gbps is hard to get – with wires – but it seems like it’s going to be easily delivered with 5G.
Don’t forget! – We’re talking about 1 SIM home routers here too – so what happens when you start bonding those connections with a specialist router? There are devices out there that can bond connections from 20+ SIMs – so does that mean we could have 20Gbps connections throughout our networks?
It’s not just about speed
The attraction of 5G wireless networks might appear to be based around these astronomical speeds – but that’s only half the picture for businesses.
In reality, having your internet delivered wirelessly overcomes some huge problems – not least installation times. In fact, out of these 30 questions to ask 4G WAN providers, the majority relate to service delivery times and logistics.
In the UK, delivering a highspeed business fiber connections can take 3 months or more – and that’s before any construction work is needed (or even planned). With 4G – and hopefully soon, 5G – a preconfigured router would arrive in the post, you’d plug it in and be connected just seconds later. No planning permission, no construction work, no delays.
For business, this means moving location, opening new locations, shows, expos and much more is just a case of transporting a router…
5G vs. Wires
At this stage, 5G looks like a clear contender in the race to be the quickest internet connection for businesses – that said, the ongoing running cost is likely to be a lot more than that of the ethernet bundle or fiber alternatives.
4G WAN is helping businesses connect quickly – but it’s generally a temporary solution that’s in place until permanent lines can get up and running. If 5G is everything that’s been promised by the large ISPs, then we could very quickly see cables becoming increasingly a thing of the past, especially as the running costs start to come down…