Until now WiFi and cabled Ethernet have been the networks of choice for business users, driven by the fact that they are standard options on modern PCs, laptops and other connected devices. However, both have limitations that will become more problematic as businesses move to the highly connected world of the future, so when considering network upgrades, would 5G be a better option?
The limitations of WiFi and cabled Ethernet
Some businesses still use a cabled Ethernet network, its limitations are, by definition, obvious. The lack of flexibility and portability that a fixed infrastructure delivers will constrain its use to fixed points. Adding additional connections is a costly, disruptive and time-consuming process of laying new cables to the existing infrastructure. Although its performance is good, the lack of flexibility is a problem for businesses.
WiFi is therefore has become more popular for a business network. It provides the flexibility that modern businesses need and with reasonably performance, but it has other limitations that are becoming more problematic. Firstly, the number of connected devices is limited, secondly WiFi operates in unlicensed spectrum, so performance is not keeping pace with business requirements and finally, security. The public key system employed by WiFi makes it vulnerable, particularly as workers are increasingly wanting to connect their own devices to corporate networks, referred to as “bring your own device” or BYOD. Whilst the standards bodies behind WiFi are trying to address these issues, the question remains about whether WiFi is the way to go in the future.
How does 5G stack up?
5G addresses many of the issues with existing networks highlighted above. It is inherently mobile and portable, it can support a huge number of connected devices, it operates in licensed spectrum so has a roadmap for ever increasing performance and is secure by design. 5G supports end to end security and so allowing a BYOD working is straight forward. So, what’s holding companies back? Well, the technology is relatively new and not available as standard on PCs, Laptops and connected devices, so that’s a factor, and companies are not aware of how it can help. The biggest issue for businesses though is that they don’t want their internal network to be connected to the public mobile network. This is where a capability of 5G to support Private Networks comes in.
5G Private Networks
5G private networks allow businesses to use 5G technology and take advantage of its capabilities, but to keep the network closed, confined to their own real estate and accessible only by its employees and systems. It creates the opportunity to have one network for all their operations. For example, many businesses now have building management systems that are on a separate, often low powered IoT type networks. These networks are not very secure and have often been the cause of security breaches. Using 5G means that all these devices could be on the main secure corporate network, something that’s not possible with WiFi. For manufacturing businesses using 5G as the corporate network can deliver a new level of flexibility when configuring manufacturing infrastructure.
There are then significant advantages to using 5G for business applications, it’s business’s lack of awareness and the maturity of the technology that’s holding things back, and so 5G should become the network of choice for the future.