Building LTE & 5G connectivity into SD-WAN solutions

Ollie Wallington
Head of Business Development

Organisations across the globe experienced an exponential shift in 2020, as business leaders had to reassess the importance of digital transformation, satellite offices and distributed organisations in the wake of lockdowns and social distancing guidelines.

These developments have had a huge impact on the world of connectivity. Companies are now demanding flexible and cost efficient network options to supplement their existing cloud operations. During this time, many organisations are choosing to partner with Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs), or directly with IT Resellers to ensure business continuity can be preserved across their increasingly complex networks.

Traditional WAN is quickly becoming less prevalent, as it can restrict growth and agility due to its limitations in cloud environments. As a result, companies are looking to refresh their WAN and increasingly evaluating SD-WAN as a solution for a number of reasons, in line with (post-COVID) longer term requirements for managing distributed operations and employees across a wide area network.

The benefits of SD-WAN and the role of LTE & 5G

SD-WAN is a network that is abstracted from its hardware to create a virtualised network overlay that can span across large geographical distances and connect several locations to a central network. The technology relies on different forms of underlay communication, such as MPLS or ADSL. SD-WAN provides WAN simplification, improved performance and lower costs, plus bandwidth efficiency and resilience by using different bearer services that minimise single points of failure across a wide area network.

In addition to fixed line connectivity, there are more and more projects now incorporating 4G and 5G as part of the SD-WAN connectivity solution. ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers (such as Exponential-e) are bolstering their offerings by uniting public internet, LTE, private and now 5G across a single, virtual and high-capacity SD-WAN solution. Cellular plays an important role in these deployments, acting in the first instance as a back-up to a fixed line, as well as providing the ability to rapidly deploy a connectivity solution where a fixed line is not available.

In locations such as retail stores, businesses are implementing SD-WAN with 4G as a failover solution to ensure uptime, and to guarantee that they are always online to transact in stores when a fixed line goes down. Satellite offices, smaller deployments and critical applications, such as voice and video, can also benefit from SD-WAN’s efficiencies. The technology can help select the best path depending on jitter, latency and packet loss, and less critical applications can then be load balanced across multiple lines to better optimise bandwidth.

Partnering with cellular experts

Businesses and their IT partners also have the challenge of selecting a cellular network provider. Network resilience and reliability are a critical value proposition of SD-WAN, and they need to select a partner with the expertise to address challenges such as:

  • Which cellular network(s) to select for multi-site deployments
  • IP addressing & Network to Network Interfaces (NNI’s)
  • Choosing the right tariff to fit each customer use case – high/low bandwidth needs
  • Bandwidth management on the device
  • The need to proactively manage usage and bandwidth on the SIM

To navigate these challenges, ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers can partner with specialist IoT connectivity providers like Wireless Logic, as we deliver secure connectivity across multiple mobile cellular networks  under one management platform (SIMPro) and bill. Not only does this minimise complexity for organisations, but we also have the relationships, knowledge and experience to effectively manage such processes, as well as navigate the complexity of providing multiple local mobile network profiles to our customers.

Typical Cellular Network Topology For SD-WAN

Staying secure with SD-WAN

While SD-WAN provides a number of connectivity benefits by combining multiple WAN links into a single network, its migration requires careful planning to avoid potential security risks. This is one of the biggest considerations for businesses and their IT partners, and security measures must move in sync with the network. Cloud firewalls are no longer sufficient in our increasingly connected marketplace, which means that companies must ensure tighter security features are deployed, configured and consolidated to restrict potential cyber threats.

What’s more, any SD-WAN security strategy that is developed and implemented must be flexible and scalable enough to meet the organisation’s future infrastructure requirements. ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers can also demonstrate their commitment to IoT security, through regular training, monitoring and auditing data security processes for their customers. For example, the ISO 27001 information security management accreditation shows that the company takes the management of its customers’ data seriously.

The future of SD-WAN

In our post-COVID-19 world, SD-WAN brings businesses much-needed ROI by improving operational agility, performance and efficiency. Furthermore, with cellular connectivity integrated into the solution, business leaders can have peace of mind with a failover solution to ensure uptime, and that networks can be monitored or redirected as needed to improve application availability.

ISPs, MSPs and IT Resellers can enhance their SD-WAN propositions by adding a simple, secure and flexible 4G or 5G connectivity as a backup or as a primary connectivity solution, where a fixed line is not available, from an IoT managed service provider with expertise in the industry.

Find out more about integrating cellular into SD-WAN solutions, or get in touch to discuss with our connectivity experts.

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