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5G and SD-WAN: How Do They Work Together?

What Are 5G and SD-WAN?

5G wireless is the fifth generation of cellular technology, designed to have ultra-low latency, with more reliability and greater network capacity. A SD-WAN is a software-defined approach to managing wide-area networks. 5G and SD-WANs can complement each other to create a seamless network experience.

To fully understand how 5G and SD-WAN work together, let’s briefly explore how each technology works on its own. Both 5G and SD-WANs are independent technologies, but together they allow businesses to access their vital applications with the reliability, coverage, and speed that 5G provides.

How Does 5G Work?

5G is the fifth generation of cellular technology that brings dramatic improvements in terms of latency, reliability, coverage, and data rates. The 5G spectrum covers multiple bands, allowing for both reliable long-distant communication and ultra-low latency service across shorter distances.

The performance benefits of 5G are creating new business opportunities and enabling technology that was previously impossible. For example, the ultra-low-latency capabilities of 5G allow autonomous vehicles to be controlled and communicate in real time. Surgeons can now perform operations halfway around the world through ultra-reliable 5G networks.

5G is also the foundation for ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Today, IoT sensors allow businesses to gain live insight into their operations. These sensors report metrics such as conductivity, temperature, voltage, and product count that can be translated into actionable tasks and business intelligence.

For instance, manufacturers can use IoT devices to monitor their performance and know right away when machines are showing signs of trouble. IoT sensors can measure metrics such as oil levels or temperature and automatically schedule a work order for preventative maintenance. A single 5G-enabled access point can cover up to 25,000 square feet and support thousands of individual sensors and devices.

How Do Businesses Use 5G?

For the first time, organizations now have the opportunity to own their own 5G networks. This is called private 5G, which allows organizations to have better control over their network resources and craft predictable budgets based on their own needs.

Unlike commercial carrier networks, private 5G lets businesses take complete control over their level of coverage, spectrum licensing, infrastructure, and budget. This is primarily thanks to a new portion of the cellular spectrum called the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). The FCC now allows private entities to lease space on the CBRS spectrum to guarantee interference-free communications on a county-by-county basis.

This allows enterprises to control their cellular resources on a granular application level. For instance, hospitals can create application-specific service-level agreements (SLAs) to ensure life-saving medical equipment always receives the 5G service it needs. These rules are enforced across the network, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically make dynamic changes that guarantee levels of quality down to millisecond response times.

But how do devices and staff use 5G to access company resources, applications, and services outside the network? This is where SD-WAN architecture comes into play.

How Does an SD-WAN Work?

A software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) works by taking an application-first approach that allows businesses to scale, add locations, and update policies throughout their WAN and cloud infrastructure.

In the past, branch locations would access company resources that were hosted at the central headquarters through VPNs, access controls, and complex routing protocols. This is how traditional WANs have worked for years, but as more services move to the cloud it doesn’t make sense to route traffic through centrally anymore.

While traditional WANs rely on IP addresses, SD-WANs intelligently route traffic based on the business requirements for that service. SD-WANs are application-aware, meaning they can route traffic and enforce SLAs differently for each service.

SD-WANs can route traffic based on priority, security requirements, application, and user group. This flexibility allows administrators to delegate network resources more effectively and reduce the amount of time needed to configure routes across the WAN.

On a technical level, the SD-WAN decouples the WAN transport services from the application and control function to allow for more granular control of cellular resources. This is in stark contrast to traditional WANs that made this separation impossible.

SD-WANs use what’s called a control plane to centrally manage Quality of Service (QoS), security policies, and routing options across the network. This allows thousands of devices to automatically apply the correct route based on the enterprise’s goals. SD-WAN architecture creates more predictable application performance, improves security throughout the WAN, and reduces the need for creating manual routes.

When paired with 5G, services on an SD-WAN can reach remote work sites, operate at one-millisecond latency, and enforce specific service levels dynamically.

What Benefits Does a 5G SD-WAN Offer?

By taking the flexibility of an SD-WAN and merging it with the performance of 5G, enterprises can scale teams and networks with an unmatched level of control, reliability, and coverage. Using centralized controls, enterprises can sync their service-level goals across different mediums. For instance, organizations that already have SLAs in places across their traditional WAN can import those rule sets to mirror across their 5G SD-WAN.

Hospitals can use 5G SD-WAN architecture to guarantee reliable service to life-saving equipment, provide secure access to clinical apps, and deploy IoT sensors across the entire campus. Even during peak traffic, hospital administrators can rest easy knowing that 5G has the capacity, bandwidth, and throughput to continuously deliver reliable service.

Energy companies can use both 5G and SD-WAN to monitor rural worksites and reliably access company resources across the cloud and hybrid-cloud environments. Using low-band frequencies, 5G can transmit signals for miles, reaching areas not covered by commercial carriers. On the back-end, an SD-WAN can immediately assign the proper routes for security cameras, job site applications, and communications.

How Can I Take Advantage of 5G SD-WAN Architecture?

The technology behind 5G SD-WANs can seem confusing, but the end result doesn’t have to be. Advancements in 5G hardware, management software, and spectrum licensing opportunities make designing a private 5G WAN easier than ever before. If you’re interested in seeing what 5G would look like in your business, be sure to check out the Celona Network Planner.

The first step is securing space on the CBRS network. This provides interference-free service and is the portion of the spectrum your 5G SD-WAN will operate on. Licensing can be obtained at CBRS auctions or purchased through secondhand marketplaces.

Depending on your business’s goals, different hardware can be used to provide both indoor and outdoor connectivity. Access points can provide blanketed or directional coverage wherever needed. Devices will need provisioning to access the network. SIM provisioning is a simple process that uses either a small physical SIM card or can be done remotely via eSIM.

There are a lot of moving parts to a successful 5G SD-WAN network; Celona makes getting started easy. With plug-and-play technology and guidance every step of the way, Celona makes building a private 5G WAN as simple as setting up Wi-Fi.

The Celona Solution

Celona partners with enterprise organizations to provide them their own 5G LAN as a seamless turnkey solution. Plug-and-play CBRS devices can be quickly deployed throughout the campus, while proactive monitoring ensures network SLAs, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met.

Celona uses edgeless enterprise architecture and cloud-based artificial intelligence to make implementing private mobile networks an out-of-box experience. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

If you’re building your network for the future, Celona can help. Check out our private LTE network planner to see what your network would look like on the CBRS, or test-drive the Celona Solution Architecture for yourself through our free trial.

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