The demands placed on today’s networks are higher than ever as employees now access an ever-increasing number of cloud-based and IoT applications. In fact, as more traffic travels over the public internet, the requirements of enterprise networks extend beyond 24×7 reliability to networks that can scale, adapt, move, and grow as business needs evolve.
There are many reasons organizations are turning to cloud-enabled, software-defined and LTE-pervasive wide-area networks (WANs). Adept at connecting people, places and things, wireless links are ideal for addressing today’s branch, mobile and IoT requirements.
New research suggests that adoption of LTE by business and agencies is poised to overtake T1 connectivity. With Gigabit LTE available today and 5G on the horizon, this trend is set to continue.
It’s clear there is a changing role of LTE in the enterprise, but how are organizations using 4G LTE today, and what are their plans for the future? There are a few network connectivity trends industry insiders are watching out for both now and also in the years to come.
#1 Wireless LAN will become the link of choice, overtaking wired WAN
The recent survey of senior WAN connectivity decision makers, working in organizations with 500 to 10,000+ employees across a variety of industry sectors, found that 45 percent are using LTE—a figure that’s fast approaching the adoption rate of T1s (49 percent).
Furthermore, more than 62 percent of the survey respondents plan to increase their LTE usage in the deployment of WAN solutions in the next three years.
The reliability, performance, flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness of wireless broadband is clearly driving enterprises to deploy 4G LTE as a trusted WAN source.
The research reveals how LTE is being used to connect a wide variety of end points – everything from fixed offices and healthcare clinics to mobile command centers, public transport buses, police cars and service trucks. It’s also proving the link of choice for connecting devices such as sensors and surveillance cameras—no matter how remotely these are located.
#2 LTE for primary connectivity is its most popular use
The survey of WAN influencers also found that 52 percent are using LTE as a primary connection, and a further 29 percent plan to do so in the near future.
It’s a head-turning statistic that demonstrates how using LTE for primary connectivity has become commonplace—and not just in naturally wireless environments such as vehicles.
Small offices and retail stores are turning to wireless WAN with increasing regularity, thanks to advancements such as instant failover from one modem to another and the arrival of Gigabit-class LTE.
The changing role of wireless in the enterprise network is perhaps best illustrated by just how many different types of LTE endpoints companies are now leveraging.
Top of the list was branch locations (77 percent), followed by IoT devices (68 percent), fleet vehicles (51 percent) and pop-up networks (50 percent). Most impressively, nearly a quarter (22 percent) of the organizations surveyed had all these types of endpoint.
#3 Using LTE to solve more than primary connectivity concerns
Aside from primary connectivity, the research reveals a wide diversity of LTE usage among the organizations that were surveyed.
For example, an impressive 41 percent were planning to use LTE for out-of-band-management (OOBM) so that they can manage multiple locations remotely. Security concerns were also driving many organizations to explore the use of LTE for air-gapped networks—creating a parallel separate network to sit alongside their primary network solution and provide greater protection against advanced threats.
Many of the LTE use cases were focused on the needs of mobile customers and staff. These included mobile offices for police patrol cars and ambulances, as well as public transit Wi-Fi, pop-up stores and event Wi-Fi.
#4 Security and SD-WAN go hand in hand
Organizations are reaping the benefits of SD-WAN when it comes to providing branch and mobile networks with secure, flexible and resilient connectivity. Indeed, 55 percent of respondents from large enterprises cited security as a key feature, with a quarter (25 percent) saying they plan to deploy SD-WAN in the next 12 months in a bid to improve the security of their expanding networks.
#5 Gigabit LTE and the pathway to 5G as critical aspects of network planning
The research found that nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of respondent organizations were already working towards a future that features next generation 5G mobile networks.
Delivering greater bandwidth, lower latency, improved connection density and network slicing, 5G will enable a diversity of use cases— everything from remote controlled robotics to autonomous driving, lifesaving telehealth applications and traffic control systems to control connected cars.
With 4G LTE already evolving into Gigabit LTE, which is a foundational element of 5G, most survey respondents (69 percent) said they anticipate that Gigabit LTE is likely or very likely to impact their technology road maps. Additionally, 73 percent of respondents were either researching 5G, very familiar with it, or actively working towards it. For these organizations, eyes are already firmly fixed on a wireless LAN future.
What the future holds for enterprise connectivity
Keeping pace with the dynamic nature of the industry, the enterprise network is evolving fast. Organizations are experiencing growing agility, mobility and bandwidth needs and are increasingly deploying a wide variety of WAN solutions to meet these needs. LTE is quickly becoming the sought-after solution—especially when it comes to connected distributed locations and fleets, or everything from digital signage to POS devices—offering the promise of maximum mobility, low costs, and fast deployment, LTE is making significant strides. Offering a pathway to 5G, it’s clear that the rise of the wireless enterprise network is truly underway.
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