The last few months have been characterised by a flood of information on 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and the Internet of Things (IoT).
It can feel overwhelming and leaves businesses without a clear path forward. The major trend in the market is how we will connect ‘things’ in an enterprise, industrial and consumer setting to drive the next phase of industry growth.
You will need to combine the elements that best serve your specific use case, choosing from technologies like 5G, Wi-Fi 6, edge computing, AI-based analytics and new security frameworks.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to transforming your business network, there are some general guidelines to get you started.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 promise ultra-low latency, greater capacity, increased performance and virtualised network architecture, technology that will revolutionise the mobile industry.
They offer a range of new use cases and revenue opportunities like smart cities, healthcare transformation, smart transportation and more efficient supply chain logistics.
To meet the requirements of these new technologies, you will need to develop fundamental new architecture designs which may need to be deployed in new environments.
Only a few vendors have already started testing 5G and Wi-Fi 6 with any measurable success. Mobile operators should take advantage of the next few years to redesign their network architectures as part of a structured, phased approach.
A pre-planned series of rollouts will allow for more robust design, test, trial and deployment. This will ensure that there is less risk for your business because the investments are interoperable and future-proofed.
5G and Wi-Fi 6 will require software-enabled, simplified and flexible mobile network infrastructures.
Wi-Fi 6 products are already on the market, so you can start building your network around this technology today.
Although there is no clear timeline yet on when 5G will be available in South Africa, we know it is coming soon and your business network needs to be ready for this technology.
This will allow you to prioritise what investments you should make from a business and technical perspective.
This is an opportunity to look at your current needs and what your future network needs might be.
With the expected flood of IoT and smart devices, chances are good that your current network won’t have the capacity to support them. You will need to understand where you can best leverage legacy investments, consider which use cases offer the best revenue opportunities and what technical requirements need to be met.
Putting together a clear strategy for your business network will allow those directly involved in the planning process to easily communicate the immediate and longer-term network transformation to internal stakeholders.
Moreover, by creating a detailed plan for network transformation, you will be able to identify gaps, issues or assumptions early, so they can be quickly addressed.
This reduces any risk involved while helping to recognise ways of reducing the cost, complexity and timescales involved.
Preparing your network
Preparing your network for the unprecedented demands of 5G and Wi-Fi 6 standards will require a virtualised approach like the adoption of Software-Defined Network (SDN) solutions. This will allow orchestrated management across diverse, adaptive, interconnected and virtualised environments.
Your business might need to introduce machine learning to allow the automation of service creation and customisation. The right algorithms can invoke or deny optional features and services based on specified criteria while pushing control policies and responding to anomalies that may present threats to the network.
Security is an important element of your network transformation; it includes elements like authentication, encryption, and key management. An equally important consideration is the ability of your enterprise to apply the specific security and policy tools to your network in a flexible way, tailored to its needs.
Wi-Fi enterprise networks are highly flexible, as they always have been. But depending on the deployment approach for a 5G network, it may or may not be able to accommodate the level of security and compliance customisation required by enterprise customers.
This is simply down to the reality that 5G will most likely be offered by a cellular service provider, which makes it difficult to break out traffic and implement specific security solutions for your network.
To create the new operational architectures required to support Wi-Fi 6 and 5G-enabled business models, you need to consider cross-domain deployments of virtual and software-enabled solutions.
Your network needs to embrace the seamless, end-to-end, holistic automation of functions and tasks associated with the advanced technology that Wi-Fi 6 and 5G will bring to your business.
This article was published in partnership with Duxbury Networking.