Our world has become so mobile-centric that it’s easy for most of us to envisage a never using devices that are hard-wired to our internet connection again – but that’s not the case for businesses.
For businesses and their networks, Ethernet is still king – based almost entirely on the sheer speed that wired connections deliver versus their wireless counterparts.
So, what’s going to happen when 5G connections are commonplace? Recent indications suggest 5G speeds could be lightning fast, even compared to fast wired connections. Are we about to see a SIM card based wireless revolution for businesses networks?
What kind of connection speeds does the future hold?
We’ve come a very long way since the first generation ‘wireless’ connections of the 1980s. Back then, wireless meant analog; radio waves that carried only voice – with data transmissions just a daydream for even the most forward-thinking among us.
It wasn’t until the 90s that the mobile boom truly happened – for the first time, we had pocket-size devices that could identify callers, display names and offer SMS text message – all thanks to the move to digital transmissions. From this point, the tech behind cellular networks hasn’t changed enormously – we’ve simply found more and more innovative ways of sending more digital information at a greater pace.
3G and 4G technologies have now been around for 15+ years – and they’ve revolutionized what we do with our phones. 2017 was the first year that mobile browsers were officially used more than their PC alternatives – another huge step forward in the way we interact with our devices and the internet.
Domestic versus business
While mobiles and their quick cellular connections are exciting for domestic users – they’re still choked by the enormous amount of data that even a small business needs to see transmitted over their network and internet circuit.
As software and infrastructure providers continue to develop their products for small businesses the more of a problem of low-speed cellular connections become – and it’s the ‘cloud’ that causes those problems. The cloud-based software requires a huge amount of data to pass between provider and user – and often needs that information to be transmitted as close to ‘real time’ as possible.
A single 4G cellular connection simply does not have the speed or capacity to carry to amount of information we need for business-related use, especially not for these cloud-based resources – so, is there any hope for 4G powered networks?
You might be surprised to hear that there is – but it requires some very clever technology to make the most of 4G.
If you want something close to a business level connection you’re going to need more than one SIM. When you’ve got a number of SIMs, you’re then going to need them to all work simultaneously to create a connection that can come close to coping with business use.
The key is in the ‘bonding’ of connections. If you’ve never heard of bonding connections – you’re not alone, it’s a specialist function that’s tied into business and enterprise specification 4G routers.
4G routers come in a number of shapes and sizes – from the inexpensive and compact single SIM units that offer the equivalent of a cell phone ‘tether’ – to the enterprise level units that allow 20+ SIMs to be bonding through their onboard software.
It’s these latter units that we’re going to focus on here – they’re costly – but they’ll take many SIMs and bond them to deliver a lightning quick connection that’s capable of running even real-time business software.
This bonded connection is very similar to the kind of internet connection you’d experience with wires or fiber – in fact, it’s arguably better; since you’ve got a number of connections, should you lose one, the others will pick up the slack until you’re back up to full strength. What’s more, multi-SIM 4G routers can bond the connections from SIMs provided by different carriers – so even if you lose an entire carrier’s service, your network connection will not go down.
So, while you’re going to struggle running your business with just one SIM, many 4G SIMs might give you the speed and capacity you require.
4G vs wires
4G WAN is currently only really used in situations when getting a wired connection into your business just isn’t feasible. For now, wires are still better – but they’re not always the most practical option.
For instance, your business moves to a new location – or you’re setting up your business where there’s no hope of ever getting a high-speed business connection (for example, if you’re in the mining, exploration, conservation or development work sectors – to name just a few) – then 4G WAN will get you online.
Wires are, for now, still beating 4G in the struggle for which technology can provide the best business connection. But what happens when 5G comes along?
Wireless is about to get very fast
At 2017’s Mobile World Congress Samsung debuted their 5G home router tech – claiming an incredible 4Gbps transfer speed to the nearby devices. Are we likely to get such amazing speeds in the real world? Industry experts say it’s unlikely – but even if we were to lean toward caution and consider that 5G might offer just 25% of that speed, that would still see a 3-4 minute delivery time of a 4K standard movie.
So, is 1Gbps good enough for business? The answer is a resounding yes – in fact, many businesses simply cannot get these speeds currently, even over wire-based technology.
And what if we were to bond 5G connections? Could we soon be seeing speeds of 10-20Gbps? Or, if our wildest expectations come true and Samsung can deliver expo standard speeds in real life – could we see 40Gbps+? Many 4G routers are forward compatible with 5G SIMs – so the real test isn’t going to be far away.
Wireless tech for business
5G represents the first time we might truly become entirely wireless for business networks.
Of course, speed isn’t everything – there are security issues that are going to need addressing, but speed is the thing that traditionally costs money – so as the entry cost comes down, we can expect more and more businesses to be cutting the cord.
If wireless networking sounds like it could suit your business, this list of questions for a potential 4G WAN provider will ensure you’re getting a service that’ll suit you perfectly – oh, and don’t forget to ask about forwarding compatibility with 5G – and your business might get to be one of the first to throw away all those redundant ethernet cables…