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Businesses go all in on wireless WAN for post-pandemic recovery

Report reveals extent of wireless WAN use, demand for 5G and how wireless connectivity will play a big part in businesses’ efforts to recover from the economic damage of Covid-19

The era of wireless wide area networks (WANs) has firmly arrived and is the critical infrastructure in driving innovation, according to the 2020 Cradlepoint State of wireless WAN report. It adds that such networks will play a key role in the way businesses recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cradlepoint, a global provider of cloud-delivered LTE and 5G wireless network edge solutions, conducted an online survey of 499 IT decision-makers – vice-presidents, directors and managers – in the US, Canada, and the UK. It was compiled by research firm IDG.

As well as attempting to provide insight into the growth of wireless WAN in the enterprise, the survey looked at how businesses are using wireless WAN and how they plan to use 5G and other cellular advancements as the speed and capabilities of wireless connections continue to evolve. 

Cradlepoint said the report fundamentally demonstrated confidence and excitement for WAN and 5G, pointing to increasing adoption in the coming year.

It argued that traditional wired WANs were complex, slow to adapt, and were applicable to only fixed locations. As businesses reinvent the way they serve their customers, they are increasingly turning to wireless WAN technology to connect people, places and things anywhere, it said.

“Having a secure, flexible and reliable WAN edge is more critical to business success than ever,” said Donna Johnson, vice-president of product and solution marketing at Cradlepoint. “As organisations look to adapt to a new normal and get back to business, wireless WAN solutions uniquely enable network agility while enhancing security and scale.”

The agility required by the rapid business transformation driven by the pandemic and the growing number of connected devices were the top reasons cited in the Cradlepoint report as to why businesses were turning to wireless WAN technology.

Bandwidth was found to be a significant factor in the increased use of wireless WAN links. Almost three-fifths (57%) of respondents said bandwidth was a reason for adopting broadband, and 49% said it was a reason for choosing LTE networks.

The survey observed that as businesses scramble to create new services and find new ways to engage and serve their customers, WAN flexibility was essential. In that regard, 51% cited the flexibility of LTE to enable new services as a top reason for turning to wireless WAN.

With current cellular networks approaching fibre-fast speeds and providing what Cradlepoint said were unparalleled rapid deployment capabilities, just over three-quarters of the companies surveyed said they would use, or plan to use, LTE networks to provide WAN or internet connectivity, and 82% thought 5G would deliver increased WAN speeds within the next year.

The use of LTE was found to be expanding beyond just the branch. More than three-quarters (78%) of the companies surveyed either use or plan to use LTE to provide WAN or internet connectivity to at least some locations. A small majority (53%) were using it to connect in-vehicle networks, and 77% for connecting IoT (internet of things) devices.

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Also, two-fifths of respondents were using LTE to connect fixed locations, vehicles and IoT, making LTE the top choice for connecting people, places and things across the rapidly expanding WAN edge. Cradlepoint said this metric helped to explain why 62% of enterprises planned to increase their use of LTE in the next three years. 

IT decision-makers also believed in the promise of 5G. Two-thirds (67%) were either “confident” or “very confident” that 5G would deliver business benefits within the next year. Some 82% thought 5G would deliver increased WAN speeds within the next year, and 66% thought it would provide improved reliability.

“It’s no secret that the ongoing pandemic has forced businesses to be more innovative and creative than ever, and wireless WAN has proved to be a critical enabler,” said Johnson. “With the emergence of 5G bringing faster speeds and smarter cellular networks, the ascension of wireless WAN as critical infrastructure is inevitable.”

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