Johannesburg, 27 Nov 2023
In the fast-paced world of business, staying "on-trend" is more critical than ever – and no, we're not talking about the latest fashionable accessories for your office attire (although a stylish scarf can't hurt). Instead, we’re talking about the latest in cellular routers, where the real trendsetters aren’t strutting down runways, but instead are optimising data, increasing security and streamlining operations.
Cellular WAN technology is constantly evolving to keep up with the demand for faster, more reliable and secure connectivity. With 5G stepping into the spotlight and remote work, IOT and data-driven decision-making now becoming the norm, cellular routers must adapt to align with the latest security and performance trends, such as zero trust security and 5G optimised SD-WAN.
Let’s explore some of the top trends in cellular routers for business and how innovation is helping redefine the way enterprises connect.
A brief history of cellular routers
Being trendy in business isn't about fashion – it's about staying ahead of the curve, one data packet at a time. But before we can talk about cellular routers and the features that make them an attractive wireless connectivity solution for enterprises, let’s first dive into their origin story.
How have cellular routers evolved?
The advent of cellular routers was a response to the limitations of hotspots and a broader need for reliable, high-speed internet access in various environments. Hotspots were an early solution to provide internet connectivity in areas where traditional wired infrastructure was limited or unavailable. But they had several limitations, including restricted coverage areas, slower speeds and potential security concerns, as open WiFi networks are often vulnerable to security threats.
In response to these challenges, the cellular router industry was born, providing much more flexible, reliable and secure connectivity than hotspots. While they primarily catered to enterprises in need of a network failover solution, these LTE routers quickly found applications in diverse environments beyond just fixed sites, including vehicles, temporary sites and IOT.
But a growing need for faster, more robust wireless connectivity spurred the evolution of cellular WAN technology. The latest advancement? 5G, which is already delivering on its promise of greater performance and lower latency compared to its predecessors.
How does 5G play a role in cellular router trends?
5G is more than a trendy buzzword – it’s a technology that’s changing the way organisations do business by giving them access to high-speed, low-latency and reliable connectivity for a wide range of applications. Here’s how it’s played a role in enhancing the capabilities of cellular routers.
New form factors
5G technology sparked changes in router design to ensure optimal performance in any environment. Different types of 5G – particularly high-band spectrum – have a shorter signal reach and need a clear line of sight. To fully realise the ultra-low latency and capacity of high-band 5G, enterprises need more than just LTE routers.
The solution? Outdoor 5G adapters, which are often placed on rooftops and buildings for better signal acquisition – a trend that will continue to grow and evolve as 5G standalone networks become more widely accessible.
As 5G extends its reach across a broad spectrum of use cases and applications, there's a pressing need for enhanced security and improved performance. Some trending features include:
Zero trust security and SASE
One of the biggest security trends is zero trust implementation, which fosters an environment where trust is earned, not assumed. With zero trust policies in place, every user, device or application must continually verify their identity before accessing the network. This approach reduces lateral movement by connecting users to specific resources instead of broad network segments.
Secure access service edge (SASE), on the other hand, combines network security technologies based on zero trust principles and wide-area networking to provide secure access to resources no matter where they reside.
The complementary SASE security and zero trust duo ensures that cellular routers establish an impenetrable digital fortress, guarding data and communication channels against potential threats.
5G SD-WAN and network slicing
SD-WAN and network slicing introduce a new dimension to cellular router capabilities. SD-WAN enables flexible network management, allowing routers to adapt in real-time to changing demands. With the rise of cloud-based services and increasingly complex networks, SD-WAN offers enterprises a solution that can not only save money by reducing costs at fixed sites, but also increase agility, improve quality of experience (QOE) and optimise network traffic through WAN optimisation, intelligent traffic handling and link bonding.
5G network slicing takes customisation to another level, enabling cellular routers to create virtualised, isolated network segments tailored to specific applications, ensuring each gets the dedicated resources it needs. Although network slicing only works on a 5G standalone network, which isn’t readily available in the US, companies are preparing for it now to give enterprises the best shot at leveraging these capabilities.
With the integration of SD-WAN and network slicing, cellular routers are not only gateways to connectivity but agile, adaptable tools that can optimise performance according to the unique requirements of various applications.
The emergence of low-orbit satellite internet systems, such as Starlink 5G, has introduced a new way of connecting devices to a network. While it may not yet match the performance and cost-efficiency of traditional wired and cellular networks, it fills a crucial niche in regions where acquiring wired or wireless connectivity is challenging. Starlink can become a failover link by enabling IP passthrough mode and attaching it to a 5G router downstream.
Satellite can also act as a complementary technology, meaning if a business is in an area with less than ideal cellular and satellite connectivity, it can use SD-WAN capabilities to direct traffic to the best connection. In situations where one network outperforms another completely, having the flexibility to switch between network links is essential for cost management and improved QOE.