Here’s why LTE networks are about to become much more useful

There’s more to LTE than just speeding up communications between mobile devices, and its increasingly faster speeds – now at 150 Mpbs and expected to hit 600 Mpbs by 2018 – is beginning to benefit enterprise networks.

In a recent webinar, 451 Research analyst Christian Renaud noted that many conference attendees are eschewing the free WiFi offered at event facilities in favor of tethering to an LTE network because it’s faster.

“It’s getting far faster and more ubiquitous,” he said. At this rate, the speed of wireless connections will begin to exceed the speed of wired connections in the next few years.

In addition, the worldwide footprint has grown to 422 LTE networks in 143 countries, and all but 12 countries globally have committed to LTE networks, said Renaud. This footprint is now poised to become a platform for innovation and growth in applications as cloud computing, mobility in the workforce, the Internet of Things (IoT) and security have an impact on networks, he said.

LTE networks' usage grows as their reliability is proven.
LTE networks’ usage grows as their reliability is proven.

Industrial IoT is now becoming a reality, said Renaud, and it means operational technology that historically wasn’t connected to the network is going to be, and it’s going to add further complexity to enterprise networks. Data center and WAN congestion is increasing pressure to offload non-core applications to the cloud, he said, while existing MPLS and private WANs are too “brittle” and interfering with the ability to quickly respond to new applications and services.

LTE can address a lot of these problems, said Renaud, although it does introduce another variable. A next-generation WAN incorporates high-speed LTE from multiple carriers as a parallel network that can be privately managed and segmented. There are dozens of ways LTE can be incorporated into an enterprise network, he said, although most organizations have used it as bandwidth on-demand.

Parallel networks that leverage LTE, rather than MPLS or Internet, might make sense for organizations that have specific types of devices that don’t need to be on the primary network, said Renaud, such as digital signage, kiosks, point-of-sale terminals and VOIP phones. Putting them on their own parallel network protects data and corporate networks, reduces network on-ramps, reduces PCI scope and network complexity, and enhances security. “This is going to be a significantly growing use case for LTE going forward given its geographic flexibility and also from a security perspective.”

LTE has traditionally been relegated for failover and bandwidth on demand.
LTE has traditionally been relegated for failover and bandwidth on demand.

Renaud said performance, speed, and ubiquity of LTE are leading to the growth of fixed 4G networks for use cases such as hybrid WANs with MPLS and locations without Internet. Mobile 4G networks are being deployed for applications around public safety, transportation, mobile healthcare, fleet tracking and asset tracking. They also are being used for IoT networks to connect devices such as kiosks, digital signage and vending machines, which Renaud describes as “non-people” applications. “Often it’s prohibitively expensive to get a wired line to those devices. The factory floor is not always conducive to having a piece of CAT6 straggling across the floor for people to trip over.”

Renaud said because LTE can be obtained from multiple carriers, there’s inherent redundancy and flexibility in these parallel networks. “You start to get beyond a number of nines of reliability.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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