5G: A Step Beyond the Last Mile?

Dave Greenfield
June 16, 2021

During the third and fourth quarters of 2019, Amazon spent a total of $3B on its one-day delivery program. At issue for the retail giant was solving the last mile, a challenge that has vexed organizations for decades. The telecom industry, which coined the last mile phrase decades ago, claims to be on the verge of solving the last mile for its customers, with the promise of 5G.

Having spent years waiting for fiber rollouts to make it to their office building, news of multigigabit connectivity without wiring is welcome indeed. As exciting as this news is for CIOs, though, the question they should be asking is whether their legacy enterprise networks can take advantage of 5G’s goodness. And the answer to that question is far from certain.

Powerful Benefits for Enterprises 

A fully operational 5G is a gamechanger for enterprises. The delays and limited data transfer capacity that plague today’s connectivity will quickly become a thing of the past. Businesses will be inoculated against outages, and experience full, continuous high-speed availability.

If promises can be believed, enterprises will no longer have to wait months for fiber installations or be limited due to line availability. Rural offices, construction sites, and even offshore oil rigs won’t be limited by a carrier’s unwillingness to invest in high-cost infrastructure expenses that only serve a small number of businesses and fails to deliver a high ROI.

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In addition to easier provisioning, data rates on 5G are lightning-fast. Designed to deliver peak data rates of up to 20Gbps, it is 20 times faster than 4G. For enterprises involved with the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G will be able to provide more than 100Mbps average data transmission to over a million IoT devices within a square kilometer radius.

Behaving like the Infinite Middle 

The high speeds and elimination of last-mile slowdowns are what enterprises need today. 5G will address surges in capacity driven by the growing demand for video conferencing, increased data storage, and businesses operating from multiple locations. Removing last-mile bottlenecks means there is no need to step down capacity as data approaches the end user.

Multi-gig connections can carry high-speed data across the globe and down to the end-user at great speed and lower latency than current solutions. This combination opens the door to greater innovation in many areas. Automation will grow in manufacturing plants through the use of IoT-enabled connected devices. Supply chains will able to share data more efficiently, enabling smoother operation. And expect to see improvements in logistics and deliveries as commercial vehicles take advantage of smart traffic efficiencies created by 5G. Improved traffic flow, decreased journey times, and car-to-car communication will improve the business’s bottom line.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) become possible, opening new opportunities, particularly for retailers. Personalized digital signage, real-time messaging, and promotions based on real-time consumer behavior become possible with 5G. Innovative tools like smart mirrors could advise consumers on fashion choices or recommend cuts of clothes based on their unique body size and shape.

AI systems will also use the increased real-time data to get even better at analyzing situations and making recommendations. They’ll be more effective, leading to increased adoption of AI technology.

5G and the elimination of last-mile slowdowns are expected to open the door to anything enterprise IT can imagine. It sounds all too perfect — and it is.

The Challenge of Eliminating Last-Mile Slowdowns

There’s no doubt that 5G has the potential to transform business. However, transformation comes with security risks that enterprises can’t afford to ignore. A growing number of entry points, a greater reliance on online data streams, and visibility issues increase an enterprises’ exposure to cyberattacks.

Early 5G adopters will also be exposed to security risks stemming from misconfigurations and security integrations between 5G and 4G networks. Deploying patchwork security solutions that weren’t designed for 5G networks will not only be ineffective as a security tool, but they may create more problems for IT teams by creating more exploitable network entry points.

And enterprises that don’t update their network architectures may find they’re unable to fully benefit from 5G’s performance. That’s because legacy networks backhaul traffic to a central security gateway for inspection and policy enforcement. The latency of that connection, not the last-mile performance, has always been the determinant factor in long-distance connections.

Defending Networks with SASE 

A secure access service edge (SASE) addresses enterprise needs for a more secure, better performing 5G network. SASE distribution security inspection and policy enforcement out to points of presence (PoPs) across the globe.

By connecting to the local PoP, all users — whether in the office, on the road, or at home — are protected against network-based threats. And by avoiding traffic backhaul, SASE allows enterprises to take full advantage of 5G’s faster connections without compromising security. Partners can also easily be connected to a company’s SASE network, allowing for secure, high-performance supply chains.

5G is a transformative access technology. SASE is a transformative architectural approach. Together they allow IT to transform the way enterprises operate. To learn more about 5G and how the Cato SASE platform can help your enterprise, contact us here.

 

 

Dave Greenfield

Dave Greenfield is a veteran of IT industry. He’s spent more than 20 years as an award-winning journalist and independent technology consultant. Today, he serves as a secure networking evangelist for Cato Networks.