5G: Ensuring Business Continuity in a Future COVID (Pandemic) Situation

M. Rogers

Summary Bullets:

  • 5G network slicing can be used to readily deliver an enterprise-grade broadband experience directly to employees working from home.
  • By moving enterprise data and applications to the 5G edge, enterprises can ensure performance and security for employees accessing remotely.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, millions of workers globally have been driven from their offices and into their homes as we all collectively make an effort to stop the spread of the virus. While these efforts are noble and necessary, they have had a profound impact on the ability of enterprises to continue operations as normal. Companies around the world were by and large unprepared for this scenario. Going forward, enterprise will look to build in resiliency to these types of crises, with some experts warning COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic we experience. In the near future, 5G can be an important technology to help build in resiliency and ensure acceptable levels of business continuity during future societal disruptions.

Enterprise broadband and data networks operate with SLAs that ensure certain metrics like uptime, bandwidth, and latency are kept within acceptable limits. Meanwhile, consumer home broadband is delivered on a best-effort basis, with many providers offering a 50:1 contention ratio. With employees working from home and students off from school, consumer broadband networks are more congested than ever, which severely impacts the ability of a work-from-home employee to carry out necessary business tasks like video conferencing or accessing applications over a VPN. In the future, 5G network slicing can tackle this challenge. 5G network slicing will allow mobile carriers to virtually divide the mobile network to deliver a mobile broadband connection that meets enterprise-grade SLAs. As most people live within a cellular network’s coverage area, they could easily access that enterprise 5G network slice from home, alleviating the pains of consumer home broadband.

Data and applications are critical for business operations; however, where those applications run and how they are accessed heavily impact performance. With employees now widely dispersed to their homes, application performance is suffering. Accessing on-premises applications requires a VPN, and not every employee will live close to hyperscale data centers where public cloud applications are run. Going forward 5G mobile edge computing (MEC) can help address this issue. 5G MEC moves compute resources towards the edge of the network, in some cases to the base station and in some cases to a telco’s local office. This allows applications to be moved to where employees live, driving lower latency and better performance. Furthermore, when combined with a secure 5G network slice, enterprises can be more comfortable moving sensitive data and applications from the headquarters to network edges near their employees’ homes. Globally, operators are beginning to partner with hyperscale providers to bring the hyperscale environment to the telco edge. These partnerships will make it even easier for enterprise to move workloads to the edge in times of future crises. For example, Google Cloud offers its Anthos development platform that allows applications built in Anthos to run in any environment, while AWS offers Wavelength, an AWS compute environment for the telco edge. In the case of other crises, applications can move from on premises to a telco edge for homeworkers.

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