Article | 28 March 2022

Wired vs. Wireless: Who is winning the WAN battle?

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Written by
Elvin Lim, Global Head of Product and Applications Singapore

While it is true that wired broadband is the go-to connectivity option for enterprise networks, with wireless set aside for failover, the evolution and widespread proliferation of LTE/5G has seen wireless start to play a bigger role in enterprise environments, with many business leaders reconsidering their options.

But is one better than the other? Why not explore both options?

Mythbusting: what’s so good about wired networks?

It is not unusual for network managers to dismiss the idea of wireless-only connectivity. After all, wired internet solutions have for a long time provided enterprises with a reliable service and enabled them to benefit from:

"Faster speeds and better connectivity"

Wired services can deliver consistent, ultra-fast speeds, which have improved since the use of high-speed routers became common practice. And with the roll-out of fibre directly to the premise, wired connectivity has become affordable for those locations where it’s available.

However, the new generation of wireless connectivity services, such as those offered by Blue Wireless based on LTE/5G, are able to deliver speeds that are significantly faster than DSL or Cable based broadband and often even outpaces fibre connections when set up correctly. Statistics show that 5G has actual deployment speeds of between 200-700Mbps – that’s way more than what you need for a day in the office.

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"Higher levels of security"

The perception is that wired networks’ are intrinsically superior when it comes to security as one needs a physical cable connection to access them. But those wired networks are still connected to the internet and often local WIFI, defeating the argument. And even wired devices from within the LAN can be infected and used for hacking.

Therefore, most enterprises are moving to a ‘zero-trust’ environment, whereby any connection (whether wired or wireless) is untrusted, and VPNs and application security are deployed on top of those connections to provide security for business use.

That said, LTE/5G implements ‘Secure by Design’ principles, which affords comparable protection to wired solutions (which wasn’t the case with previous generations such as 3G).

"Delivery up to the last mile"

Wired internet has been an excellent candidate for delivering high capacity bandwidth across densely populated. However, when looking at branches or extended business areas, from ports to construction environments, wired connectivity is rare, and in some cases, even physically impossible to deploy.

On the other hand, with the widespread rollout of LTE/5G and new antenna technologies, wireless networks can provide coverage almost anywhere, connecting fixed and mobile sites up to 50 kilometers away from the nearest cell tower. For branch locations where wires are not available or cost-prohibitive, last-mile LTE/5G is by far the most reliable and cost-effective option.

Plus, wires have their limitations

While wired connections have many positives, they also have key limitations that are not experienced with LTE/5G. These include:

Lack of mobility

It goes without saying that wired networks are inherently inflexible and immobile. They are fixed at specific locations and cannot easily be moved, which may or may not be inconvenient depending on the mobility needs of your business or staff.

Wireless networks, on the other hand, are highly mobile. Routers can easily be moved around and deployed anywhere. All you need is electricity, and even that can be provided using batteries and solar.

Exposed to physical failures

While both wired and wireless networks have their own complexities and require dedicated teams to maintain them, the absence of cables in a wireless system eliminates the possibility of physical damage – whether accidental or intentional – and degradation over time. This is particularly important in locations such as mining, engineering, or construction sites, but line cuts are a regular occurrence even for regular metro locations.

Wireless networks also have the additional benefit of being served by multiple cell towers, which means no single point of failure. So, if a cell tower goes down, networks will remain up and running. Therefore the uptime for wireless services is generally higher than for wired connections. Think about it – when was the last time your phone was ‘down’?

Where wireless shines

Although wired connections will continue to be the solution of choice for enterprise users in cities and other urban environments for quite some time, wireless LTE/5G options are already paying dividends to businesses operating in edge case environments.

Maritime and nearshore connectivity are great examples of this. It’s physically impossible to set up a wired connection to ships sailing at sea, yet they still require Internet connectivity for their operations. Satellite has historically been the only way to deliver this which, while workable, it’s becoming costly with new data requirements caused by new applications. In contrast, a cloud-controlled LTE/5G connection solves this problem by enabling flexible, ultra-fast, and reliable connectivity in nearshore environments.

It’s a similar story in the construction field, where connectivity barriers, including no wired access and the risk of drilling through LAN cabling, prevent high-speed and reliable connectivity. Again, because LTE/5G utilises a cellular network, it’s possible to connect construction sites to the internet without the need for cabling or the risk of mishaps cutting the cord.

Connecting remote enterprise operations such as ships and construction sites are not the only use cases for LTE/5G connectivity, though. In-vehicle connectivity, the implementation of flexible IoT, store-in-stores, or temporary sites are all use cases where wireless (and businesses taking advantage of it) thrives as the faster, better, cheaper, and all-around more practical alternative to wired connections.

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The future is wireless

Just like WiFi allowed us to do away with being tethered to access points, LTE/5G and other advances in wireless networking are powering enterprises without the need for wired broadband.

And with over 300 customers and counting, at Blue Wireless, we are enabling the transformation of enterprise networks, as well as unlocking opportunities for further innovation.

Think outside
the box wires

Our global team of experts is looking forward to helping your enterprise gain all the benefits of LTE/5G connectivity.