Making wireless networks actually work

Michiel van der Maas, Global Head of Sales


Let’s face it: at some point, we’ve all tried to cut costs by cutting corners. Usually, we get what we pay for. And it’s no different when it comes to LTE/5G. Many companies have attempted to add wireless connectivity to their networks by plugging a retail SIM card dongle into their router... and found the results, well, less than optimal.


The plain fact: business-grade LTE/5G connectivity is about a lot more than a router and data plan. It’s about bandwidth availability and reliability. Access to more than one network. And most of all, it’s about the environmental context: things like landscape and signal penetration.

LTE/5G should be simple to use—but that doesn’t mean it’s simple to set up. Without professional planning, an entire SD-WAN over wireless strategy could be derailed by one metal door in the wrong place.


In today’s blog, we’ll look at the added value a professional installation brings you. And how the total cost stays competitive. Because unlike a plug-and-pray solution, it just works.


Blue Wireless engineers - always making sure your wireless works

The bright side of a homebrewed setup with SIM


First, note that the simple solution above—buying an off-the-shelf SIM-enabled router and data plan—isn’t always bad. In a place with dense 5G coverage, plenty of choice of providers, and plain-vanilla internet access is the only connectivity you need, this low-cost setup is better than nothing; even patchy coverage with the odd minute of downtime can be acceptable.


But that’s probably not the situation you have. Your goal is to bring LTE/5G to a more challenging place: a vessel offshore, a pop-up building, a busy industrial site, a remote location. And your connection needs go beyond looking at web pages: you’re probably trying to run a VPN or SD-WAN, a virtual network for your business using the public infrastructure as internet underlay. And that kind of network isn’t tolerant of constant disconnects, or even occasional go-slows.

At least going homebrew is cheap. But cheap is a problem too.


Shortcuts in connectivity might short-circuit your business


It’s cheap because it’s limited. A SIM card dongle will connect to one network only—usually the network that sold you the dongle. There’s no failover to another provider when that network is out of range. (Or just plain out.) And the router it’s connected to will usually be in your server closet—not the best environment for a clear 5G signal.


Most problematic for businesses, a DIY setup won’t have any Service Level Agreement for things like uptime and bandwidth. For many SD-WAN users, that’s a no-no, because that SD-WAN is how they get their work done: it’s mission-critical. They can’t operate without it.


All this adds up to one finding: a dongle + data plan from one carrier isn’t suitable for your primary business connectivity. Occasional and temporary emergencies? Perhaps. But why risk it?

 

Side note: the nail-biting tension of Doing It Yourself


LTE/5G isn’t just for giant industrial sites or ocean liners. Let’s say you’re a small but innovative company engaging with customers through “showcases”: pop-up buildings at a specific place for a limited time. Like a property company setting up a marketing suite next to a construction site, or a parked trailer at an exhibition.


Many companies see this as the right time to try a DIY approach—and regret it later. Because with a single point of failure—one SIM card, one data plan, one network providing best-effort coverage—any break in service means Game Over. And if the event is time-limited, like a trade show, one lost day can mean missing a year’s worth of sales.

 

Managed Fixed Wireless Access for greater business confidence


By seeking expert help, you’ll overcome the riskiest part of doing it yourself: the lack of a “Plan B”, all the backups and failovers that keep your network working even when network traffic gets bottlenecked. It’s called Managed Fixed Wireless Access for LTE/5G. And it provides reliability and SLAs for your connection—just as you probably have an MSP (Managed Service Provider) taking care of your wired network elsewhere.


With MFWA, your router won’t be buried under a server rack: it’ll be strategically placed to get the best signal, using information gathered on a face-to-face visit to your location. (See our previous blog on why a site survey matters). And critically, it’ll offer connections to more than one 5G network: two at minimum, so there’s always a failover if one network hits the skids.


The M of MFWA carries other benefits. As a managed network—watched 24/7 for problems and the unusual patterns that signal them—your provider can offer a proper Service Level Agreement, guaranteeing uptime for your SD-WAN. (Typically, that’s 99.9% availability at 50Mbps, and getting better with each release of the 5G specification.) Meaning you can use LTE/5G with confidence as your primary connectivity option at work, even if “work” for you is an ocean-going vessel calling at fifty ports this year. (Blue Wireless, for example, has roaming agreements that let your connection flit seamlessly between 80 countries.) Take a look at the chart to see all the advantages over a DIY approach.


And here’s the surprise: going MWA can be surprisingly cost-effective, too.


Managed wireless access is ideal for SD-WAN connectivity


Wrapping up: Managed Fixed Wireless Access makes LTE/5G perform


As with most business-critical services, Managed Fixed Wireless Access is most useful when you don’t realise it’s there. Offering guaranteed service levels, it lets your people use your SD-WAN as seamlessly as a hardwired network—without worries, frustrations, or hassle.


If that’s music to your ears—or if you’ve already been burned by a DIY setup—let's talk.


Talk to our experts


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