Among the key areas where 5G might have an impact on enterprise networking are Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and distributed antenna systems (DAS). IT leaders are already showing interest in the idea that 5G-powered Wi-Fi or software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANs) could be viable replacements for MPLS and DAS.
MPLS, a component of packet-switched networking, is a routing technique that directs data from one node to another based on short path labels rather than on long network addresses. This eliminates the need for complex lookups in routing tables and speeds up network traffic. The labels identify virtual links between distant nodes rather than endpoints. MPLS is scalable and protocol-independent.
DAS is a network of spatially separated antenna nodes connected to a common source via a transport medium that provides wireless service within a geographic area. A distributed antenna system is implemented indoors or outdoors. By splitting the transmitted power among several dispersed antennas, coverage is provided over the same area as with a single antenna radiating at higher power, but with reduced total power and greater reliability.
SD-WANs simplify the management and operation of WANs by decoupling networking hardware from its control mechanism. They allow enterprises to create higher-performance WANs using lower-cost, commercially available Internet access, which lets them replace more costly private WAN technologies such as MPLS. SD-WANs are provided by either physical or virtual appliances and can be deployed in remote offices, data centers, or on cloud platforms.
While some businesses might not be keen on the idea of swapping out an existing MPLS infrastructure that serves several remote locations or even global operations, the idea of upgrading this technology with an SD-WAN powered by 5G is certainly intriguing.
The potential of low latency, higher bandwidth, cost reduction, and other benefits has many IT and networking executives excited about the potential of 5G-based technology as a true wireline replacement.
For example, one IT executive at a manufacturing company says he would consider replacing a large portion of his current network with 5G technology if there were significant cost optimization opportunities, citing the high costs associated with the MPLS circuits currently being used.
Among the advantages of 5G for organizations is enhanced connectivity. For instance, a healthcare institution could leverage 5G technologies to more efficiently interconnect devices equipped with wireless sensors. It could then reimagine aging hospitals that are still using copper wire for communications, bypassing fiber to deliver a wireless experience for staff, patients, visitors, and others.
Solutions such as telemetry and wearable devices would be much easier to manage and use because of the low latency and high reliability and availability of networks made possible by 5G.