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One of the minor surprises for me at last month’s Enterprise Connect Orlando 2019 was the popularity of our session on 5G, led by our go-to mobility expert Michael Finneran, of dBrn Associates. We put the session on the program thinking it would probably be more of a niche topic, but it wound up being one of our better-attended breakout sessions.

Maybe I’ve just been hearing the hype for so long that I had just started dismissing 5G out of habit. But our enterprise audience clearly seems to believe it’s a topic they need to engage with now, whatever the realities of actual service rollouts or device availability.

Michael’s presentation laid out the key issues and had a provocative title: “What You’ll Wish You Knew About 5G.” Now our resident networking guru, Terry Slattery of NetCraftsmen, has followed up with a terrific No Jitter post elaborating on the technical issues that enterprises will have to start considering as 5G starts to become a reality in more places.

You should definitely check out the post. As is always the case with Terry’s articles, it’s full of great technical insights and criteria for evaluating the decisions you’ll have to make as 5G becomes more of a factor in enterprise communications and as 5G devices and networks start to roll out. Terry bases his post around a list of key issues for enterprise decision-makers to keep in mind:

1. Security
2. Quality of Service
3. Control
4. Monitoring and Management
5. Deployment
6. Coverage
7. Cost

If you look at that list, it’s really the basic to-do list of any enterprise network manager. But it’s your to-do list for your own network. 5G is definitely not your own network, and that’s potentially a problem.

The overarching reality that Terry’s post addresses is the fact that if 5G delivers on the hype, you could be facing a situation where your end users are connected directly to the Internet, with no intervening enterprise network. That would mean a major loss of control over much of the enterprise’s most critical traffic, the data that traffic represents, and its behavior on the network.

On one level, it’s not a new challenge for network managers. Your remote workers have this unmitigated access to the Internet now—unless you’ve tried to mitigate it with something like a VPN, in which case you’ve learned how much people dislike having their direct Internet access mitigated, and how they’ll try to get around it.

So if a bunch of people start using their mobiles as their primary work devices, and they think it’d be cool to just have everything work seamlessly over the great, high-bandwidth 5G network, what you’ve got from a networking perspective is a bunch of people walking around your office who are, functionally, remote workers.

Of course, it’s still very early days in the 5G story, and much remains up in the air, so to speak. It’s far from certain that 5G will ever become a service that users want to have as their sole connection to the Internet. But as Terry suggests in his No Jitter post, the time for thinking through the implications of 5G for enterprise networking is now.

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair Enterprise Connect & WorkSpace Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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