Cradlepoint brings network slicing to 5G with 5G-optimized SD-WAN

Cradlepoint sees the market for this service as expanding greatly next year, because enterprise demand for 5G network slicing is increasing as both the technology and pricing become more attractive.

Camille Campbell, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Cradlepoint

Cradlepoint has announced the availability of the first 5G-optimized SD-WAN solution, which brings network slicing to the 5G world. The solution is part of NetCloud Exchange, an extension of Cradlepoint’s NetCloud solution introduced earlier this year that integrates security, SD-WAN, and Zero Trust into a single Wireless WAN architecture.

“We have been in the SD-WAN market for many years,” said Camille Campbell, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Cradlepoint. This takes our SD-WAN capabilities a lot further – from the data centre to the edge through the NetCloud platform, and simplifies how we do it.”

The use of full 5G standalone cores with network slicing isn’t common today, but Campbell said that it will be common next year.

“5G has many exiting features,” she stated. “They are starting to build out the capacity output. However, to get to market early, a lot of carriers used a non-standard LTE core. Next year will bring a true 5G core – a standalone – It offers network slicing – different slices to support differentiated services. Network slicing has been around for years, but not for 5G. It will be a way for carriers to monetize 5G and charge enterprises for 5G with MPL-like SLAs. It will be like getting a cellular connection from a service provider and paying for different levels of service.”

Campbell said that the new Cradlepoint solution will play a key role here.

“This will all come to fruition next year, but to provide proper support at the intelligent edge, you need intelligence to steer into the right network slice,” she stated. “We expect to be seeing carrier rollouts next year, although the carriers have to build infrastructure and determine pricing.”

Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Exchange lets organizations create multiple modem WAN interfaces aligned to slice instances defined by 5G SA networks. Organizations can then apply application-based policies to steer traffic to unique network slices, including a custom slice defined by the operator. To do this, Cradlepoint made some critical adaptations to traditional SD-WAN technology so that it performs effectively across 5G WANs.

“One of the unique characteristics of cellular compared to wired is that the bandwidth fluctuates based on signal quality,” Campbell said. “Another dynamic in cellular is that a lot of links are metered, so you have to keep data usage in mind when steering traffic. Our SD-WAN now matches applications to the most appropriate WAN. Being able to consider this factor is one of the critical things we have done.”

The cellular-specific attributes NetCloud Exchange uses when steering traffic are designed to reduce customer costs.

“Traditional SD-WAN uses synthetic traffic to calculate latency, but doing this with  pings is  not deal in cellular,” Campbell noted. “We use all in-line traffic to make our traffic decisions without impacting customers’ data plans.”

Performance metrics are also better than SD-WAN has provided in the past, through the use of in-line traffic to calculate WAN performance metrics.

“Today it’s a failover and SD-WAN insights are generic,” Campbell said. “We have spent a lot of time on cellular intelligence, which lets us do things like be able to show admins the signal strength and quality on our management system.” They can also plot the location of both SD-WAN routers and the serving cell towers on a map for optimal placement of devices.

“We have created this platform to truly take advantage of SD-WAN and it will take you through the best route,” said Fadi Mansour, Channel Sales and Distribution Director, Canada.

Vehicles will be a key factor in driving adoption.

“There are lots of scenarios where you can’t run wires, particularly providing connectivity for vehicle, like with EMT and police cars,” Campbell added.

Still, the timetable by which this will roll out next year remains something of a mystery.

Fadi Mansour, Channel Sales and Distribution Director, Canada

“We don’t fully know how carriers will take the service out to market yet,” Mansour said. “They are, however motivated by this whole notion of wireless first to ensure they get their fair share of the customer’s budget. Australia is the market where it will come first to fruition. They are leading the charge. But it’s very much carrier dependent.”

Mansour indicated that Canada is not lagging in this area.

“Carrier timelines can change, but Canadian carriers have already spent about $35 billion building this infrastructure,” he said. “There is a strong customer appetite for it. Wireless first people will go wireless when they can as long as the financials and technology make sense. Our gear is technology ready, and the pricing gets better and better. We are already seeing a higher request for quotes when it comes to 5G.”

There is an indirect charge for use of this solution.

“Netcloud Exchange, which was introduced in August, encompasses a service gateway platform as part of the solution,” Campbell said. “Customers do have to deploy the gateway and there are licenses for that.”

Cradlepoint thinks the new solution will be attractive to partners who work this part of the market.

“From a partner perspective, it’s about getting what the customer needs in the most efficient way possible, Mansour said. “MSPs can start building solutions based on those specific offerings. It is also an opportunity to come into a market that is not saturated. It’s bleeding edge, which will let them take customers’ visual transformation forward. They can now meet these customer challenges in new ways.”

“They can also manage the enterprise edge and set the network up,” Campbell indicated.