Revolutionising borderless productivity in the 5G age

This article is sponsored by Starhub and Cisco Meraki.

Among the various after-effects of the pandemic on the enterprise world, the sudden shift to remote/hybrid work seems to be the most unshakable. Even after most countries have already eased restrictions two years in, the remote working mindset has remained in place.

Since then, companies learned that they can save more without sacrificing productivity, while many employees enjoyed the work-life balance afforded by the paradigm shift. 

Moreover, recent advancements in technologies like 5G enabled people to work anytime, anywhere. Therefore, reverting to the old ways of people huddled next to each other in cubicles seems unlikely, at least in the immediate future.

But 5G isn’t just about faster internet speeds. It promises other developments that are predicted to further boost remote working. These new tech updates were presented during the recent webinar “Anytime, Anywhere Work in the Age of 5G,” organised by Jicara Media and sponsored by StarHub and Cisco Meraki.

5G on the rise 

According to Mark Frederick Amberg, AVP 5G Products & Services, Enterprise Business Group, StarHub, there are three pillars supporting the vision of 5G as a driver of technology for increased data throughput and low latency:

  • “First is a better mobile broadband. Mobile broadband is faster with 5G, allows higher download and upload speeds, and (a) higher density of users— to address the rapidly growing utilisation of data over Wi-Fi. People are doing more video (with 5G). When we were in (the) 3G timeframe, we were just barely doing text. (Then) we got 4G, (where) picture sharing and video sharing has blown up. Now as we’re getting to 5G, it’s allowing for virtual reality and immersive experiences to come to play, and to bring that across to the user wherever they are.”
  • Next are the new mission critical services: “COVID-19 forced people to have to communicate with their doctors remotely. So a lot of telemedicine started building out, and that’s been done in Singapore, at least with the very fast broadband networks we have, and then generally over Wi-Fi at home, but also for Wi-Fi or with 5G at wherever the doctor is. That is extending out to whole hospital environments, so that in the entire campus, the doctor can always be in touch, reach out to their patients, and be reachable.”
  • Lastly, is massive IoT: “It’s to allow many, many more devices to be connected at the same time. So what we have today, just because of the nature of how 5G is built, we can already support more devices in a certain square foot area versus a 4G network, and that will be improved with additional versions of 5G.”

With 5G, Amberg added that connectivity speeds will significantly go up, allowing for more functionalities for remote/hybrid work.

“With 4G in Singapore, we’re getting peak speeds of about 780 megabits per second, which is very, very fast. Singapore has the second fastest 4G network in the world. Most parts of the world are seeing with 4G, about 120 megabits per second. At a peak speed but with 5G, we can get up to about two gigabits per second on a wide area network, which is our mid-band that was released by the IMDA (Infocomm Media Development Authority) last year. But then with the millimetre wave band, you can get to 10 times the performance of 4G, to 10 gigabits per second,” he said.

In terms of latency, whereas 4G registers about 30 to 50 milliseconds of delay inside the mobile network, 5G promises reduction by more than half.

“With 5G, we can get down to 20 milliseconds, which puts it in the space where it’s very, very good for an augmented reality or virtual reality type of use case. It’s theoretically possible to bring it down below five milliseconds, even theoretically down to below one millisecond in latency for very fast operational use cases, say in a factory,” Amberg explained.

However, the real game-changer with 5G, Amberg noted, centres on network slicing.

“With 4G, everyone pretty much had the same network, whether you’re a business or a consumer— everyone got the same thing. You basically just have different price plans based on how much data you have. With 5G, we can take the cellular network – the mobile network that we have – and provide virtual private network slices for customers so they can have a slice that provides higher security for where their data goes. They can have a slice that provides a minimum guaranteed bandwidth, assuming that the signal strength is strong enough for those devices that they can always meet their needs,” he said.

“That’s pretty important for operational use cases like connected cars, if they’re going to be relying on the communication with the orchestration platform, to know when there’s an accident, when to change lanes or when to put on the brakes. You need to have that always-on guaranteed bandwidth, so they never get crowded out,” Amberg added.

Better security for hybrid work

Since people can now work from anywhere at any given time, questions about security are inevitable. With 5G, enterprises can have more confidence that they are operating with heightened security, on top of faster connectivity, Amberg pointed out.

“5G is more secure. By default, everything is encrypted end to end, and it’s a higher encryption than 4G has. So it’s a really a very secure network. Then we can build into a slice additional security, so full isolation of the data, (since it) doesn’t cross with anyone else. We can even put in the capability for the equipment to do an end-to-end VPN tunnel within that slice, if a company or a corporation wanted to,” he said.

Meanwhile, the next generation Wi-Fi 6 is touted as a complementary technology to 5G, explained Jacob Liaw, Cisco Meraki SMB and Commercial Sales Leader for ASEAN and Korea.

“Wi-Fi 6 is expected to play a key role in (the) emergence and adoption (of) the new cellular wireless technology 5G. 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will play a complementary role for enterprises, service providers like StarHub, and consumers, and the interoperability and ease of hopping between wireless technologies will be the focal point for Cisco’s wireless vision. The ideal situation is a user will be able to seamlessly jump from different wireless technologies without stopping to onboard,” Liaw said.

In anticipation of the boom of both 5G and Wi-Fi 6, Cisco Meraki has already developed enterprise solutions in support of hybrid work.

“We provide a whole suite of networking devices such as wireless, switching, security and SD-WAN, cellular gateway, as well as having the smart spaces equipment such as smart cameras, CCTV, IoT sensors, and mobile device management— all managed by a single pane of glass called the Meraki dashboard. Meraki is not just a networking organisation; it’s a platform that allows you to have built-in solutions that have inbuilt analytics, and inbuilt data for you to make smarter decisions. On top of that, we have (an) open API platform for you to build your technology on top of our platform,” Liaw said.

With technology keeping pace with today’s digitally transformed workplace, data is moving further away from the data centre. Therefore, businesses have to reassess their IT strategy to ensure consistency in office user experience, as well as security across the whole network, observed Clarissa Fong, Strategic Sales Manager, Service Providers (ASEAN, Hong Kong & Taiwan) at Cisco Meraki.

“Our solution is built (around) three key principles— simplicity, security, and intelligence. And (it) is not only easy to deploy and manage, but also gives businesses the visibility of (the) entire network in a single pane of glass, through our cloud dashboard. This means that you can access the Meraki dashboard from anywhere, as long as there is internet connectivity. Therefore, our solution also comes with security and smart analytics, providing consistent protection across the network, and better management of the company’s network, (thereby) improving the user experience overall,” she said.

Integrated solutions

To illustrate how the Meraki cloud-managed IT solution works, Agus Lukito, Presales Solution Architect, Enterprise Business Group at StarHub, conducted a demo of the Meraki dashboard, which featured the following components:

  • Client dashboard
  • Network inventory and provisioning
  • Security and content filtering
  • Application bandwidth shaping
  • Reports and insight

“Meraki offers complete, integrated solutions to tackle all the new IP challenges, by simplifying how we do network management. It gives us the capability to control mobile devices, and how they interact with your network using the application shaping, and also controls how the user utilises the network with QoS (quality of service) provisions. So by simplifying how you do network management, it (saves you) time so you can try to explore other opportunities,” Lukito explained.

“By shifting to 5G and Wi-Fi 6, which are advanced wireless technologies, businesses can enjoy enhanced efficiency and improved security, and unleash the potential of other emerging technologies, such as IoT, cloud computing, augmented reality, virtual reality, and so on. And this has great applications for industries, like retail, manufacturing, and healthcare,” Fong added.

As with any other enterprise technology, security must always be a paramount concern, Amberg emphasised.

“The bad actors aren’t slowing down— they’re always reinventing, so we need to reinvent (as well). So definitely (you) need to stay up to date with your wireless technology,” he concluded.

To watch the webinar, visit this page: