SD-WAN and 5G: How they work together

With SD-WAN and 5G, businesses of all sizes could potentially see considerable changes to their connectivity strategies.

Mike Mead


The world of technology is evolving at a rapid pace – particularly in communication.

Artificial intelligence, new possibilities with IoT and enhanced mobility are all changing the way that we connect each day. This year, various companies throughout the UK even started experimenting with 5G technology – the solution that’s set to reduce the latency and lag in standard mobile conversations. 

One of the most often overlooked areas of 5G deployment comes from the retail locations and branches that need to maintain their connectivity back to their headquarters using something called a “wide area network” or WANs.

For years, WAN technology has been both complicated and costly. The command-line configurations and scripting required for these tools needed ongoing maintenance and management. However, SD-WAN, or Software-defined WAN, has the opportunity to change everything with self-configuring zero-touch systems.

Here’s how SD-WAN and 5G can benefit each other.

SD-WAN benefits: Overcoming communication issues with SD-WAN

As companies continue to adopt new technology through the cloud and as-a-service offerings, IT groups are beginning to realise that WAN networks simply aren’t ready for the new era of communications and connectivity.

SD-WANs, or software-defined wide area networks are virtual architecture solutions that allow businesses to leverage a range of services like LTE and MPLS to connect users to applications. SD-WAN reduces the reliance on physical on-premise tools and takes more of the management tasks of IT groups to the cloud.

Software-defined WAN is a solution intended to address the common challenges of the communication landscape. This new approach uses the cloud to reduce operational costs, improve resource usage, and improve network connectivity – even in multi-site deployments. With SD-WAN, it’s possible for network administrators to use bandwidth more cost-efficiently, ensuring a higher level of performance for critical applications, without having to compromise on data privacy or security. SD-WAN benefits include:

  • Reduced costs with transport independence across 4G and 5G, as well as MPLS, LTE, etc.
  • Improved business application performance and cloud-focused agility.
  • Optimised user experience and efficiency for public cloud and SaaS applications.
  • Simplified operations with cloud-based management and automation.

How are SD-WAN and 5G connected?

SD-WAN is the new approach to network connectivity in the business landscape, while 5G is a new way to maintain consistent connectivity in the workplace. When it rolls out at scale, 5G will deliver massive increases in bandwidth to the modern environment compared to 4G and 3G offerings. Many providers are even looking into things like fixed 5G – which mimics current cable modem infrastructure.

The fixed network solution will allow businesses to simplify the use of SD-WAN to modernise digital transformation. Many experts believe that 5G will accelerate our adoption of SD-WAN around the world. 5G represents a valuable alternative to current transport models used for SD-WAN – such as MPLS and DSL, or ISDN, and broadband cables. Used correctly, 5G can provide a cableless approach to network management that’s easier for businesses to purchase and manage.

One of the leading SD-WAN benefits often cited by businesses is that it provides a simple way to manage multiple links in the connectivity suite for load balancing, traffic segmentation, and redundancy. The need for secondary data routing paths, coupled with the simplicity of 5G adoption will encourage more companies to move to SD-WAN.

Additionally, the ease of 5G deployment will also make it easier for businesses to set up ad-hoc solutions for communication in remote locations while ensuring that team members always have a secure connection back to the headquarters. This is excellent for a future where remote working, pop-up offices, and shared spaces will be more common.

Combining 5G and SD-WAN

Today, most people look at 5G as a simple solution for WAN transport. However, it’s also capable of providing an out-of-band management functionality that will allow access to network resources through external paths. This means that companies will be able to create custom network connectivity strategies without having to compromise on security or performance.

With SD-WAN and 5G, businesses of all sizes could potentially see considerable changes to their connectivity strategies. These two technologies may even come together to make other disruptive tools like IoT more accessible to smaller businesses. All companies need to do is find the right strategy for combining their 5G and SD-WAN rollouts.