Ericsson has officially brought enterprise network endpoint company Cradlepoint into its fold, closing the $1.1 billion acquisition that Ericsson CEO Börje Ekholm said recently will be a “key building block” for the network equipment vendor’s strategy to capture new business and revenue from the enterprise space.
Cradlepoint recently offered a peek at what it means to enable the enterprise possibilities of 5G, highlighting a case study in Australia with construction company Taylor Construction.
Cradlepoint introduced its 5G enterprise solution line in February. Todd Krautkremer, Cradlepoint’s CMO, pointed out a number of differentiators for its 5G enterprise solutions. He said that Cradlepoint designed
the solutions to be flexible, comprehensive—so that enterprises could use it to get to 5G by a number of paths, including leveraging their own existing infrastructure and SD-WAN implementations—and to cover both sub-6 GHz and millimeter-wave frequencies.
“We really designed it to be a hallmark for what a 5G-for-business solution needs to be,” said Krautkremer. “It needs to really support all the different bands of 5G, not just the easy ones. … It needs to have indoor and outdoor units for optimal reception, which we provide. … [And] it needs to have tools that allow you to successfully deploy the solutions and have a good installation, a known good installation, even if it’s done by a third party.”
Finally, he said, Cradlepoint is “working hand in hand with major carriers around the world because they’re all developing their 5G certification process, they all have a little bit of different flavors of 5G, they all have different strategies on sub-6 and wideband mmWave. We’re really curating our solution to work with all the different vendors around the world.”
In June, Cradlepoint’s routers went into their first carrier production network: Telstra’s network in Australia, where the carrier has put together a specific 4G/5G service called Enterprise Wireless that Krautkremer says is built on Cradlepoint’s 5G solution. One of the company’s first product customers is Taylor Construction.
“They’re doing some amazing things that really highlight the capabilities of 5G to transform businesses,” said James Weaver, senior product marketing manager with Cradlepoint. In his initial conversation with Taylor, he said, what surprised him was the extent to which the company was completely ready to start leveraging 5G as soon as it could get access. They were already using a Microsoft HoloLens-based application for augmented/virtual reality construction visualization, but 4G wasn’t sufficient enough to support the app at the construction site.
“They’d run it in their office, off a fiber connection and it worked perfectly. But when they took it out to the site, into a 4G instance, it didn’t give the kind of performance that you would want to wow a client,” said Weaver. “That’s one of the things they really wanted to do, and it just didn’t work that way. They had developed this already, so that was very interesting for us: these folks are ready,” he said. In addition to the 5G AR visualization app, Taylor is also exploring 360-degree scanning with wirelessly connected video cameras, to ensure that everyone on-site has conducted safety training; IoT-based structural sensing using sensors attached to rebar and embedded in concrete; making real-time changes to digital blueprints from an on-site trailer; and using 4G/5G connected routers as a network failover for their headquarters.
Some of those have yet to be tested, Weaver said, but the company “has been very active in exploring technologies that not only will help with the revenue, like HoloLens, but save costs and mitigate risks.”
In a video describing Taylor’s use of Cradlepoint’s 5G products, the company’s director of IT describes the ability to stand on the corner of a site wearing the HoloLens, hit “play” and watch the building be virtually “built” in stages—a way to bring the project to life for clients that wasn’t possible to do in a 4G environment.
“We’ve been thinking that this chicken-and-egg problem is a real problem. The chicken-and-egg problem is, Are there applications that drive 5G, or does deploying 5G drive the applications?” said Krautkremer. “And what we found is that the chicken-and-egg problem is solved. There are ready applications today, just waiting to have faster, more agile, more portable connectivity, such as a construction site served by 5G.”
“If there’s one construction company in Australia that’s that ready, there’s go to be a lot of others,” Weaver said. “Not everyone will be doing that, but I think there’s a lot more than maybe what we think, that are just ready to go.
“It’s funny, We didn’t talk about cost, we didn’t talk about any other barriers,” he reflected. “It was just, ‘When that thing is ready, I’m ready.’”
A Cradlepoint outdoor unit was mounted on a trailer at a site that was an expansion of a school, for a four-week proof-of-concept. According to Cradlepoint, the speeds being achieved are around 400 Mbps, or 20x the performance that the company was typically seeing with 4G; the equipment relies on Telstra’s 3.5 GHz spectrum. Taylor is in production with the equipment now. Weaver said that the only hiccup occurred as the company realized just how fast its 5G connection was and began to leverage it more heavily, eating into its data plan. “They figured that out and learned that one, yes it’s fast, and two, you need to be sharp about some of these trials,” he added with a chuckle.
While OpenSignal pegs Telstra’s average 5G speeds at closer to the 230 Mbps mark, Krautkremer said that
“When you have a purpose-built, outdoor, 5G wideband adapter that has optimized signals, you’re going to get the maximum amount of throughput that the network can provide, and that’s what we’re seeing in this example.”
While Cradlepoint has its own channel network, both globally and specific to Australia, this customer came to them via Telstra. As far as bringing 5G to enterprises, “I think you’re going to see what telstra is doing is going to be replicated throughout the world,” said Krautkremer. “It isn’t just, they’re selling a 5G connection and the customer needs to figure out their own way to terminate it. They’ve got a solution called Enterprise Wireless, which is an over the top enterprise network solution that leverages all of their intelligent backbone, and the deliver to customers that buy that OTT service, the Cradlepoint edge devices, the wideband adaptors and Cradlepoint routers. … So they basically deliver that to the customer as an end-to-end offering.
“I think you’re going to find that a lot of carriers see 5G as an opportunity to leverage all the investment they’ve made in their infrastructure, their software-defined backbone shifts that have bene underway, and look at this as an opportunity to deliver over-the-top services,” he continued. “At the same time, the resellers out there, and the integrators, and even the MSPs are going to see it as an opportunity to build services around a 5G deployment.” In particular, he noted that carriers are unlikely to be in a good position to install the enterprise devices and that opens a place for a third party to do so—perhaps with an app like Cradlepoint’s Verify, which is an app that third-party installer can use to make sure that they’ve achieved a good 5G installation. “Because RF physics are for everyone, and really have some limitations,” he added.
He also pointed out that while Cradlepoint typically relies on modules from other vendors in its devices, when it came to 5G, the company put millions of dollars into working with Qualcomm to build its own module around an X55 chipset, which he says put the company six months ahead of competitors and allowed it to gain new expertise as well as ensure that its indoor and outdoor devices could support the wide range of 5G bands from 600 MHz to mmWave.
Cradlepoint isn’t getting into the module business, Krautkremer was quick to note, and plans to utilize other company’s 5G modules as they become available. “We did it because we felt being first to market, and the experience gained from working directly with Qualcomm and building an X55 device, would serve us well to really develop a 5G-for-business solution,” Krautkremer said. “And it has.”
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