Control and Visibility Critical to Delivering on the Promised Value of the Wireless Wide Area Network

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By Reece Hayden | 1Q 2022 | IN-6463

Introducing 5G into the Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN) will deliver huge performance benefits for remote workers, but without visibility and control, operational optimization will be undermined. Cradlepoint’s new ‘Cellular Intelligence’ with SIM Management seeks to enhance transparency/control and deliver the promised value of enterprise-grade 5G, but how will it fare against SD-WAN incumbents, with their mature single pane of glass visibility?

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Cradlepoint's Enhanced Cellular Intelligence Service Enters the Market


The pandemic has created a seismic shift in the way people work and has meant that organizations must move beyond wired connections to adequately connect employees regardless of location. To remedy this, enterprises have turned to the Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN). This architecture connects fixed and temporary end-user locations, vehicles, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices across the enterprise WAN through a cellular connection (including 4G, Gigabit-Class LTE, and enterprise-grade 5G technology). It enables next-gen use cases and digital transformation across verticals, including driverless vehicles, connected mobile branches, and redundancy connections. 

The WWAN offers significant benefits to enterprises: reliability (protected from terrestrial challenges), flexible (deployment and real-time provisioning), scalability (supports millions of endpoints), and cost effectiveness (less time spent managing network underlay). However, it would be foolish for enterprises to overlook the risks involved in the WWAN. Foremost amongst these is that by relying on cellular networks, managers lose visibility and control in their WAN, contributing to excessive data cap usage and rising WAN costs.

Introducing 5G into the WWAN is likely to compound this impact as its high performance and availability will create more use cases/dispersed end points, and subsequently a large volume of data flows. To remedy this issue within WWAN visibility, business cellular providers have introduced software tools to enable visualization and the management of the WWAN. Most recent amongst these is Cradlepoint, with their announcement of ‘Cellular Intelligence’ prior to MWC 2022. This software will provide managers with the ability to view, activate, and adjust cellular data usage in real-time across their Cradlepoint products, aiming to deliver cellular optimized Software Defined-Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) functionality, underlay visibility/monitoring, and cellular secure management protocols. Cellular Intelligence integration with Ericsson, extends SIM management. This innovative service enables verticals to provision and manage assets from remote locations, drastically improving IoT operational efficiency. This development will bridge Cradlepoint’s gap between connectivity and management, significantly augmenting their ‘5G for Business’ service.

Visibility and Control are Critical to the Value Proposition of the WWAN


Demand for enterprise-grade 5G has stagnated after the hype of 2021. One of the key contributors to this stagnation is the enterprise’s fear of an uncontrollable, distributed network with significant security and visibility gaps throughout. Cradlepoint’s  Cellular Intelligence is just one of many solutions aimed at increasing visibility and control of the WWAN. Many of the largest WAN vendors (including Cisco Meraki, VMware, Versa Networks, Fortinet, and Juniper Networks) have already released solutions that combine cellular (LTE and 5G) networks, as an underlay, with SD-WAN. It’s single pane of glass enhances visibility and control across the entire network, enabling centralized management of all facets of both the underlay, overlay, and distributed IoT. Visibility and management will be critical to leveraging the full value of the 5G:

  • Optimize cellular data costs across the entire network.
  • Ensure underlay performance is maximized.
  • Manage problem locations and 5G features through a centralized platform.
  • Introduce, in real-time, new sites with cellular connectivity.
  • Navigate data usage caps.

Driving WWAN transparency will enable network administrators to take control of the highly distributed WWAN and IoT, while  capturing the operational value derived from new 5G adjacent technologies (i.e., 5G mmWave, 5G network slicing).

Telecoms will Drive WWAN Value Through Cellular Expertise


Cradlepoint’s Cellular Intelligence will have significant success in the market. Firstly, this solution will benefit from its partnership with Ericsson. ABI Research believes that bringing together infrastructure and enterprise-5G expertise will be highly valued by enterprises looking to gain greater control of their underlying network and extend digital transformation within IoT. Moreover, Cradlepoint and Ericsson’s strong position within the market means that this solution has an existing client-base and clear differentiation. While introducing SIM management, its streamlined approach to management will be critical to reducing IoT provisioning time and drive the value created through digital transformation.

However, do not forget about SD-WAN vendors and service providers. It is likely that, especially in the early days of enterprise-grade 5G, they will be the favored players. This is due to their mature, comprehensive solutions that offer better visibility and control. As enterprises migrate between connectivity technologies, traditional SD-WAN players are likely to remain in place, while Cellular Intelligence is only likely to appeal, in the short run, to those already utilizing Cradlepoint ‘5G for Business’ routers.

On a separate note, ABI Research predicts that telecoms will be the ‘real winners’ of the WWAN. As the market gains traction, telecoms will seize the opportunity to develop ‘one stop shops’ that offer cellular underlays and overlays within a cloud delivered service. This will not only enable greater integration between the control plane and the cellular network, but it will also optimize cellular performance. A ‘one-stop-shop’ will be very attractive, especially for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) without extensive networking teams and with a variety of use case requirements, including branches, IoT, and remote workers.

ABI Research remains particularly interested in understanding how Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) fits with WWAN. At first glance, they seem to be well suited, as both 5G and SASE are delivered across the cloud ‘as-a-service’, while single pane of glass will ensure effective management of the underlay cellular network. However, the potential of converging cellular WWAN with SASE is limited by their inherent architectural differences. For this reason, we expect that most vendors will simply integrate 5G modems into their SD-WAN, augmenting their SASE solution.

The value of a transparent WWAN, whether utilizing LTE or 5G, is evident and will provide a foundation for digital transformation. However, on the supply side, vendors are likely to lose out as telecoms and Cradlepoint (when combined with Ericsson) have the upper hand and can leverage their cellular expertise to draw market share away.



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