Cisco and Private 5G – Clarification

Summary Bullets:

S. Schuchart

• Cisco’s Private 5G solution will be offered through its service provider partners

• Enterprises need the integration of private 5G solutions with their existing network management, identity, and policy tools

In early February, Cisco made an announcement of some new Wi-Fi 6E access points, new Catalyst switches, and lastly the new Cisco Private 5G offering, and I wrote a report for our clients about it. However, there was a mistake on my part. I posited that Cisco was challenging the service providers and offering the product directly to customers. The truth is that Cisco is offering its new Cisco Private 5G offering with service provider partners, not against them. Cisco was kind enough to point out my mistake and provided me with more details on their go to market strategy for Cisco Private 5G. For that mistake, I apologize to Cisco. However, it does bring up the opportunity to talk a little bit more about why the Cisco Private 5G offering is important to enterprises, regardless of where it was sourced.

First, let’s lay out the private wireless market. The two biggest and best known forms of private wireless are Wi-Fi and 4G/5G cellular. There is also CBRS (in the US) as well as older private proprietary private wireless on licensed spectrum. Each of these technologies has its own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, 5G has much longer range and can be implemented to be a low-latency wireless technology. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous, inexpensive, and is deeply embedded in enterprise networks and security. There is a tendency in the industry to pit 5G and Wi-Fi as competing technologies. The truth is this: it’s not about competing technologies, it’s about the customer use case. In some use cases, 5G is absolutely the best solution. In some, Wi-Fi is the best solution. But the hype in the industry has pushed a ”vs.” attitude that isn’t helpful to anyone.

Private 5G is just now beginning to come into its own with strong use-cases and rapidly maturing technology and techniques. But one of the big roadblocks for enterprises is that telco technology is often alien to standard enterprise networking and security administrators. Its less of a knowledge issue than it is an integration issue. Enterprise networks have been converging around identity and policy solutions for years, such as Cisco’s DNA Center and ISE. This means that after identification verification, network, and security policies follow the user, regardless of where their entry point to the network is, so it works in the office, in the branch office, at home, wired, or wireless.

Of course, you can have strong policy and identity with 5G, but the problem is that it is separate from the rest of the unified enterprise network. Cisco’s 5G solution aims to fix that by integrating the private 5G network with the enterprise network management and security toolsets, which is something that is necessary for greater acceptance of private 5G in the enterprise. Service providers are not used to this level of integration and often, as they understand their own networks very well, are unaware of how lack of common tools and integration makes things difficult for enterprise administrators.

Cisco’s Private 5G solution fixes those problems and gives the service providers a way to bring integrated 5G private wireless to Cisco enterprise customers. It’s a win-win for both parties.


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