AT&T, Verizon gear up for SD-WAN in 5G

Both AT&T and Verizon plan to blend SD-WAN with their 5G networks. (Pixabay)

It's all things 5G at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, which included separate announcements by Verizon and AT&T in regards to gearing up their SD-WAN offerings for 5G.

Given that 5G deployments are in the infancy stage this year, it will be a while before either AT&T's or Verizon's SD-WAN in 5G plans reach fruition, but both are seeking to plant stakes in the ground around 5G and SD-WAN.

Both AT&T and Verizon are well versed in deploying SD-WAN to their business customers. At the MEF18 conference in Los Angeles in December, AT&T's Josh Goodell said that 5G was the next frontier for SD-WAN.

RELATED: AT&T's Goodell: SD-WAN is no single silver bullet

On Friday AT&T announced it was working with VMware on blending SD-WAN capabilities into 5G through VMware's VeloCloud offering. Businesses will eventually be able to tap into the low-latency, high speed of 5G as their primary or secondary WAN connections in combination with other transport connections such as LTE, dedicated internet, broadband or WiFi.

SDN, NFV, edge compute and the IoT are driving digital transformations for service providers and their customers, but they are also creating more complexities. AT&T said that the combination of 5G and SD-WAN will extend software-defined networking intelligence into the cellular network in order to prioritize traffic by device or application.

"Better intelligence means better outcomes for businesses. SD-WAN and 5G individually have the power to significantly transform a business," said Roman Pacewicz, chief product officer, AT&T Business, in a prepared statement. "But when you put them both together, you open the door to insight on an entirely different level. With that comes new capabilities and opportunities that can help businesses innovate faster in the next phase of their transformation."

AT MEF18, Goodell said that AT&T's SD-WAN service that launched three years ago was available in 200 countries and included third-party partnerships across 28,000 endpoints.

With VMware/VelcoCloud as its SD-WAN vendor, AT&T has employed its virtualized Flexware platform for a network-based SD-WAN offering and an over-the-top version on an AT&T FlexWare device.

AT&T said it's now offering SD-WAN services that work with its nationwide AT&T Wireless Broadband platform. AT&T Wireless Broadband is part of AT&T's Fixed Wireless pillar in its strategy to bring 5G to businesses. Businesses will now be able to use SD-WAN with AT&T's nationwide cellular network for the first time and then upgrade to 5G when it's ready via a modem change.

Combined with its emerging 5G network, business customers will have the flexibility to manage the applications running on the edge of the network. AT&T SD-WAN will tell the applications what transport path to use and establish the policies for traffic moving over 5G. The end result is that AT&T customers will have optimized, more efficient networks that are tailored to their specific needs.

As an example, AT&T said that SD-WAN could split up traffic so that all of the manufacturing floor traffic goes over fixed wireless using a deployed 5G network, while keeping general office traffic, such as web browsing, on landline broadband. Within the manufacturing floor traffic, the 5G network could create one slice of the network to handle shop floor robotics that rely on ultra-low latency while running less time-sensitive edge computing across a parallel path at the same time. 

Verizon makes its move into SD-WAN and 5G

On Sunday, Verizon announced it was on a similar SD-WAN and 5G path through its partnership with Cisco. Verizon's Virtual Network Services now supports Cisco's Viptela SD-WAN portfolio using Cisco's intent-based networking capabilities, which enables Verizon's business customers to leverage the performance of 5G when using network slicing and mobile edge computing services.

Like AT&T, Verizon is seeking to simplify, manage and customize network traffic for 5G networks and devices.

"These solutions highlight what a transformative platform 5G will be for enterprises," said Verizon's Shawn Hakl, senior vice president, business products, in a prepared statement. "Cisco has been a close technology partner in driving SD-WAN based transformation in campus and branch environments, and we look forward to bridging those same best practices to mobile devices."

Verizon said its latest SD-WAN offering sets the stage for enterprises to use Verizon's future 5G network as an extension of their campus and branch infrastructure while also enabling more control of application performance on mobile and 5G devices.

Verizon said the potential use case for SD-WAN and 5G "include the ability to enable an intelligent security perimeter for mobile workers, ensuring that access to corporate assets is governed by their security posture, with a different slice or policy on per application basis from the users' devices." IoT devices that are located outside of the campus or branch would be managed with the same network and security tools that are inside of the campus "giving enterprises a unified approach to applying networking and security policy across any environment," according to Verizon.

Last summer, Verizon Business Markets launched a new SD-WAN-based service with Versa Networks that was designed to help small and medium-sized businesses manage their complex IT management needs.

Last year Cisco integrated its Viptela SD-WAN, which is bought in 2017 for $610 million, more deeply across its enterprise routing platform. Also in 2018, VMware integrated VeloCloud's SD-WAN technologies—which it bought in 2017 for an undisclosed sum—into its product lines.