With all major mobile carriers expected to offer 5G this year, enterprises that want to take advantage of this next-gen mobile data service need to start thinking about how to support it on site.
Anticipation is keen for 5G, given that it promises to deliver faster speeds and lower latency than the current premium wireless technology, 4G LTE. Ideally, 5G networks could deliver fast internet to areas of the country where wired broadband is unavailable, and more reliable connections to a variety of devices including not only computers and smartphones but also appliances, automobiles and security systems. But to use these services as a WAN option, businesses need hardware that can connect it to their existing wired and wireless LANs.
Here's a rundown of the device makers that are known or rumored to be providing networking gear to pipe 5G to your office.
D-Link 5G gateway
D-Link revealed its DWR-2010 5G NR Enhanced Gateway in January. The device accepts a SIM card to receive 5G and 4G LTE signals from a carrier and routes them to devices connected to it by Wi-Fi or Ethernet. It has AC2600 dual band Wi-Fi (which transmits up to 800 Mbps and 1732 Mbps for each band) with MU-MIMO, and 5 Ethernet ports.
It supports D-Link's own Wi-Fi Mesh Technology (which allows for it to be networked with other D-Link routers) and Voice over LTE to let you make voice calls on your carrier's LTE network.
The DWR-2010 is scheduled for release sometime in the second half of 2019. Many D-Link devices are sold to the general public. It remains to be seen if this will be true with the DWR-2010. For now the company lists its price as "varied" depending on which 5G carrier will provide it for its customers.
HTC 5G hub
HTC and Sprint announced in November that they're working together to develop a mobile 5G "smart hub" to support the carrier's 5G network. (Sprint's 5G network is set to launch sometime in the first half of this year.) The intial announcement revealed only that the device will run Qualcomm's Snapdragon x50 5G modem chipset.
More details emerged in December, when a 5G hub device developed by HTC was revealed for use on Australian carrier Telstra's 5G network. The HTC 5G Hub for Telstra has a display about the size of a small smartphone to show status information for 5G and Wi-Fi signals, and the devices connected to it. It's speculated that the display – larger than usual for a hotspot – could also be used to show pictures and video. As of this writing, it hasn't been confirmed if the HTC 5G Hub is the same smart hub device that Sprint will sell to customers to use on its 5G network.
Huawei's 5G devices
In February of last year, Huawei announced devices that would run its own 5G chipset, the Balong 5G01. The company claimed it would be the first to support the final 5G specifications sanctioned by 3GPP, the trade group that governs cellular standards. Huawei also revealed two 5G router devices: A large unit that comes in both indoor and outdoor models, and a smaller unit for indoor use. At the time, the larger 5G models were being tested on a major Canadian carrier, Telus.
But ongoing controversy is impeding the Chinese company's plans. The U.S. government accuses Huawei of enabling spying through its devices, perhaps at the behest of the Chinese government. So Huawei has been banned from supplying its equipment to the U.S.'s emerging 5G networks. Australia and New Zealand have also decided to fully ban Huawei from their nations' 5G infrastructure.
Inseego 5G mobile hotspot
Inseego has two 5G routers, both for the Verizon's 5G network that launched in October. The first, the R1000, is a white cylinder that takes the 5G signal from Verizon’s towers and forwards it to devices connected to it. It supports Wi-Fi with 4x4 MIMO technology and Voice over LTE, has power-over-Ethernet capability and can run on a battery that is replaceable.
Inseego's other model, the MiFi 5G NR, was revealed in December; its shipping date has yet to be determined. The MiFi 5G NR runs Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 855 processor and Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipsets, and it supports the new Wi-Fi 6 protocol (AKA 802.11 ax). It has a display to show connection status and data usage.
Netgear Nighthawk 5G mobile hotspot
Netgear claims its Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot is the first 5G standards-compliant networking device. Due for release in the U.S. sometime this Spring, the Nighthawk will be for exclusive use on AT&T's 5G network, which was turned on in 12 U.S. cities in December. The list price for the Nighthawk is $500.
It runs Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem chipset, and it includes a display to show stats. The display will show information such as how much data from your allotted plan with AT&T has been used, days remaining before your plan resets, devices connected to it, and signal strength.
That's the extent of the device features that have been revealed as of this writing. It's possible the Nighthawk 5G will include features similar to Netgear’s Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot Router, which is also for AT&T networks. The LTE version supports the ability to have up to 20 devices connected to the hotspot through Wi-Fi. It also offers parental controls that could be useful in an office setting, such as the ability to block types of content and websites.
Nokia merges mobile and network divisions
This is one company to watch, even though it hasn't announced any consumer-end 5G devices. Over the last several years, Nokia has been at the forefront of developing and testing 5G hardware for carrier networks that include 5G base stations in partnership with Qualcomm. T-Mobile has bought $3.5 billion worth of Nokia 5G hardware to build its 5G network.
Nokia formed an Access Networks Division to expand its business further into the global 5G market. Internally, the company merged its separate mobile and network business divisions to create this single entity at the start of 2019. It's possible that from this division, Nokia will develop and release a 5G router or other device for customers of U.S. 5G carriers.
Samsung indoor and outdoor 5G routers
Samsung worked with Verizon throughout 2018 to develop a 5G network setup for business and home use. Last February, the company announced that its 5G FWA (fixed wireless access) unit was the first to gain approval by the FCC.
This device is an antenna base enclosed inside a white, rectangular box with rounded corners and edges. It's meant to be installed outdoors on your premises or close by to receive a 5G signal from Verizon's towers. This unit then re-transmits the signal to a 5G router, which your computer or other device connects to through Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
Samsung developed separate indoor- and outdoor-use 5G routers. The indoor model looks like a typical, square-shaped router propped up vertically, which Samsung specifies should be positioned by a window to better receive the 5G signal being transmitted by the 5G FWA. The outdoor version resembles a speaker.
These devices were provided to customers of Verizon’s 5G Home service. The carrier’s 5G network launched in October in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.