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SASE technology can be quite complex. There are a wide range of SASE vendors available. Find out what to consider when choosing the best SASE vendors.

Simply stated, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a cloud architecture model that combines network and cloud-based security framework to provide secure access to network services from anywhere. A plethora of offerings are now available from SASE vendors.

Those offerings cover a wide range of technologies and service models. And the SASE vendors include many familiar companies who, in the past, have provided SD-WAN, networking security, and endpoint security solutions. Here is our guide to help you sort through those offerings and pick a SASE vendor that is right for your enterprise needs.

What’s accelerating SASE demand?

Demand for a cybersecurity architecture rose in part because of the explosion of office workers who shifted to work from home or hybrid plans as we move through the COVID years. Combine that shift with the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which committed $45 billion to provide broadband to all (sites), and you have a broadening sea of devices to support and applications to access. Climbing broadband access speeds are helping feed the fire.

Supporting work-from-home and work-from-anywhere approaches and new sites supercharges the need to provide secure remote access to data and applications. Add in the use of SaaS offerings, cloud services, and IoT devices, and SASE becomes an alluring solution, so researching the best SASE companies is critical.


Why knowing the right SASE features is important

One of the challenges those new to SASE technology often encounter is that solutions can be quite complex as they are made up of many discrete elements. One way to better understand what SASE is and what it does is to look at those elements.

The elements within most offerings and assembled solutions fit into two categories. There are WAN Edge Services and Security Service Edge (SSE) elements. Functionally, there are five main pillars of SASE. They are SD-WAN, firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS), secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), and zero trust network access (ZTNA).

Many SASE vendors don't yet have the full stack of features, and some partner with other companies to fill the gaps. There are traditional internet and WAN service providers who are now bundling endpoint security offerings with their WAN connectivity services. Another class of vendors is the remote access companies, like those that provide VPNs, edge routers, and more. Some are partnering with endpoint security vendors and WAN service providers to deliver SASE services. And finally, there are the traditional access security vendors. These are companies that offer firewalls, zero-trust access, and other offerings. Again, some of these vendors are now partnering with others to round out their offerings into a full SASE service.


Top features to consider when choosing a SASE vendor?

The fast-growing list of SASE solution providers offers a wide variety of choices. Note that some on the list are familiar network security vendors who partner with SD-WAN providers to offer a SASE solution, while others are SD-WAN providers that bundle cloud-based security services into a SASE offering. You will find a mix of software vendors, networking hardware makers, service providers (telcos), as well as firms with roots in firewall offerings. Some have been evaluated as single-vendor SASE providers by the likes of Gartner Group, while others are part of a multi-vendor solution.

Here are some criteria to evaluate these SASE companies.

Network and security architecture

When evaluating which SASE solution best meets your organization’s specific networking and security needs, you need to ensure that flexibility is high on the list.

Organizations should look for a truly flexible SASE implementation that is integrated, one which will deliver a cloud-native infrastructure and offer cloud instances regardless of if the deployment is on public or hybrid clouds or on-premises, to any location and application type. Seek out a flexible SASE architecture that reduces the burden on your IT teams by simplifying the complexity of cloud or on-premises deployment while also delivering quality experiences to your end users.


Whether you’re shopping for a single- or multi-vendor-SASE solution for your organization, you must make service and support a top priority. What you believe to be the best crafted SASE offering can successfully reduce risk and confidently accelerate your business in the cloud yet fall when it comes to support. Ask for customer references, service level agreements (SLA), and details on the provider's support organization, and ask for information on reactions to specific problem scenarios.

Should you select a multi-vendor SASE solution, engage the contributing companies to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their interrelation. Is it strong and smooth, or does it sound as if it's not much more than a generic vendor partnership program? Cross-training and certification of staff should be attainable and of high value to your organization.

Another consideration when opting for a multi-vendor solution is the role of SASE standards. For help here, look to the work of industry groups like MEF. A recent Network Computing article noted the issues enterprises face in this arena and how MEF is trying to address those issues. In that article, the author noted:

“…a fragmented vendor ecosystem and lack of common terminology leave enterprises challenged to compare SASE feature sets and solutions. The resulting confusion can lead to incomplete service offerings that don’t meet needs and expectations.”

To simplify and speed up the evaluation, implementation, and management of SASE services, MEF published the industry's first standard for SASE, which defines common terminology, attributes of the service, and a service framework, along with a Zero Trust framework. With these frameworks, enterprises can make choices based on industry-standard definitions allowing for easier evaluation and faster decision-making and implementation.

Application security

The practice of defending core business applications and crucial data at the network perimeter is dated and increasingly complicated to manage. That's especially the case with the advent of work-from-home and hybrid approaches, where IT groups must support a myriad of devices, greater mobility, and higher-speed internet connections.

As a result, standard hardware-based security equipment used by network administrators is no longer sufficient to protect remote network access to applications. SASE provides unified policy management based on user identity, enabling your company to deploy security services no matter where its users or corporate resources are located.

Data protection solutions

Another benefit of a robust SASE implementation is the ability for IT to safeguard growing volumes of applications, systems, and data by setting an array of policies for their access.

Some of the capabilities and protections to look for in a SASE implementation include the following:

  • Secure web gateway, which protects users from web-based threats while applying and enforcing corporate acceptable use policies.
  • Cloud-access Security Broker (CASB), which is an on-premises or cloud-based security policy enforcement point between cloud service users and providers.
  • Encryption, which encodes data so that it remains hidden from or inaccessible to unauthorized users.
  • Firewall, which keeps out unauthorized traffic and only lets in communications that are deemed safe, using a set of security rules.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN), which brings privacy to communications over a public or untrusted data network.

Many SASE vendors support all these capabilities. Some do not.

Zero trust network access

Heralded by many as the next era of network access, Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) now offers organizations key new features, such as the ability to maintain least-privileged access and operate with the “allow-and-ignore” model.

ZTNA 2.0 provides secure connections to deliver better security outcomes for businesses with hybrid workforces, overcoming the limitations of ZTNA 1.0 solutions. Request vendors compare the versions.

Ask potential SASE solution providers if they support ZTNA 2.0 and how it addresses the limitations of version 1.0 with least-privileged access, continuous trust verification, and security inspection, plus protection for all apps and data.

Network deployment

There are options for your organization when it comes to network deployment of SASE, which currently include single vendor approaches, multi-vendor packages, the DIY option, and a managed services provider (MSP) alternative. The desired result is a deployment that converges networking and security functions into a single, unified platform that can be managed using a single pane of glass if needed.

Enterprise business and technology leaders should consider using a customer-centric approach that uses fewer vendors and simplifies operations, cuts complexity, and results in lower costs. However, since organizations have differing requirements, they need to address them with their SASE approach.

Application coverage

SASE combines networking and security functions in the cloud to deliver secure access to applications anywhere users work. Organizations should check to ensure that adopting ZTNA by verifying the identity of users and the health of their devices provides secure access to applications and application suites on a per-session basis, whether they are basic packages or enterprise-wide lifeblood systems.

Also, make your business more agile by leveraging the cloud to remove complexity from your infrastructure and provide immediate scalability. With open APIs in both networking and security, it's easy to choose what works best by integrating easily into preferred products or a broad and open single-vendor ecosystem.

Network optimization

Network optimization is a far-reaching and much-sought feature of SASE solutions. Pressing vendors for detailed use cases should shed light on how its attained. Though results will clearly vary by implementation, SASE should lighten Its load since it does not require deploying MPLS circuitry or special network infrastructure. It is pitched as being able to use broadband networks and leverage investments in current private network links.

SASE solutions are supposed to integrate with backbone networks and popular edge services, including content delivery networks (CDN), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), VPNs, and edge networks.

Reduced complexity is a top priority with SASE. You can simplify your IT infrastructure by minimizing the number of security products your IT team has to manage, update, and maintain, consolidating your security stack into a cloud-based network security service model.

Security compliance

The overarching goal here with a SASE solution is to configure security to detect and stop threats while maintaining compliance. What’s needed is contextual visibility into what is happening in a SASE session or connection.

To that end, organizations need insight into all cloud entities and knowledge of how the relationships among them affect their security posture. Once you know what you have, where it is, and how secure it is, you can enforce customizable governance policies that keep your cloud compliant with internal and external standards.

Threat prevention

Organizations evaluating SASE companies should be certain to seek threat protection in vendor solutions, given the soaring number and sophistication of unauthorized attempts on their data and other resources.

Probe vendors to determine if their SASE packages provide integrated full content inspection, as your firm will benefit from more security and visibility into your network. Systems need to identify false positives attempts.

Ask SASE vendors what tools their systems offer to help your security staff resolve alerts – and quicker. A recent report claimed security teams take an average of 6 days to resolve alerts.

SSL connection and DNS

SSL is best described as a standard technology for securing an internet connection by encrypting data sent between a website and a browser. Specifically, the SASE solution's Secure Web Gateway (SWG) inspects the web activity of end-users and applies a consistent set of security policies to enforce safe browsing habits at the endpoint. A robust gateway's features include deep SSL inspections, DLP, URL filtering, and DNS filtering.


SASE vendor selection key takeaways

The shift to SASE is already underway, as most SASE vendors supporting the cybersecurity architecture have already posted use cases on their websites explaining how household name organizations have embraced it to improve the way they do business without fear of security breaches we read about weekly.

A complete SASE implementation can simultaneously enable IT leaders to embrace fundamental changes in the way companies support workers, a precious asset that needs to be safely turned loose to maximize productivity and power corporate business advances.

As SASE evolves, stay smart and stay current with crucial coverage, advice, tips, and primers about SASE vendor offerings and standards from industry experts.

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Depending on availability, fixed wireless access could deliver the bandwidth IT managers need to connect far-flung workers and remote sites.

Although living in the shadow of fiber as an alternative to broadband for all, fixed wireless access (FWA) has a bright present and future as means to expand corporate networks to home workers, small businesses, and rural locations.

Enterprise IT planners can expect to see an expansion of FWA availability as the result of an ongoing effort by the FCC to use the 42-42.2 GHz spectrum for sharing among small businesses and small wireless internet services providers (WISP). Bringing millimeter wave services such as 5G could be a boon for value-conscious high-speed broadband seekers.

The focus to date has been on fiber-based carrier deployments as they provide higher-speed services and can easily scale upward. Fixed wireless access point-to-multipoint systems can be upgraded but have fallen short of fiber-delivered speeds.

What’s the value of fixed wireless access?

In a challenging economy punctuated by inflation and higher prices for most everything, it's little surprise that the business case for or against fixed wireless access comes down to cost and ROI. The fastest option can give way to a slower alternative that’s better value.

T-Mobile and Verizon have seen big first quarters by bundling 5G FWA (Internet) with wireless calling plans, an emerging trend that will continue as states add carriers are at the beginning when it comes to actual fiber deployments based on the $48 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD) included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

5G fixed wireless access gains momentum

5G FWA has been the focus lately, with T-Mobile and Verizon each adding hundreds of thousands of new subscribers each quarter and stealing away existing cable and DSL subscribers.

Commenting on broadband delivery options and priorities for using BEAD funding, Jeff Heynen, Vice President, Broadband Access and Home Networking at Dell’Oro Group, said, “All this Federal money is about getting people connected, not just getting them fiber.”

They are doing so by offering consumers a low rate, no contract, and discounts on bundles with cell phone plans, explained Jeff Heynen. “The success of these services, which offer decent, but certainly not fiber-like speeds, is proof that speed isn’t everything. In fact, with inflation and prices still high, value is a crucial factor in how people select their broadband service.”

Fixed wireless access overcomes broadband services challenges

Fixed wireless access, which is available to support sub 5G speeds, holds a large edge on fiber when it comes to installation. Trenching for fiber is a time, labor-intensive and expensive undertaking, especially in un- and underserved, often rural areas. Mountainous areas and regions where the ground is frozen several months a year are also major challenges. Hanging fiber over telephone poles requires local approvals that slow deployment but is far less disruptive than trenching roads.

In contrast, adding gear to current towers and adding new ones is less resource-draining. FWA does require line-of-sight between signal origination and devices at the location to be connected.

Additionally, a wide-sweeping education and staff skills shortage widely acknowledged by the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) industry trade association and fiber industry companies portends to slow the rollout of broadband, which requires significant labor for trenching, splicing, and other routine deployment tasks that FWA deployment largely avoids.

What about WISPs?

Fixed wireless internet service providers (WISPs) deliver broadband to customers in fixed locations such as residences, businesses, and schools. They focus on serving the hard-to-reach, unserved areas of rural America, as well as bringing affordable alternatives to underserved urban customers.

There are over 2,800 providers serving more than 7 million customers in 50 states. WISPs are small organizations with an average of under ten employees apiece and 1,200 customers, according to the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA). Typical download speeds are 25 to 100 Mbps for residential and up to 1 Gbps for businesses.

Most WISPs are small and medium-sized businesses that have built their networks with private capital and are profitable and sustainable without government subsidies, according to the association. They employ local staff.

Beyond the recently outlined FCC plan, WISPs, small carriers, and rural groups will be able to access through sharing the 14 to 14.2 GHz band, which will help them compete with incumbent providers to serve small businesses, which make up over 95% of all U.S. businesses.

Furthermore, equipment vendors such as Tarana Wireless, which has raised $376 million in funding, are targeting WISPs and small players with their evolving FWA offerings. The company’s solution is interesting in that it can use both unlicensed sub-6GHz spectrum as well as licensed CBRS spectrum, according to Dell’Oro’s Heynen. “CBRS spectrum is going to be critical for WISPs seeking BEAD funds as they must have licensed spectrum to qualify. “ In addition, installing robust outdoor routers will help overcome the building materials challenges. FWA providers will have to offer alternative solutions where users can see similar speed and performance – without the limitations of 5G millimeter wave issues.

Furthermore, fixed wireless access addresses a common 5G limitation. Early on, FWA systems using 5G were limited as the millimeter wave spectrum used had difficulty penetrating building materials such as metal and certain types of glass. Over time, a feature called beamforming was applied to address this challenge by forming the signal into a tightly focused beam.

A final word about fixed wireless access

All the talk about deploying fiber first, foremost, and fully will likely give way to an end result that includes optical and fixed wireless systems in the absence of carrier overbuilding. Value (less cost per connection as well as the ability to bundle mobile services) and availability are probably the two biggest advantages FWA offers IT managers, Heynen said.

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42 GHz spectrum band sharing for Fixed and Mobile Millimeter Wave services potentially could benefit small businesses and service providers.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) met yesterday with industry members to consider ways to open spectrum in the 42 GHz band that would provide small businesses and service providers access through spectrum band sharing on a traditional licensed and unlicensed basis.

Opening up this spectrum could have far-reaching implications as 99% of all businesses in the U.S. fit the Small Business Administration's criteria of businesses with fewer than 500 workers. Municipalities and non-profit organizations could potentially benefit from a change in the way this spectrum is used.

The item also seeks comments on how “potential sharing and licensing regimes might lower barriers to entry for smaller or emerging wireless service providers, encourage competition, and prevent spectrum warehousing,” according to the FCC.

The several spectrum access mechanisms considered by the agency and a wide variety of commenters on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) are intended to pave the way for the high-band spectrum to be used more broadly and efficiently for millimeter services, such as 5G fixed wireless access (FWA).

The NPRM is intended to outline the potential benefits of implementing a spectrum band shared licensing approach in the 42-42.5 GHz band specifically and seeks comment on any other benefits or drawbacks of such an approach as compared to either a traditional exclusive use licensed or unlicensed model.

The FCC proposes to license the 42 GHz band as five 100 megahertz channels.

Three spectrum band sharing approaches offered

The FCC has solicited comments on three specific shared licensing approaches (and on any other shared licensing models proposed by commenters):

  • A nationwide non-exclusive licensing approach, in which licensees would apply for such a license with the Commission and then coordinate and register specific deployment sites with a third-party database.
  • A site-based licensing approach, in which licensees would apply for each deployment site directly with the Commission.
  • A technology-based sensing approach, in which operators would employ certain technologies to avoid harmful interference from one another without the use of a registration database.

The list of commenters on the NPRM reads like a who’s who of the wireless industry, including AT&T, the CTIA, Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, T-Mobile, US Cellular, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the Competitive Carriers Association, the National Academy of Sciences, and SES Americom.

Other carriers have already spent big in the third millimeter wave 5G spectrum auction, concluded in early 2020, which saw T-Mobile, DISH, and Sprint come away with almost all of the 47 GHz spectrum. The trio is licensed to provide service to roughly 95%of the U.S. population.

Proposed spectrum band sharing

The 42-42.5 GHz band is largely but not totally unused. The NPRM proposes measures to protect radioastronomy services in the adjacent 42.5-43.5 GHz band. Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) is a shared wireless spectrum in the 3.5GHz band that has helped in building private LTE networks and extending public 4G and 5G services. The frequency band space was auctioned to all comers – including enterprises – in July 2020 and brought in $4.6 billion. A novel spectrum access system was created to manage the CBRS band, which means eliminating interference with license holders.

Benefits expanding for millimeter wave bands

Millimeter wave bands were widely embraced for – but somewhat limited to – high-speed, short-distance services such as 5G FWA, which T-Mobile and Verizon have rapidly deployed. This initially left mobile applications on the outside looking in because of propagation losses at such high frequencies and the inability of millimeter wave signals to propagate around obstacles.

Ericsson and Qualcomm claimed success in 2020 for extending the distance of these waves.

It’s now believed that some of the presumed disadvantages can be turned into advantages, according to the FCC. For example, short transmission paths and high propagation losses can facilitate spectrum re-use in microcellular deployments by limiting the amount of interference between adjacent cells. Furthermore, the FCC explained, where longer paths are desired, the extremely short wavelengths of millimeter wave signals make it feasible for very small antennas to concentrate signals into highly focused beams with enough gain to overcome propagation losses.

The agency added that short wavelengths of millimeter wave signals also “make it possible to build multi-element, dynamic beam-forming antennas that will be small enough to fit into handsets—a feat that might never be possible at the lower, longer-wavelength frequencies below 6 GHz where cell phones operate today.”

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The operators’ proposal is before the European Commission. Meta objects and warns the EC of damage to business and consumers. What’s the impact on U.S. enterprises?

A group of telcos in Europe is floating a plan whereby big tech companies accounting for over 5% of a telco’s peak average internet traffic should help pay for the rollout of 5G and broadband access.

The telcos' proposal is in draft mode, according to a report this week by Reuters. It raises questions as to whether the “build it and customers will spend” monetization approaches are enough for a profitable and justifiable business case.

The report claims the telco proposal is part of the feedback to the European Commission that began an inquiry into the issue in February, with a deadline for responses this Friday. It also claims the document was compiled by telco lobbying groups GSMA andETNO.

Making the case for 5G fees

Despite the marketing of 5G, with its superfast connections, super low latency, and purported ability to help transform the way enterprises do business, some telcos are struggling to justify the big-ticket undertakings by themselves or are uncertain whether the 5G services they offer will more than offset the initial investment.

Heavy internet users such as social media and video streaming companies Google, Meta, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, and Apple would seem to be most adversely affected by the so-called network fees.

Meta objects

The one public response opposing the move is in this blog by Markus Reinisch, Vice President, Public Policy, Europe and Global Economic Policy, Meta. He claims network fee proposals will ultimately hurt European businesses and consumers. Social media companies are among the top bandwidth users globally. Meta submitted its response to the European Commission's exploratory consultation on network fees.

Among the listed takeaways, the Meta executive contends:

  • Network fee proposals misunderstand the value that content platforms bring to the digital ecosystem; and
  • We urge the (European) Commission to consider the evidence, listen to the range of organizations who have voiced concerns, and drop these proposals.

“We support the Commission’s goal of “ensuring access to excellent connectivity for everyone,” began Reinisch. “However, proposals by a handful of telecom operators to be cross-subsidized by content application providers (CAPS) are fundamentally flawed.

Meta sees only downsides of the network fee proposal, calling fees to telecoms “a private sector handout.” The company sees fees as operators charging twice for the same infrastructure already charging consumers for internet access and potentially adding fees.

"We encourage the Commission to deeply examine the negative impacts of the telco-led proposals," said Reinisch. He went on to explain why the creation of what is effectively a required private sector handout for selected telecom operators would lead to bad outcomes for European businesses and consumers, disincentivize innovation and investment, and distort competition.

Expert insight into the 5G market

It’s early to get a take on what the telco proposal means to U.S. firms. “We remain optimistic about the European 5G RAN market and expect this segment to advance another 60% by 2025, with or without any contributions from the tech players,” explained Stefan Pongratz, Vice-President at Dell’Oro Group, a global market research and analysis firm. He specializes in 5G RAN, CBRS, Mobile RAN, Open RAN, Private Wireless, and Telecom Capex.

Pongratz, who has not yet read the telcos' proposal, provided constructive advice to operators. "Even if 5G by itself is, as expected, not fueling any material revenue growth, the reality is that providing connectivity is a profitable business. In the meantime, he claims, "operators that take advantage of the incremental bandwidth available in the upper mid-band will be in a better position from a cost, performance, and future growth perspective than those that don't."

The cost of 5G – U.S. edition

Moving to 5G incurs many costs. On the cost side alone, telcos around the world have, or are planning, to shut down 3G and or 2G networks for the spectrum and related resources to enable broad deployment of 5G. The costs are even higher when the cost of acquiring spectrum that can be used for 5G through auctions is added in.

Challenges monetizing network rollouts and service deployments are faced in the U.S. as well. In many cases, telecoms have teamed with equipment, construction, spectrum, monitoring, and integration companies to create private 5G network services as well as varying flavors of managed offerings. However, the operators have neither revealed their specific monetization expectations nor their results.

The costs of going with 5G are playing a big role in the decision making of telcos in many countries. While many, like the U.S. Japan and China are all in, much of the continent of Africa still relies on low-speed 2G. In fact, 2G networks are not being shut down in many countries as customers with IoT deployments that can’t justify the cost and don’t need the superfast speed of 5G rely on the second generation wireless technology.

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The crucial guidebook asset helps states and ISPs meet daunting broadband-for-all workforce creation challenges.

The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) has created and released a comprehensive asset – dubbed the Workforce Development Guidebook, to equip states, ISPs, and agencies for the anticipated broadband staffing shortage.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s $42.45 billion Broadband Equity and Access Deployment (BEAD) program – part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act - has begun to allot funds for the deployment of broadband services to un- and under-served U.S. areas.

The growing concern, however, is that recipients are more focused on the costs of building and maintaining the new networks for the next five years than on the daunting workforce creation efforts needed for success.

Why the guidebook is needed

The FBA describes itself as a large trade association that represents the fiber ecosystem of service providers, manufacturers, industry experts, and deployment specialists dedicated to the advancement of fiber broadband deployment. The group has helped providers, communities, and policymakers make informed decisions about how, where, and why to build better fiber broadband networks since 2001.

The FBA’s Workforce Development Guidebook notes that, according to the government’s calculations, 150,000 telecom jobs will be created by BEAD, while research by the FBA estimates the industry will need over 205,000 new jobs in the next five years to construct, operate, and maintain these new networks in every state.

The FBA warns the sudden and historic influx of public funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and BEAD Program will spur an unprecedented amount of construction activity and create a nationwide demand for skilled labor far beyond what the current workforce can support.

"Workforce is the second priority; construction is first," explained FBA President and CEO Gary Bolton. "We can't wait to see at the end what's left for workforce development." Increased emphasis on staffing is crucial. "Failure to ensure the availability of high-skilled labor will result in workforce bottlenecks, which will ultimately lead to higher costs and project delays.”

Those issues can have an enterprise impact. Why? Secure high-speed connections can bolster and broaden the availability of business applications for areas such as telehealth, collaboration, and education that were bearable during Covid that can be more effective and immersive. Remote and home workers can join corporate workforces. Small businesses can rise.

Planning for shortages

Telecom workers are in demand in rural areas, with service providers and their contractors seeking help with the rollout, according to Jeff Heynen, Vice-President of Broadband Access and Home Networks for Dell'Oro Group, a global market research and consultancy. Employees of a small carrier told him they were attracted to the upstart fiber provider offering a better compensation package than Tier 1 operators.

“There is just so much demand in terms of new projects that the existing workforce can’t handle it,” Heynen explained. “Also, I believe there is more churn now among operators, with workers leaving companies for new fiber entrants who are promising better pay and benefits.”

In anticipation of labor shortages, the NTIA included workforce planning requirements in its Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), “forcing states to consider on the front end how to ensure enough high-skilled workers are available to deliver funded projects. The NTIA outlines key components of a workforce plan that states must consider and respond to in their Five-Year Action Plans, including training and workforce development activities, skilled workforce activities, labor and employment laws, and contracting requirements.

The guidebook emphasizes training and upskilling

While those components are instrumental to creating a prosperous workforce ecosystem, the FBA claims its Workforce Development Guidebook “primarily focuses on training and upskilling activities. It provides context on the telecommunications landscape, broadband workforce development, and practical guidance on how to craft and deploy an effective workforce development strategy.”

The FBA took on the workforce development challenge in the wake of the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, under which it quickly engaged with 23 states to roll out the Optical Telecom Installation Certification (OpTIC) program with their community college systems and fiber-optic broadband service providers. Today (a year later), the number of states sits at 38, according to Bolton.

"The challenge for us is the 18 to 25-year-olds," Bolton explained. That is in part because much of the current U.S. workforce is far older. "We need to get young people interested in telecom jobs and careers."

In the guidebook, the efforts of several states that have already addressed the workforce development challenges are discussed. Included are Ohio, Vermont, and Maine – each with varying paths to the same goal. “States haven’t waited on BEAD,” noted Bolton.

Beyond the 18-25 age group, states are also looking to attract military veterans, previously incarcerated individuals, and those with autism. The FBA has considered the value of self-paced learning versus full-classroom education approaches.

One challenge the FBA is considering is how to lure staff from their current jobs into telecom by looking to replace some of their earnings with a stipend to incentivize them to learn while working.

Another observation focuses on the variations of training for the broadband rollout effort. Some large carriers have daylong boot camps, while other programs offer 2,000-hour apprenticeships.

The FBA teamed with Cartesian, a research and strategic consulting firm, to create the guidebook.

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Slow speeds, security issues, and a higher cost of doing business exist as countries take different tacks on wireless network evolutions.

The sunsetting of 3G wireless networks is over if your enterprise isn’t a multinational. But if your company operates, or plans to, outside the U.S., expect challenges as much of the world is playing catchup and at different speeds.

You’ll also find regions where 2G networks are being kept up and running to support crucial IoT devices, providing a cost-effective alternative to high-speed wireless. Further, developing countries that have valuable resources and business opportunities may only have 2G.

"There is a huge challenge ahead for companies trying to sell the same solutions globally as they will need to support 2G/3G technologies in order for their products to operate,” explained Susie Siouti, Chief Commercial Officer for SmartViser, a Rennes, France-based test automation solutions provider that helps organizations offer end-users high Quality of Experience (QoE) and Quality of Service (QoS). "In Africa, there is no plan to sunset these technologies except for South Africa. Similarly, Asia is a mixed bag with some countries very much ahead of the game and others not even planning.”

3G shutdown challenges near and far

U.S. businesses with multinational operations will also likely run into varying sunsetting timelines far closer to home, specifically in neighboring Canada, which is one of America's top trading partners. Canada's 3G networks are not due to be completely shut down until the end of 2025, according to Readers Digest Canada.

This is important as the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) has incentivized U.S. businesses to move assembly and manufacturing operations north (and south) of the border in recent decades.

In the absence of a single uniform wireless network technology globally. Companies looking to develop new products will find costs higher because they must support all new and legacy wireless solutions.

The big chill?

Widely varying wireless generation support, in some cases from country to neighboring country, could have a chilling effect that generates other concerns for enterprise IT, namely security.

"Security may also become an issue as 2G offers very weak encryption between towers and devices and can be allegedly easily hacked," added Siouti. "Replicating private network set ups from the U.S. in other countries could be difficult, especially in Africa and Asia.” Some may have to wait until 4G networks provide a better level of coverage. “It may be very difficult to prove their business case internally for entering certain markets like Africa.”

Solving the Rubik’s Cube of wireless support

There are vendors whose products for IoT devices cover the cellular waterfront.

One such vendor,, promises the redundant coverage devices needed today, with the flexibility to expand into new markets when enterprises are ready to scale. The company's cards allow devices to access2G, 3G, 4G LTE, 5G, and CAT-M today and upgrade as new network technologies become available. Hologram claims its SIMs allow devices to switch between over 470 carriers from anywhere in the world.

A continent-specific 3G shutdown summary from SmartViser

To complicate matters for enterprise IT planners, many operators plan to shut off their 3G networks first while keeping their slower 2G networks running until as late as 2025.

Europe’s 3G shutdown

This is the case in Europe, where 3G is expected to be switched off before 2G. Around 19 operators are planning to switch off their 3G network by 2025, and around eight operators are planning to switch off their 2G network by 2025. Telia will look to close 3G in all their countries between 2022 and 2025, and EE will be the first UK network that has announced the shutdown of 3G.

Asia’s 3G shutdown

In Asia, there are an estimated 29 operators who are looking to shut down 2G by 2025 and 16 shutting down 3G by 2025. Japan closed 3G long ago, as did Taiwan, which shut down both 2G and 3G roughly three years ago.

America’s 3G shutdown

The Americas. The U.S. shut down 2G networks, followed by 3G networks by yearend 2022. Elsewhere in this region, over a dozen operators in 7 countries have announced the closure of 2G by the end of 2025.

Australia’s 3G shutdown

Australia. 2G networks are long gone in the land down under, with the continent’s three operators shutting them down by yearend 2018. Telstra is expected to shut down its 3G network at the end of next year.

Africa’s 3G shutdown

Africa. It appears that the lights at 2G and 3G networks are on for the foreseeable future in the so-called dark continent. The spread of 4G and faster technologies is expected to eventually eclipse slower networks.

Recapping 3G sunsetting in the U.S.

Service providers using 3G technology, a workhorse for two decades, need the resources to broadly and efficiently roll out 5G.

To recap the situation, in the U.S., the three largest wireless service providers – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile – all shut down their 3G networks by the end of 2022 to use resources to drive broader deployment of 5G. The trio announced plans to sunset these networks well in advance. However, Covid-19 and the resulting supply chain, workforce, and chip shortages hit companies with a trio of unexpected challenges.

The operators kept their deadlines, but several vertical industries, such as automotive, trucking, and consumer electronics, found themselves with less time to take the 3G sunsetting challenge. A flurry of software upgrades to dated devices helped most businesses and their customers survive the sunsetting, but the transition was not smooth.

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