IoT Blog
IoT Blog

New AirLink OS Advances Multi-Network 5G Router Connectivity

by David Manuel, Senior Product Manager
Sierra Wireless’ XR90 and XR80 routers, the first two solutions in our new XR Series of routers, represent a breakthrough in multi-network 5G router solutions. These XR Series routers deliver customers the high-speed, low latency, secure connectivity they need for video streaming, video offload, and other data-intensive and time-sensitive 5G applications. 

But this leap forward in connectivity is not just a result of the routers’ quad- core data packet acceleration, passively cooled rugged industrial design, unique cartridge design and other hardware innovations. It also results from AirLink OS, an advanced new multi-network router operating system that has been built from the ground up to meet the 5G connectivity and routing needs of Sierra Wireless’ customers, both today and tomorrow.

How Does AirLink OS Improve Multi-Network 5G Router Connectivity? 

In developing AirLink OS we listened to first responders, transit agencies, utilities, and manufacturers on what they wanted in a multi-network 5G router operating system. We then built an operating system designed to meet these requests -- and then some. 

For example, in addition to support for 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and 5 Gbps Ethernet, AirLink OS offers customers other advanced features and services, including:

Over the air Out-of-Band Management: AirLink OS supports the XR Series’ new AirLink Management Service (ALMS) Out-of-band Management (OOBM) feature, which allows customers to manage these routers via our global IoT network using a Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) modem integrated into the device. This LPWA-based “link of last resort” enables customers to avoid expensive technician visits by using our cloud-based management platform, AirLink Management Service (ALMS), to remotely provision, configure, manage, recover, reboot, and update the router, even if it is not able to use its primary public or private cellular 5G or LTE Wide Area Network (WAN) network connections. 
Multiple APNs: Customers can direct traffic to multiple Access Point Names (APNs) using a single SIM card (where supported by their wireless network operator). This allows them to improve network security by using one APN for passenger, student, visitor, customer or other “public” data and another for their employee, business application and other “private” data.
IPV4 and IPV6 Support: With support for both IPv4 and IPv6, the most recent version of the Internet protocol, customers can more easily and less expensively set up static IP addresses for their routers.
A More Flexible and Powerful Routing Framework: Customers can use AirLink OS to easily define custom data routing rules, allowing them to better integrate data from these routers into their existing networks, and enhance security by restricting or otherwise directing traffic from and to the routers. For example, customers can create routing rules to link together different Local Area Network (LAN) segments as needed, or restrict to a connected device’s traffic to a particular LAN or WAN interface. 
Router Application Programing Interfaces (APIs): AirLink OS, like ALMS, now includes a standards-based API. The API enables customers to easily integrate their backend systems with their XR Series routers to provide additional control and insights into their deployments.
An Intuitive, Responsive Interface: AirLink OS offers customers a single intuitive interface with live system data for configuring and managing their routers, whether they are connecting directly to the router or through ALMS. AirLink OS also implements changes to router parameters and other updates in near real-time, making it easier for administrators configure and manage their routers while reducing router administration time and costs. 

Cognitive Wireless Delivers Better Performance, Always-On Connectivity

In addition to the above new features and services, AirLink OS builds on Sierra Wireless’ patented cognitive wireless technology. This software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) technology provides customers with fine-grained control of when and how their data traverses the network. 

For example, AirLink OS cognitive wireless technology enables customers to set up detailed rules for their multi-network 5G routers that direct them to use cellular, Wi-Fi 6, or Ethernet networks, or split traffic between these networks, depending on the type of data they are transmitting, changes in the network, where the routers are, and other conditions. 

With cognitive wireless, XR Series routers can use the highest performance, most reliable, lowest cost, or otherwise best available network given their current conditions – and if these conditions change, or a network outage occurs, switch to another network in less than a second for ‘always on’ connectivity. 

Support for New Value-Added Features and Services in the Future

While these new capabilities will deliver immediate benefits to customers deploying XR Series multi-network 5G routers today, we are already planning on delivering customers additional value-added features and services in the future via AirLink OS and ALMS. For example, our roadmap includes plans to introduce the following new features and services:

Expanded Edge Processing Capabilities: AirLink OS includes a Linux container layer that will allow customers to deploy and manage containerized Linux applications, integrated with ALMS and with Azure IoT Central. With these expanded edge processing capabilities, customers can easily create and update containerized Linux applications for multiple use cases and custom integrations.
Captive Portal Support: Building on AirLink OS’s more flexible and powerful routing framework, this new captive portal support will enable customers to customize network access and content filtering rules at a granular level, and also easily record and audit who is accessing what content through their routers.

Robust End-to-End Security

In addition to these new features and services, AirLink OS delivers industry-leading end-to-end security capabilities that Sierra Wireless’s customers have come to expect. This multi-layered device-to-cloud security includes unique cryptographic keys that connect the router to ALMS, a hardware-accelerated VPN for secure transport, secure boot, secure firmware updates, and use of the Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA-3) protocol.

A Multi-Network 5G Router OS Designed for the Connected Economy 

As organizations extend 5G beyond smart phones to their vehicles, factories, health care facilities, students’ homes, and offices they will need rugged, high bandwidth, secure multi-network 5G router solutions that combine high-performance, industrial-grade hardware with advanced software. 

By powering the fast, flexible XR Series routers with our intelligent, responsive new AirLink OS, Sierra Wireless delivers these organizations the multi-network 5G router solution they need to extend video streaming, video offload and other next-generation mission- and business-critical applications to these and other locations, transforming the way they operate.

Start with Sierra to learn more about how our new XR Series router solutions, powered by our advanced Airlink OS, enable you to use 5G to accelerate your digital transformation.