Introduction of smartphones, tablets enhances demand for wireless connectivity
Wi-fi has become one of the stand-out technologies of recent times. Its performance, range, and demonstrated interoperability deliver a great user experience. So much so that Wi-Fi access features are now widely embedded in handsets, consumer electronics and other devices.
Wi-Fi can handle even the most demanding applications and content. And upcoming enhancements of the access technology will make for faster (up to 1.3 gigabits per second) and more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, especially in congested public Wi-Fi zones.
Latest generation Wi-Fi is more robust, offers an improved user experience and paves the way for new applications in the future. Today, using latest Wi-Fi technologies it's possible to transfer an HD movie to a tablet in just four minutes, share whole photo albums with friends in seconds, or stream three HD quality videos at one time.
The business benefits of Wi-Fi
The need for Wi-Fi goes beyond just a single application, location, or group of users. It is being rolled out as more than just a form of mobile network diversity or off-load, or as a backhaul tactic for wireless operators. (Many mobile operators use Wi-Fi to offload soaring mobile traffic to the fixed network, while fixed operators deploy Wi-Fi to retain customers of their core services.
Meanwhile, integrated operators pursue Wi-Fi to fulfill both objectives.) With the increasing adoption of wireless LAN within the business, Wi-FI is now also one of the primary network options for the campus environment.
Wi-Fi has to work for all the employees, vendors, contractors, consultants, and guests of the enterprise with the same level of reliability as wireline services. As such, service providers and device manufacturers are busy integrating Wi-Fi into their network service offers, along with the tools needed to provide secure access, monitor its use, and manage its performance.
Service providers take Wi-Fi security very seriously. Poor network security can negatively impact service subscribers and the operator's overall communications network. For this reason, security support provided by carrier-grade Wi-Fi equipment can be much more extensive than what is found with typical consumer-grade access points.
For these reasons, a majority of business IT managers appreciate the value of carrier-grade Wi-Fi equipment because they recognise Wi-Fi as a critical element of their ICT services portfolios.
Demand for such services is increasing year-on-year, and the widespread use of smartphones and tablets at work means this demand now extends beyond just a few users, sites, or employees. This trend is pushing the limits of most existing Wi-Fi networks within the business campus, and end users increasingly expect better coverage, more bandwidth, and additional service support. Enterprise network planning therefore needs to include Wi-Fi coverage, management, and monitoring, with the required security, user authentication, and application/data access policies correctly deployed.
In addition, Wi-Fi services now need to be reviewed and assessed on a regular basis, along with other business network and IT services.
The future is Wi-Fi
With the latest generation Wi-Fi technologies, it is possible to see the outcome of wireless performance in the enterprise in several ways: through the enhanced user experience for teleconferencing, in the greater in-office networking coverage, or in the ease with which graphics, video and audio can be projected across the Wi-Fi network to a large screen in a conference room or auditorium.
To leverage such benefits to the full, business Wi-Fi network services have to include both private and public networks for permanent and temporary employees, as well as guest access. In fact, some organisations have already started to create multiple Wi-Fi networks on corporate locations to handle the mix of end users.
This may put some additional demand on the expansion, monitoring, and management of these networks, but there are good and valid reasons for maintaining multiple Wi-Fi networks. These may only be logical networks (rather than physical), but they do increase complexity and the need for planning and the progressive enterprise CIO is busy blueprinting roaming Wi-Fi (so-called, off-net) and the integration of Wi-Fi into the company's mobile program and policy.
Service providers that offer network solutions to the enterprise are also starting to ensure their management and service portfolios include Wi-Fi as part of their WAN/network managed services, not just as an addition to their managed mobility services. This applies to any service provider, including traditional telcos, MSOs, wireless operators, managed service providers, and competitive network providers. With more service providers adding Wi-Fi services for enterprise customers to their portfolios, such services are also becoming part of an integrated managed network approach, and not just an independent add-on.
Today's Wi-Fi networks still provide an invaluable tool to alleviate cellular network congestion. Come tomorrow though, mobile operators will be able to offer seamless connection handoffs between the mobile, fixed and Wi-Fi network, and the ability to select the appropriate network connection to guarantee the very best user experience possible.
The writer is the chief commercial officer of du. Views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy
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