SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Michael Finneran | September 19, 2012 |

 
   

Wi-Fi's Role in Mobile UC

Wi-Fi's Role in Mobile UC Used correctly, Wi-Fi can play an increasingly important role in delivering mobile UC.

Used correctly, Wi-Fi can play an increasingly important role in delivering mobile UC.

When it comes to wireless networks, there are two major options on the table, cellular and Wi-Fi. With the explosive growth in the smartphone market, fueled largely by the immensely popular Apple and Android-powered devices, the network focus has shifted decidedly in favor of the cellular option and developments like 4G LTE offerings that can now support downstream bursts close to 50 Mbps; average data rates are in the range of 3.5 Mbps to 14 Mbps. However, there has also been a lot happening on the Wi-Fi front though it doesn't seem to generate the same buzz.

Despite its role in in-building infrastructure, Wi-Fi has essentially been a side-show in the mobile revolution. This is rather strange given the fact that Wi-Fi delivered widespread enterprise mobility for laptops and in a small number of cases, voice devices, years before the smartphone revolution got under way. However, with users demanding to bring their beloved mobile devices into the enterprise and marketing departments scrambling to get customer-facing applications into the public app stores, Wi-Fi continued to be an "infrastructure play" and generated all the excitement of Cat 6 cable!

However, the Wi-Fi Alliance continues to press forward with new certifications, the Wi-Fi equipment manufacturers continue to innovate, and used correctly, Wi-Fi can play an increasingly important role in delivering mobile UC.

Blazing Radios
The IEEE 802.11n radio link standard is rapidly becoming universal, and chipsets to support 802.11ac are just hitting the market; those will push data rates close to the 1 Gbps mark. These new radio links make use of more bandwidth-efficient coding schemes (i.e. more bits per second per hertz) and wider channels. Where the original 802.11a and g (data rates up to 54 Mbps) operated in 20 MHz channels, 802.11n introduced the option of 40 MHz channels; 802.11n delivers data rates up to 288.9 Mbps in a 20 MHz channel and 600 Mbps in a 40 MHz channel. With 802.11ac, channels up to 80 and 160 MHz will be added. Those wider channels will only be supportable in the 5 GHz U-NII band.

This does present a problem for smartphones. Part of what allows those newer 802.11 radio links to achieve such high data rates is multiple input-multiple output (MIMO) antenna systems that allow several independent transmissions (up to 4) to be sent simultaneously on the same channel. Multiple transmissions call for multiple radios, which taxes the battery power of a smartphone. To compensate for that, smartphone implementations of 802.11n limit the transmitter to one transmission channel, yielding a maximum data rate of 72.2 Mbps in a 20 MHz channel and 150 Mbps in a 40 MHz channel; most are limited to 20 MHz operation. As with all Wi-Fi implementations, actual throughput is roughly half those rates.

In any case, with Wi-Fi we can typically achieve average data rates far in excess of what we can get from LTE, and there are no "usage charges" for Wi-Fi. In the higher ed market, Wi-Fi has essentially replaced wired Ethernet for the student population, so Ethernet jacks are disappearing from dorm rooms much the way wired telephones were yanked when students started showing up with cell phones.

UC over Wi-Fi
Those sorts of data rates can easily support voice, video, and collaboration applications, assuming the Wi-Fi networks are configured properly for the volume of traffic; there are lots of systems integrators out there who know how to do that. There is indeed a cost involved in building that infrastructure, but Wi-Fi should certainly be one of the essential building blocks we look for in deploying a mobile UC capability.

Frankly it is surprising that more organizations have not made more extensive use of Wi-Fi up until now. For years we have had voice handsets from companies like Polycom/SpectraLink, Cisco, and Vocera that would operate over Wi-Fi, but they found little acceptance beyond a few specialized verticals like health care (Note: In May, Polycom announced it was selling SpectraLink to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, Inc. for $110 million. See Dave Michels' recent blog for more on this and other issues surrounding Wi-Fi phones).

I actually published a book about the how-to's of voice over wireless LANs some years back and I have fielded inquiries from countless users over the years regarding the possibility of shifting some of their cellular usage onto Wi-Fi. However, very few have followed through on the idea. The general feeling seems to be that the infrastructure upgrades would be too costly and they are getting a "good enough" deal on their cellular contracts.

The bigger problem seems to be that the managers in charge of "mobility" are not in charge of "Wi-Fi", so "mobility" becomes a synonym for "cellular"--it's the old story that "to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail".

Nevertheless, UC involves bringing a number of disparate communications technologies under one tent, and if mobility is going to be part of that, it is foolhardy to ignore one of the most prevalent mobile technologies we have.





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

September 20, 2017

Customer experience can make or break your business. But how do you achieve outstanding customer service when you're dealing with outdated organizational structure, lagging technology, dated proces

August 16, 2017

Contact centers have long been at the leading edge of innovation in communications technology, given their promise of measurable ROI and the continual need to optimize customer interactions and sta

July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.