Enterprise wireless LANs (WLANs) are no longer used just in large business campuses and branch offices. Today, it also includes small and medium businesses (SMBs) and vertical markets such as hospitality, healthcare, K-12 education, retail, and more.
These days, an enterprise's success and failure hinges upon employee productivity and access to information, which is increasingly dependent on the capacity, reliability and security of its network. Certainly, each organization has its own IT nuances and issues, but common across all is more content, people and devices tapping into the network. There are a few trends that transcend today’s enterprises, shaping Enterprise IT decisions:
- Bring your own device (BYOD) Today, 90% of workers in the United States are using their personal devices for work. And it’s not unique to the U.S. Workers worldwide are connecting their personal devices to enterprise networks. BYOD has moved from a trend, to enterprise norm; it is here to stay.
- Mission critical and bandwidth-intensive applications: Whether it is administering online assessments to adhere to new Common Core Standards in schools, managing a sale, or streaming cardiac images and ultrasound files to doctors’ handhelds, more organizations are relying on their enterprise networks for high-bandwidth and mission critical transactions.
- Dense environments/venues supporting analytics, positioning: Stadiums, convention centers and shopping malls are augmenting their WLAN infrastructure to improve visitor experiences and accommodate increased traffic. In addition to better speed, coverage and capacity, public venues can use WLANs to deliver cutting-edge services—such as indoor navigation, location-based promotions, and friend finding apps.
- The Internet of Everything (IoE) increasingly includes cities, enterprises, and… everything: No longer is IoE just about the connected home. Increasingly, enterprises are becoming part of the IoE with energy (lighting and HVAC) management and asset tracking, among other things.
These trends are—to some extent—blurring the line between enterprise and carrier Wi-Fi, with higher performance standards becoming the baseline, regardless of the segment.
Many of the aforementioned organizations and venues are moving to a Wireless-as-a-Service model, using cloud managed Wi-Fi with plug-and-play capabilities to both alleviate their initial capital outlay and to streamline operating costs. With Wi-Fi networks becoming more complex, smaller IT departments are having difficulty maintaining the skillset to install and manage the WLAN infrastructure and services. They need simple, flexible Wi-Fi access points that are deployed by a managed service provider, which reinforces the trend toward cloud managed solutions.
CIOs and IT personnel are making technology recommendations and planning for upgrade cycles today that will remain relevant four to five years out. The macro market trends identified above are driving these decisions and as a result need to be addressed by players in the WLAN ecosystem (OEMs and ODMs, chipset vendors, managed service providers, etc.) Working in close collaboration with OEMs, we at Qualcomm Atheros, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, are doing our part to make it easier for enterprises, carriers, and service providers to not only partake in these trends, but also flourish with offerings that address all segments of the market. Specifically as it pertains to enterprises, Qualcomm Atheros is addressing new application bandwidth requirements that are pushing 802.11ac Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds to the forefront. Our pioneering work in MU-MIMO, which allows multiple clients to be served simultaneously (instead of one-at-a-time, as is done with existing technology), is making 802.11ac an attractive proposition for enterprises.
Delivering an ecosystem of products (from mobile handsets and tablets to other devices in the enterprises), we are ensuring that all links in the value chain are in place to benefit from the new technology. We’ve built an enterprise-level security engine in our platform that handles encryption/decryption, key exchange, 256 bit IPSec, hardware-based key authentication, MACSec and trusted computing without impacting system performance. Our WLAN solutions are Passpoint compliant, making seamless Wi-Fi roaming a reality. To support capacity crunch in dense deployment uses cases, we have built in support to handle hundreds of wireless clients simultaneously on an access point. Finally, our chipsets are designed to keep network power consumption in mind, making PoE designs a reality even with 4x4 dual-band dual-concurrent MU-MIMO designs.
As consumers, we expect to be seamlessly connected on the go—on all of our devices. MU-MIMO helps make our networks more efficient and faster. Today, enterprise and carriers are leveraging Passpoint to make connecting easier on the go. OEMs, with their cloud controller play, are equalizing who can deploy Access Points with minimal IT support.
Case in point, I am editing this blog on a handheld, between meetings in a small back street coffee shop in China. The language difference is a challenge in placing my beverage request to the barista, however we both get the need for Wi-Fi. She just smiled and said “Yes Wi-Fi.”