The cost savings and reduced complexity from enterprises moving to an all-wireless communications network is a seductive one. However, worries still exist among many enterprise IT managers that Wi-Fi is not up to snuff. Indeed, there are still concerns about scalability, quality, and security issues.
A recent TechZine article by Subramania Vasudevan, Director, Advanced Performance in WCTO, Alcatel-Lucent, All-wireless enterprise with LTE and Wi-Fi, notes that enterprise IT managers have a particular lack of confidence in the quality of the wireless link provided by an all Wi-Fi infrastructure.
“There’s the limited ability of the Wi-Fi network to scale with increasing data rate needs,” Vasudevan noted. “In fact, we’ve seen aggregate capacities barely increase — even as Wi-Fi networks densify.”
LTE small cells can help. Small cells help provide in-building LTE on a cost-effective, as-needed basis.
Many mobile operators are considering unlicensed spectrum to bring greater bandwidth into the enterprise, he added. This can help meet the scalability demands. In fact, operators are looking to aggregate LTE in licensed bands along with LTE in the 5GHz unlicensed bands, which are known together as Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) or LTE unlicensed (LTE-U).
The limitations of Wi-Fi often come from the sharing mechanism between the uplink and the downlink. By using an LTE-based system, enterprises can resolve the problem of contentious uplink by means of scheduled access. This frees up the enterprise’s existing Wi-Fi for downlink, according to Vasudevan.
“By offloading the Wi-Fi uplink to cellular, LTE small cells improve enterprise services,” he wrote. “In addition, in-building enterprise traffic, such as Lync application data, can be shunted across the enterprise LAN (i.e., local breakout is enabled).”
At the same time, the combination relies on pre-existing Wi-Fi APs and user equipment, so the sum total is that the LTE downlink capacity can be aggregated with the Wi-Fi APs downlink capacity. This can lead to users everywhere seeing higher throughput in more locations because they benefit from LTE Wi-Fi aggregation and LTE-only for uplink.
The all-wireless enterprise network might be closer than many enterprise IT managers realize. This is a good thing since so many of us use our smartphones as our primary communications device and a significant number of interactions on those devices originate or terminate in-building where coverage and quality of service are a challenge.