By Doug Lodder
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has taken the enterprise by storm. Smartphones, tablets, wearables, and laptops are now at the ready for most employees, creating a seismic shift in workplace design and operations. Today the BYOD market already accounts for $35 billion, but in the years ahead, it will more than double.
The driving forces behind BYOD include increased productivity and employee satisfaction, reduced hardware cost for employers, and the demand for enterprise mobility. Reaping the benefits of simplified operations and lower costs, many employers encourage BYOD and have rolled out new policies and security compliance requirements to safely support an ever-growing number of devices and apps. But corporate policies and IT security procedures are only one part of the BYOD equation.
Versatile and reliable wireless networks are at the heart of BYOD strategies. Without robust wireless solutions, your facility is not ready to efficiently handle BYOD. Facility operators and IT professionals must also look beyond Wi-Fi alone to secure all the benefits BYOD can offer.
With 85% of businesses forecasted to support BYOD by 2020, here’s what you need in the wireless network toolbox to successfully power enterprise mobility.
Mobile data traffic is expected to grow seven-fold by 2021, requiring traditional Wi-Fi networks to be upgraded with new technologies that can supply more bandwidth and faster speeds. Plan ahead for upgrades by having a building infrastructure that is flexible to your wireless needs. Risers or riser cable, as well as pathways, must be installed properly to effectively manage workplace mobility. A fiber plant should also be present in the building.
When upgrading a Wi-Fi network, incorporate the following features: security encryption, actionable insights, and device flexibility across smartphones, tablets, wearables and laptops. For optimal coverage, install Access Points (APs) throughout the building and break areas, especially for facilities that feature flexible workspaces.
Be aware that Wi-Fi for voice calling is gaining popularity in the enterprise as more companies adapt to open office design concepts. In turn, the demand on the wireless network increases significantly. Address the trend by specifying Wi-Fi that supports a combination of speed, density, and coverage.
Take network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) into consideration as well. NFV relies on cloud-based technology and eliminates the need to install new hardware for new services. The technology enables network equipment (servers, switches, routers, etc.) to run as virtual software applications. SDN complements NFV by centralizing command and control of a wireless network without having to physically reconfigure or program individual devices.
Virtualization is ideal for a BYOD workforce as it delivers the agility, flexibility, scalability, and data visibility that the enterprise needs to keep pace with changing network and employee demands. Upgrades, new services, and modifications can be done quickly, as all changes are accomplished via software.
Distributed Antenna Systems
Distributed antenna systems (DAS) can be a go-to for boosting cellular coverage within an enterprise that supports BYOD. While Wi-Fi is critical to business success, cellular or LTE connectivity is equally important. DAS solutions solve a building’s capacity and coverage issues by deploying hundreds of small antennae throughout the facility and integrating those into a cohesive cellular network. These individual antennae can be turned up or down, adjusting to provide additional capacity when it’s needed most — such as the height of the workday. A well-designed DAS setup can also limit interference, ensuring that all sectors of a building have equal access to cellular connectivity.
DAS can be universal in a range of indoor buildings, whether new construction, aging historic buildings, or modern architectural structures. The design of the network is crucial to overcoming structural obstacles — for example cement columns — and transporting mobile signals at full strength. Leading DAS providers have decades of technical and operational expertise to strategically design and place antennae where the equipment is best suited.
The right partners also have partnerships with all Tier 1 wireless carriers for maximum carrier participation. This is important as facilities never want to underdeliver on providing connectivity because an employee’s cell provider is not supported.
Small cells are a newer technology with similar benefits to that of a DAS. And, in many cases, the solution can be deployed with a lower cost of operation. Facility managers should turn to small cells to improve cellular experiences, especially in office areas that are congested or difficult for cell towers to send signals. A simple way to determine where cell coverage is needed most is to walk around the campus with smartphones from each carrier and watch how the signals perform. Then turn to radio frequency (RF) experts to conduct official testing and provide a detailed design of areas that do, in fact, require a signal boost.
The BYOD Toolbox
When sorting through the wireless toolbox to support BYOD, opt for both Wi-Fi and cellular (DAS, small cells). Wi-Fi and cellular working in tandem is what we call network convergence, which provides more throughput, reduced latency, better coverage, and lower costs. Network convergence is a win-win as the wireless platform lays the necessary foundation for facility management professionals to answer the demand for more mobile data and wireless connectivity. Looking ahead, we’ll also see new frequencies come into the wireless mix. MulteFire and the CBRS band are examples of new technologies that can impact coverage and capacity within the enterprise.
BYOD is booming — don’t let it be a burden. Facility management can stay ahead of the trend by adopting robust wireless networks to streamline operations for a more collaborative and productive workforce.
Lodder is senior vice president of business development for the Boingo Wireless DAS, offload and wholesale businesses. He oversees the strategy and development of Wi-Fi, DAS, and small cell networks for the company’s new and existing venue partnerships as well as the monetization of those networks through partnerships with wireless carriers (DAS, offload) and wholesale partners (American Express, Mastercard).