Wi-Fi has been one of the technologies that has increased most in the last years, especially due to the large spread of mobile devices. From laptop PC’s to tablets or smart phones, wi-fi is being used by companies internally to improve their work processes, but also many companies (especially service companies) offer their clients Wi-Fi, as an added value service. Indeed keeping clients connected to the Internet efficiently, is a huge added value, which keeps client satisfaction extremely high, because who doesn’t need to be constantly connected? Whether it’s for personal reasons (access to social media, messages or phone calls via Internet) or for professional issues (emails, access to company networks, etc.). The answer is that an extremely large percentage of the population need constant connectivity.
Hotels are probably one of the most mature markets who offer their clients Wi-Fi and we can’t really imagine staying at a Hotel without Wi-Fi connectivity. I believe that most of us would not stay at a Hotel without Wi-Fi. Indeed, so much so that to date, most of us expect this service to be included in our stay at a Hotel without any extra charge! Even small rural hotels have Wi-Fi for their clients now.
Nowdays, which type of companies offer wifi-conectivity?
So who apart from Hotels, offer Wi-Fi connectivity now? Without thinking too hard…resorts, casinos, hired apartment, timeshares, airports, convention centers, coffee shops, restaurants, museums, palaces and shopping malls would offer Wi-Fi services. The latter (museums, palaces, shopping malls, etc.) are slightly different, in that yes, they do offer connectivity as a service to their clients, but they can also offer clients information on the site that they are visiting for example, to increase the service offering. However, these type of organizations can also use Wi-Fi in another way. That is, to track the movement of their visitors, to obtain data on most visited spots, areas of most interest, etc. However, this would be a totally different concept to what is being analyzed in this post.
Moving on, there is a new concept in Wi-Fi connection being offered more and more, which is quite different to what we have talked about so far, but has the same goal. The concept is Wi-Fi for travellers on buses, trains and other forms of transport. It is becoming more and more frequent, because it improves the client satisfaction of travelling. Similar from the client perspective, allowing always on connectivity, but a hugely different concept for the company that has to offer the service, as far as the set up and maintenance is concerned. Wi-Fi on a moving vehicle, with all related issues to capturing and maintaining signals whilst in movement, is not a minor task at all!
An unstoppable process
Indeed, all the markets segments that we have mentioned have different type of clients. A casino client would be entirely different to a commuter on a train or a museum visitor would differ from someone having a meal in a restaurant. However, in the end these clients all need to have Wi-Fi connectivity to access the network and for that connection to be of a high quality.
As was mentioned at the beginning, Hotels is probably the most mature market as far as Wi-Fi as a service to clients is concerned and that other markets may not be as developed in Wi-Fi, but this is moving at a very fast rate. How long will it be until we will have the same situation with transport, where there will be many more means of transport with Wi-Fi than without? When will we have a situation where we decide not to go to a certain shopping mall, because they do not offer free Wi-Fi connectivity? What is clear, is that it will not be very long at all.
Within Teldat we are totally aware of this fact and that’s why our company is investing heavily in this area to offer all these market segments the best Wi-Fi solutions. From specific devices for Wi-Fi connectivity to our router devices that include a built in Wi-Fi option, to Wi-Fi on trains or other types of vehicles
Perhaps this question has to be clarified somewhat.
Indeed, slower and more mature cellular lines 2G and 3G lines are already main line connections in certain scenarios, especially in those segments which are not so dependent on large bandwidth, but at the same time are extremely dependent on mobility. A typical example is that of remote cash point machines deployed across the world in all sorts locations (shopping malls, airports, sports centers, etc.). Many banks came to conclusion some time ago that the difficulty of connecting these machines to a wired connection, made cellular connectivity much more viable.
In which cases can 4g and LTE be a good alternative to fixed line connection?
However, the real question that needs an answering today is; can 4G/LTE become an alternative to WAN (Wide Area Network) fixed line connection? Starting from the bottom upwards, we could say, yes it can be that alternative, because there are many vertical markets that require broadband on the one hand and cellular connectivity on the other.
Retail is a market which is definitely changing and could benefit from 4G/LTE. Haven’t we walked into department stores which frequently seem to be changing their sales items’ layout on the shop floor? Such mobility makes the use of wired connection difficult and if they use applications such as digital signage among others, which are becoming increasing popular, a large wireless broadband is necessary for correct functionality.
Also within the retail sector, pop up shops and kiosk are prime candidates to have 4G/LTE as their main line connectivity. They always need fast and temporary deployment accompanied with the increasing requirement to connect to the central sites for reasonably large amount of data flows.
Public transport can hugely benefit from 4G/LTE main line connection. Many cities are installing security cameras onboard buses, trains and similar forms of transport. These images cannot only be stored on the vehicles, but with 4G/LTE live connections can be established with the city control rooms, increasing employee and traveller security. Moreover, once 4G/LTE is installed on public transport, many authorities use the opportunity of having cellular broadband onboard to offers its clients Internet connection and hence increase customer satisfaction and loyalty to public transport. Hence, staying away from private transport which most cities want to reduce.
Healthcare is another important cliente of 4G/LTE main line connectivity for its emergency vehicles (ambulances, etc.). Not only to track the vehicles, as in the transport sector, but also to have its medical equipment onboard connected to the Hospital with the specialists. So in extreme cases lives can even be saved, when critical patients haven’t the time to arrive at the Hospitals. On a more routine scenario, rural areas can clearly have their doctors’ consultancies or even individual patients, connected to their specialists who are located in the more urban parts of their country.
Although these vertical markets are of interest, and very much so, there is a common business set up, across most of the world today that can use 4G/LTE as main line connectivity. That is, the branch office scenario in its different shapes, types and sizes.
The role of 4G/LTE on a global scenario
It is true that in highly wired cities there would be a good debate as to whether 4G/LTE would be a better option for branches located in these areas. However, as soon as we move away to smaller towns and especially the more rural areas, then the 4G/LTE alternative would be quite convincing, basically because if available, the bandwidth would be wider on 4G/LTE in these areas, than what a wired connection can probably offer.
Moreover, we must bear in mind that what can be classified today as a “branch office” spread across a nation’s geographical terrain, may be many more establishments than the traditional local bank branch or post office. Companies are developing mini-branch sales offices with perhaps only one or two employees, but they need them to be connected and able to work on all the type company applications. These applications require a broadband with significant width. For this scenario, 4G/LTE would fit perfectly.
From a different perspective, there are many traditional establishments which before would not be classified within the branch office / head office connected scenario, but now do fall into this category. For example, many public sector establishments, such as schools, doctors’ consultancies, etc. are now becoming more and more connected to their “head office”. All of these “new branch office scenarios” need to be connected to their central site or simply to the cloud, from where they require to establish data flows in both directions.
Routers, VPN and Security
However, independently of fixed line or 4G/LTE connection, we do have to remain cautious in all scenarios as always, else the standards that we are accustomed to will not be maintained. Hence, whether the connection is being made from a larger city branch office on wired connection or from a much smaller rural office on 4G/LTE, we need the VPN to be as secure as always. The same router types and operating systems should be used for fixed line or 4G/LTE connections, else the economies of scale achieved within the ICT department will be lost and the data being routed around the countries and the world would viable to hackers, etc..
Teldat not only has years of experience in manufacturing cellular routers from the beginning of 2G technology through the entire 3G development, but already has excellent devices with proved and successful deployments of cellular 4G/LTE scenarios in different parts of the world. Do not hesitate to contact us and we will help you solving all your doubts!
One can safely say that currently businesses of any kind require WAN resilience, as part of their network set up, because independently of a company’s size (SME’s or Corporations) or business environment, WAN outages hit hard. There is no doubt in that. Some years ago only large corporations would have a resilience programme, in order to protect their mission critical data and were classified as disaster recovery networks, because of the scenario and what they had to protect. Obviously these networks were extremely expensive.
Since then, the business environment has developed very quickly. Now, even for a small or medium company, not being able to secure the communication line can be classified as a disaster. Being connected 24 hours, 7 days a week is a must, as the flow of data between companies, whether internally between different branch offices or externally with their clients and their suppliers is essential. Moreover, as is widely known, a current cut in the data communication will also mean a company being left without telephony with the increasing amount of ToIP (telephony over IP).
So a part from the direct results of what a WAN outage brings, what are the consequences for a company of being left without data and voice connectivity? Obviously, the current business which should take place will be directly lost. New business opportunities would be lost as potential clients cannot contact you or vice versa, you cannot contact them. Competitive advantages are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, but a period of time without connection and they disappear with lower customer satisfaction. This will consequently turn into employee dissatisfaction and during the WAN outage itself, obviously employee frustration will prevail.
With all the above in mind, it is clear that any risk of WAN outage has to be eliminated. Over the last few years, the market has developed many forms and formats of WAN failover or backup, but it must be said that not all can be classified as being as effective and efficient.
ISDN was initially the most common form of establishing a communication failover, however this is decreasing rapidly. Then xDSL lines started being used for failover, whether as a backup for larger main line connections such as Metro Ethernet or in other scenarios, xDSL lines were duplicated to have resilience. Although landlines are very stable, they can bring certain problems if used as a resilience line. Firstly, if the main line and resilience line belong to the same carrier, failover has a high probability of not working. Secondly, even if the failover line is from a different carrier, but the outage is produced in the last mile of the network, the failover will not work. Thirdly, carrier pricing for resilience landline connections and services tend to be more expensive than other forms. Moreover, if the office or company site needs additional wiring for the landline resilience service, again this increases the cost.
So a cellular backup and failover line can reduce or even eliminate the disadvantages that landlines have. However, can a cellular line offer all the requirements that a company data resilience network requires? Perhaps some years back, it would have been difficult to say, but in 2014 we can safely say that a cellular line can perfectly act as a resilience network for a main landline network for two reasons. One, cellular lines are increasingly being used to transmit data. Some companies even use them as main lines. Two, 3G, 4G / LTE can now give the bandwidth that most resilience networks require and latency is no longer an issue either.
However, how does a cellular line eliminate the disadvantages that a resilience landline has? Perhaps the most important point is that a cellular 3G or 4G / LTE line is a totally independent network! It is not related in any manner to the fixed main line carrier cabling. Secondly, the cost of a 3G or 4G / LTE connection is much less than a landline. Thirdly, within the company office or site, cellular resilience network is fast and easy to deploy, primarily because no additional cabling is required.
However, there is one issue that must be looked into very carefully when deploying cellular as a resilience network. What type of equipment should be used to enable the 3G or 4G / LTE failover network to be set up? Initially, if the company has a modular router for the main line, a cellular daughter board can be placed into this router as failover. Yet, does this router have a slot available and if it does, is the router positioned in a spot with good 3G or 4G / LTE coverage? If the company can comply to theses issue, then this option is a good and safe option.
Nonetheless, in most scenarios this is not so. Here the company would have to look into adding a specific cellular device to establish the connection of the 3G or 4G / LTE resilience network. One should also bear in mind, that not any cellular device will do! Companies have to make sure that the 3G or 4G / LTE device installed is capable of carrying out all the routing functions that the main fixed line router currently carries out. This is of utmost importance; otherwise a full failover network will not be set up.
These type of devices do exist on the market, although perhaps not as many as are currently available for fixed line connectivity.
Teldat does have different options to offer full cellular network resilience; compact cellular routers or a totally unique device, Teldat-4Ge which connects to the cellular network directly with the main fixed line router.
In all, it can be said that resilience is of vital importance for any type of business and economically viable independent of company size.