The role of wireless infrastructure in the enterprise has been steadily expanding since the introduction of Wi-Fi – so for about two decades, but progress has been slow with the exception of some Asian countries.
Recently the enterprise has become a hotter topic, because of a confluence of drivers that increase both the value of wireless to the enterprise and the ability of wireless solutions to meet the enterprise requirements. Surveys repeatedly show that enterprises across the board – different sizes, verticals, markets, requirements – share complaints about bad coverage, insufficient capacity, expensive equipment, and lack of support for the services necessary to address high expectations and needs from within their organizations.
The most foundational driver is the increase in connectivity needs, as wireless has become the default access medium, replacing wireline connectivity. In office buildings these days, it is difficult to find an Ethernet outlet, and some new laptops ship without an Ethernet port.
IoT drives the requirements for connectivity further. Enterprise networks have to support new services and applications, and keep connected to a denser, more diverse set of devices with wildly different performance requirements.
The network evolution both benefits from and supports a more active role for the enterprise. Venue ownership becomes more valuable with densification, and operators need the support of venue owners to densify their networks.
New technology spawned by LTE Advanced, Gigabit LTE, and 5G, along with spectrum sharing initiatives such as CBRS, creates an environment in which both enterprises and service providers can control the infrastructure they need and can integrate different networks with ample flexibility.
Finally, new business models are essential to enable the enterprise to provide access to their premises to multiple operators and to deploy private networks that they own and control, or to avail themselves of cloud-based services on a XaaS framework.
The report looks at these factors driving the transformation of the role of wireless in the enterprise – keeping in mind that the transformation goes beyond the enterprise. Indeed, it will require significant support from service providers eager to offer a better experience to their subscribers and reduce costs.
- The enterprise wireless connectivity needs are expanding beyond connectivity for employees and guest, with the growth of IoT and the deeper penetration of wireless in the enterprise processes.
- Wireless connectivity in the enterprise is becoming access-agnostic with multiple technologies integrated, multiple coexisting service models.
- Serving the venue-specific needs of the enterprise has become a top priority for mobile operators.
- The enterprise is becoming more active in owning, controlling and managing the wireless infrastructure to ensure it meets its requirements. This is especially true in the middleprise, which is the biggest but also harder to serve market segment for mobile operators.
- Private networks have emerged as a driver for a wider role of the enterprise in mobile networks. CBRS will be a crucial testing ground for private networks and the new business models they enable.
- The evolution of wireless in the enterprise does not stop within the enterprise: it will contribute to change the way we think of and use spectrum rights and the impact of venue ownership in the deployment and operation of mobile networks.
- As we move from atomic to pervasive networks, the enterprise will benefit from the increased role of venue ownership, the wider choice of RAN topologies, and the technological advances that will culminate in 5G.