Enterprise in-building networks are in the early stages of a major transition away from static networks based on fixed (aka wired) connectivity and toward an all-wireless future. Pulling wire to every desktop is becoming an anachronism in many industries. This transformation promises to make networks as agile and flexible as the businesses that they support. The enabling access technologies for this transformation are Wi-Fi 6/6E along with private 5G. The latter is just starting to emerge and offers the enterprise a whole set of unique capabilities that blend seamlessly with Wi-Fi technology. This transition isn’t just about connecting an increasingly mobile workforce, but also includes mobile “things” of all types. The Internet-of-things has arrived in a very big way.
Enterprise Access Networks
- Wi-Fi deployments are in the process of making the step to Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, with the latter running in the recently opened 6 GHz band (5.925 – 7.125 GHz) in the U.S. This will radically change the nature of in-building data networks by delivering an enormous amount of wireless capacity at even greater distances. A 30,000 square foot office with 150 heavy data users can easily be supported with half a dozen Wi-Fi 6/6E AP’s and in-building interference is virtually non-existent with all the unlicensed spectrum that is now available. It starts with 85 MHz in the 2.4 GHz band, then we add 580 MHz in the 5 GHz band and top it all off with 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band.
- Private 4G and eventually 5G cellular is beginning to emerge and it will add another capability to the enterprise toolkit. This technology guarantees excellent in-building cellular service in any situation, and a few 5G radios could easily cover a 30,000 square foot office building. This technology runs in the CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) band, which utilizes a unique licensing approach that allows the spectrum to be shared with incumbent users (U.S. Navy and satellite ground stations). This band does not have the spectrum to match Wi-Fi in throughput, but it can deliver very high QOS and very low latency. The enterprise can, in theory, roam with established Mobile Network Operators, but the most likely scenario for the next few years is to operate as a totally independent network. The applications for a private 5G network include:
- Internet-of-Things (IOT) traffic with very specific QOS requirements
- Push-to-talk (yes, it’s still popular)
- Payment terminals
- Audio-visual networks in support of conference room screens, digital display panels, broadcast and conference cameras and mics, etc.
- IOT is also starting to shake up the enterprise. It is no longer just about connecting people, but there is now a big push to connect devices of all types to the network. With IOT we move into the realm of sensors, security cameras, barcode scanners, robots, equipment tracking, equipment monitoring, autonomous cars, and much more. The bandwidth and latency requirements can vary greatly depending on the application and the industry. In some cases, these applications will run on a separate SSID over the existing enterprise Wi-Fi network, and in other cases a dedicated network is required. More often than not the latter ends up being the case as these networks are often run by different groups with different problems.
IOT networks are supported by industry standard wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, 4/5G cellular, Bluetooth, and assorted proprietary implementations.For indoor applications it’s almost always Wi-Fi and for outdoor applications it is usually cellular, although the move to indoor private 5G services opens up the potential to use cellular for latency sensitive indoor IOT applications.
IOT equipment must sometimes be placed in a very specific location to provide the needed function, and it is sometimes a spot where there is no Wi-Fi service. This is more likely to be the case in industrial automation, warehousing, and large public venues, then in an office building where people can be expected to be most anywhere.
If a parallel IOT network is required, it can sometimes be enabled with the existing cabled infrastructure because structured wiring deployments almost always pull extra copper drops to every location. It is very inexpensive to provide the second drop once the techs are on site, so why not? But if there isn’t a second drop, or if the coverage is required in a different location, then it can be very expensive to pull wire. A new solution is required.
Backhauling with the V-band up @ 60 GHz
These changes in access technology are driving many enterprises to look for a more flexible backhaul approach. One that can adapt rapidly to the changing needs of the business, and that is pushing many of them to look at fixed wireless solutions operating in the V-band (up at 60 GHz). In-building wireless backhaul solutions are well suited to situations where the primary focus is to support high performance wireless access networks. This technology:
- Has the throughput to backhaul of Wi-Fi 6/6E access points that can operate well into the gigabit/sec range.Something that can’t be done with legacy CAT 5/5E cabling.
- Has the QOS capabilities to prioritize backhaul for private 5G cellular services whose primary selling point is Quality of Service. V-band networks can be equipped to pass timing and synchronization for proper 5G network functionality.
- Has the flexibility to support the installation of a separate Wi-Fi or private 5G network to support unique IOT applications in challenging locations not easily reached with fiber/copper
- Can support rapid network upgrades (hours or days)
- Perfect solution for dealing with old CAT5 deployments in the modern age. Wire is no longer pulled to every desktop, so why bother to upgrade that part of the network. What is required is a flexible way to backhaul high-performance access networks that can support a large building with only a handful of radios.
- Effortless moves, adds, and changes
- Can be done in a very cost-effective manner
The combination of wireless access networks being supported by a wireless backhaul network is the basis of the all-wireless enterprise. An architecture that easily supports a variety of different access solutions in a cost-effective manner and with the flexibility to easily adapt to changing business conditions. Forward looking enterprises are already charting a course to a totally wireless future.
More information on the all-wireless enterprise can be found at www.airvine.com.