Elements of the All-Wireless Enterprise

Transitioning to All-Wireless Networks

Enterprise in-building networks are transitioning from static, wired connectivity to an all-wireless future. Consequently, pulling wire to every desktop is now outdated in many industries. As a result, this transformation will make networks as agile and flexible as the businesses they support. Furthermore, Wi-Fi 6/6E and private 5G enable this shift to all-wireless enterprise networks. Additionally, emerging private 5G brings unique capabilities that blend seamlessly with Wi-Fi technology. Therefore, this transition connects not only a mobile workforce but also mobile ‘things’ of all types. The Internet of Things has arrived in a very big way.

Enterprise Access Networks

Wi-Fi 6 and 6E Deployment

Wi-Fi deployments are stepping up to Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, with the latter operating in the new 6 GHz band (5.925 – 7.125 GHz) in the U.S. This change will radically alter in-building data networks by providing massive wireless capacity over greater distances. A 30,000-square-foot office with 150 heavy data users can easily rely on just six Wi-Fi 6/6E APs. In-building interference is virtually non-existent, thanks to the vast unlicensed spectrum now available. The spectrum starts at 85 MHz in the 2.4 GHz band, adds 580 MHz in the 5 GHz band, and tops off with 1200 MHz in the 6 GHz band.

The Rise of Private Cellular Networks

Private 4G and eventually 5G cellular technologies are emerging and adding new capabilities to the enterprise toolkit. These technologies guarantee excellent in-building cellular service under any conditions. A few 5G radios can easily cover a 30,000-square-foot office building. They operate in the CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) band, which uses a unique licensing model. This model allows sharing the spectrum with incumbent users like the U.S. Navy and satellite ground stations. Although this band cannot match Wi-Fi’s throughput, it offers very high QOS and very low latency. Enterprises might theoretically roam with established Mobile Network Operators. However, they are more likely to operate as independent networks for the next few years. 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 Integration in Enterprises

IoT is starting to revolutionize enterprises. It’s no longer just about connecting people; there’s a major push to link all types of devices to the network. Specifically, IoT introduces sensors, security cameras, barcode scanners, robots, equipment trackers, monitors, autonomous cars, and much more. Consequently, bandwidth and latency needs greatly vary by application and industry. Occasionally, these applications run on a separate SSID within the existing enterprise Wi-Fi network. Alternatively, they require a dedicated network. More often than not, the latter is necessary as different groups manage these networks, each facing unique challenges.

IoT networks rely on industry-standard wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, 4/5G cellular, Bluetooth, and various proprietary implementations. Wi-Fi almost always supports indoor applications, while cellular usually covers outdoor applications. However, the advent of indoor private 5G services expands the potential to use cellular for latency-sensitive indoor IoT applications.

IoT equipment often requires placement in specific locations to function properly, sometimes where Wi-Fi service is unavailable. This scenario is more common in industrial automation, warehousing, and large public venues than in office buildings, where Wi-Fi is nearly ubiquitous.

Sometimes, an existing cabled infrastructure can enable a parallel IoT network. Structured wiring deployments typically include extra copper drops at every location. Adding a second drop is inexpensive when technicians are already on site. However, if a second drop is missing or if coverage is needed elsewhere, pulling wire becomes costly. In such cases, a new solution is necessary.

Backhauling with the V-band up @ 60 GHz

These changes in access technology are prompting many enterprises to seek a more flexible backhaul approach. They need one that can quickly adapt to business needs. This demand is driving them towards fixed wireless solutions in the V-band (up at 60 GHz). In-building wireless backhaul solutions excel in environments focused on supporting high-performance wireless access networks. This technology:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Can support rapid network upgrades (hours or days).
  5. Perfect solution for dealing with old CAT5 deployments in the modern age. The 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.
  6. Effortless moves, adds, and changes.
  7. This can be done in a very cost-effective manner.

Wireless access networks supported by a wireless backhaul network form the foundation of the all-wireless enterprise. This architecture supports various access solutions cost-effectively and adapts flexibly to changing business conditions. Forward-looking enterprises are already moving towards a wireless future.

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