In business environments, the initial wave of WiFi deployments has been a complement to a fixed LAN. Enterprise WiFi used to be associated with extensive network planning and advanced services, but has gradually transitioned into a best-effort game where capacity is increased by adding new nodes rather than by network design and optimization. These principles have also been applied for the first wave of Femto cells as a fixed line extension.
As employees become increasingly mobile, the question has arisen how long the Fixed LAN will remain the primary infrastructure? The cost of technology is decreasing, and feeding 100 small cells with 3G/4G/WiFi, floor space of equipment rooms can be reduced just as power, cooling, and wiring, compared to an Ethernet port at every desk plus WiFi. We are getting closer to the point where the mobile/wireless network can become the primary business-premises network.
A WiFi or small-cell network intended to be the primary infrastructure will need to fulfill tougher performance requirements. These requirements are above what made WiFi access points and Femto cells popular as a secondary access technology, and they will determine whether businesses will prefer to deploy mobile/wireless as the primary or secondary infrastructure. Hence, they will determine businesses’ future demands on their IT and network partners.
For new business premises it seems obvious to build for small cells from day one. This includes designing premises’ networks for fiber, and for power to be terminated at the optimal small-cell location. These locations should be close to the ceiling rather than the floor to ensure effective wireless coverage, which actually is contradictory to the current norm for power, phone and Ethernet outlets. LAN closets might be kept for an interim period of time, but they should be designed to enable easy conversion of the floor space into working floor space. And finally, if leasing power and cooling solutions the constructor had better secure a short-term leasing contract.
My predictions for the future of mobile/wireless networks for professional use are: * The rapid adoption of mobile devices and even more mobile ways of working are driving the need for mobile/wireless to become the primary access method. * Fiber distribution within a building to small cells supporting WiFi/3G/4G becomes the norm for network infrastructure across all knowledge worker segments. * The extensive availability of legacy CAT3 (phone) and CAT5 (Ethernet wires) can be used as stop-gap solutions, provided termination points are located to minimize need for new/extra wiring