Thoughts: Making plans for efficient WLANs


By Steve Johnson, regional director, northern Europe, Ruckus Wireless

The global market for small business Wi-Fi will double from £447 million in 2013 to £894 million by 2018, according to Dell’Oro Group. This demand is driven by the fact that it has become an integral solution for small businesses whose employees and customers rely on always being connected.  This brings about high demands for Wi-Fi capacity, consistency and coverage and the requisite for high performance Wi-Fi.

The small business market sector is coming to the realisation that traditional, consumer-grade Wi-Fi technology can no longer meet today’s technical and operational needs. Businesses are seeking out solutions that offer the functionality of high class wireless LANs (WLANs), but are also affordable, easy to use, deploy, and manage.

Consumer grade not meeting the mark

Consumer grade Wi-Fi access points (APs), deployed by the majority of small businesses, use inefficient antennas to provide coverage across a specific circular area. Because Wi-Fi transmissions are absorbed and reflected by walls and other obstacles, those circles shrink from 300 feet wide in an open space, to 50 feet inside a typical office. Therefore, covering a larger office requires multiple APs, but the outcome is often spotty coverage. At the end of each circle, weak signal delivers unreliable low-rate connections.

To eliminate dead spots, some organisations try deploying multiple APs more densely, however, this can cause disruptive co-channel interference between adjacent APs (and neighbouring businesses). In the end, total capacity does not improve. Interference problems increase, user experience degrades and administrators struggle to manage the numerous APs, each operating autonomously.

These pitfalls demonstrate that consumer grade Wi-Fi solutions lack the fundamental features and functionality necessary to adequately meet the growing urgency and demand from these small businesses for high quality wireless connectivity.

An alternative has been to invest in expensive enterprise class WLAN systems. While feature-rich, these solutions are simply overkill for the typical small business. They are far too expensive and technically daunting for most businesses that do not have any dedicated IT staff with the know-how to deploy, maintain and service these sophisticated systems.

A business class of its own

When it comes to the ‘must have’ Wi-Fi features that many businesses are looking for, the list is actually relatively short: Is the Wi-Fi reliable and delivering good performance? Is the Wi-Fi simple to set up and manage? Is the upfront capital cost and ongoing operational cost of the Wi-Fi deployment one the organisation can actually afford?

There are Wi-Fi solutions available that are affordable, easy to use, and still robust and scalable enough to enable coverage, capacity, and service expansion for small businesses. When looking for a modern WLAN platform, it is important that businesses consider neither the cheapest nor necessarily the most expensive and complex products, but look for solutions based on their ability to deliver great performance with simplicity. Implementing such platforms will enable businesses to reliably connect their mobile workforce, whilst suiting the needs of the business by keeping costs down and IT resources to a minimal.

Ruckus Wireless is a global supplier of advanced wireless systems for the rapidly expanding mobile internet infrastructure market.


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