If you're looking for the most reliable network possible, there is nothing that beats old-fashioned, wireline networks that wind their way through your premises on Ethernet. Most of us know this, and can also recall a time when "gold standard" reliability was the order of the day no matter what your network need was.
But with the widespread implementation of more wireless networks in enterprises, network administrators and architects now tune in more fully to business needs and how best to address them. When they do this, they see that wireless networks, despite the fact that they usually can't deliver the quality of service (QoS) of standard Ethernet networks, are able to deliver better service than tethered networks in several important application areas.
Just where does 4G excel?
4G offers resilience because it is an alternate network topology with the ability to survive a natural disaster when a wireline network can't. An excellent example was when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. The widespread devastation cut off many enterprises' wireline communications. In some cases, the communications failures significantly impaired or even terminated their businesses. However, coexisting with these enterprises in the same geo zone, other enterprises stayed up and running. They did this because they were able to failover to wireless ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and networks when their hard-wired networks failed. Today, it is common to have a variety of ISPs and network topologies in place so that if one breaks down, the other accepts the load.
4G support on all major wireless networks facilitates great customer experiences for businesses in sports, entertainment, trade shows and other venues where patrons want to tweet and share photos during events — and expect smartphone service. Today, if you can't provide convenience and accessibility to these customers, you risk losing market share.
If your network need is temporary, 4G is a great solution. 4G eliminates the need for you to commit staff hours to pulling Ethernet through your building (or installing it at a site) for a temporary event or a service kiosk. You'll find that you can set up a 4G wireless network in a fraction of the time and cost that you would need for ethernet. Better yet, as your deployment needs change (based on company events, demographics changes, etc.), it is also easy to alter your network and remain agile and responsive with 4G. A great example is the use of 4G communications at one-day race track events. The wireless communications ring around the track collects Internet of Things (IoT) information from cars in the race and transmits it to engineering teams that could be halfway around the world.
If your business communications outside of your main campus demand continuous mobile and wireless service, 4G in the right situation can provide better performance and cost results than older cable- or satellite-based technologies like DSL. Where companies see a cost benefit is in the ability to more effectively bundle their 4G service with the rest of their corporate communications, receiving a price break.
Areas that need more attention
All of these scenarios are at work in enterprises today — but there are still areas where IT can improve performance to get the most out of its network investments:Map out your IT network infrastructure for the long term.
Define the roles that 4G and wireline networks are going to play, and determine how they will integrate with each other. Agility is great, but all too often IT departments install 4G as a "knee jerk" response to an isolated business need that wireline networks can't meet-without developing a plan with "best use" cases for each.Don't underestimate your 4G timeframes!
4G might be agile as a technology, but it is anything but that when it comes to implementation schedules. You should plan to give your carrier at least six months to install your network, because installation timeframes can run that long.If you're going to 4G wireless, do not forget to plan for it in your data center load balancing and disaster recovery/failover strategies.
If you aren't actively working both your wireless and wireline networks together for service delivery, you won't be able to optimize your investments in either.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.