Enterprise Wi-Fi is more critical than ever
In October 2012 Ovum attended MobileCon (the former CTIA Enterprise conference) and received briefings from a number of US wireless operators, device manufacturers, and mobile management vendors. These suppliers noted the increasing demand for and use of enterprise Wi-Fi and stressed the importance of their being able to design, build, and manage enterprise Wi-Fi services, and integrate them into other networks (mobile, LAN, wireline) within the enterprise.
The need for Wi-Fi goes beyond just a single application, location, or group of users within the enterprise. Wi-Fi is being rolled out as more than just a form of mobile network diversity or off-load, or as a backhaul tactic for wireless operators. With the increasing adoption of wireless LAN within the enterprise, it is now one of the primary network options for the large enterprise campus environment. Wi-Fi has work for all the employees, vendors, contractors, consultants, and guests of the enterprise with the same level of reliability as wireline services. Service providers and device manufacturers need to integrate Wi-Fi into their network service offers, along with the tools to provide secure access, monitor, and manage it. This will include the additional support required for the forthcoming Wi-Fi version (802.11ac).
The enterprise network requirement now includes Wi-Fi
The enterprise CIO now has to recognize Wi-Fi as a critical element of the ICT services portfolio. Demand for such services is increasing year-on-year, and the widespread use of smartphones and tablets means this demand now extends beyond just a few users, sites, or employees. This trend is pushing the limits of most existing Wi-Fi networks within the enterprise, and end users increasingly expect better coverage, more bandwidth, and additional service support. Enterprise network planning therefore needs to include Wi-Fi coverage, management, and monitoring, with the required security, user authentication, and application/data access policies in place. In addition, Wi-Fi services will have to be reviewed and assessed on a regular basis, along with other enterprise network and IT services.
Enterprise Wi-Fi services are a combination of private, public, and hybrid
Enterprise Wi-Fi network services have to include both private and public networks for permanent and temporary employees, as well as guest access, and customers have started to create multiple Wi-Fi networks on corporate locations to handle the mix of end users. This puts additional demand on the expansion, monitoring, and management of these networks, but there are many valid reasons for maintaining multiple Wi-Fi networks. These may only be logical networks (rather than physical), but they do increase complexity and the need for planning. The enterprise CIO also has to plan for roaming Wi-Fi (off-net) and the integration of Wi-Fi into the mobile program and policy. The increasing use of smartphones and tablets, combined with the increasing costs of data services from mobile operators, requires close analysis and planning so that CIOs can provide the least-cost options; Ovum believes enterprise Wi-Fi planning should include public Wi-Fi services.
Service providers need to integrate Wi-Fi into enterprise solutions
Service providers that offer network solutions to the enterprise now have to make sure their management and service portfolios include Wi-Fi as part of their WAN/network managed services, not just as an addition to their managed mobility services. This applies to any service provider, including traditional telcos, MSOs, wireless operators, managed service providers, and competitive network providers. While more and more service providers are adding Wi-Fi services for enterprise customers to their portfolios, such services should be part of an integrated managed network approach, and not just an independent add-on.
Mike Sapien, Principal Analyst, Enterprise Practice
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