While IT and networking managers spend many hours devising the best way to provision Wi-Fi and broadband infrastructure for their offices, many neglect to consider how truly ‘connected’ their facilities are when it comes to cellular coverage – despite being seen as a basic utility for both employees and visitors to their site.
Remote and mobile working has become so prevalent across a wide range of industries, clients and customers frequently use their contacts’ mobile telephone numbers to communicate with them as a first port of call. However, this effort to ensure the constant availability of staff by providing or enabling mobile communications is completely wasted if the office cellular signal is so poor calls received while onsite are missed.
Technology analyst firm ABI Research predicts that 26% of the workforce will be mobile by 2019 and, as a result, reliant on robust and widespread connectivity. This usage is not just focused on the use of smartphones and tablets for communications services, it also encompasses enterprise cloud and hybrid cloud and its associated rich range of applications. Business-critical information needs to be accessible at any given time, so there’s a real need for low-latency, highly resilient coverage, both outside and inside of the office.
Thinking outside of the router box
Most employers will ensure internet provision remains the domain of Wi-Fi, as employee handsets can be easily logged into infrastructure already used for the general IT networking system. However, this infrastructure should only be available to those with the relevant security credentials.
If a site has a great number of visitors, it may be logistically difficult or a security risk to provide every guest access to the central Wi-Fi network or password. Consumer-facing organisations face the additional problem of many new, unsecured devices accessing the network on a daily basis. Often these customers will be unaware of the credentials needed to access the Wi-Fi and as a result be reliant on data services provided by the mobile network being available inside the site.
Design with wireless in mind
Within a range of office spaces cellular provision cannot be provided by traditional mobile masts. A variety of construction materials struggle to allow high-bandwidth cellular coverage into the building, from RF-blocking stone through to modern glass offices that reflect signals.
Traditionally, improving the provision of wireless signals inside of buildings has been the domain of the mobile network operators who have supplied anything from signal amplification Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) to femtocell equipment for smaller sites. However, given the increased reliance on mobile data and the growth of flexible working practices, office managers are now beginning to take cellular provision into their own hands, installing dynamic versions of DAS that can be configured to be shared by neighbouring facilities alongside other communications infrastructure such as Wi-Fi.
For maximum efficiency when provisioning an office or leisure facility, cellular coverage needs to be considered as early as possible. Although retro-fit solutions are available for older buildings, when coverage systems are installed at the point of construction these can be placed in optimum locations and incorporated into other technological assets such as Wi-Fi.
With increased reliance on mobile technology, provision of this coverage is no longer an optional extra in commercial premises with visitors, customers and employees all requiring, and expecting, access to the cellular network within the office. This can only be provided through modern enhancement systems.
Those that have already made this investment are reaping the rewards in terms of happy customers and staff, in addition to the significant business benefit of having a completely connected workforce.
By Ingo Flomer, Director of Product Management, Cobham Wireless