Enterprise Wireless: Solutions, Limitations & Alternatives

Looking for enterprise wireless options to improve predictability and security? We will help you understand new alternatives such as private 5G.
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Network Infrastructure

Looking for enterprise wireless solutions to improve the predictability of your enterprise wireless connectivity and security? We will help you understand these constraints and alternatives.

What is enterprise wireless?

Enterprise wireless leverages technologies such as Wi-Fi, private cellular (4G LTE and 5G), to deliver wireless access to a corporate network. Enterprise wireless provides stronger security, scalable management options, and increased reliability when compared to consumer-grade Wi-Fi. Enterprise wireless offers a few key improvements over consumer wireless:

  • Simpler and more scalable management solutions
  • More sophisticated security options
  • Greater capacity, supporting more devices
  • Improved overall performance

Building Your Enterprise Wireless Network

Building out an enterprise wireless network can seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning it can be a manageable project built from a strong foundation. Let’s look at the three general phases for enterprise wireless deployment.

Planning

Without a doubt, this will be the most crucial step when building out your wireless network. Many considerations go into planning out your wireless network. Several of these revolve around your organization's applications, uptime expectations, and the scope or size of the business itself.

Many enterprise offices cover multiple buildings, vertical floors, and outdoor campuses. By using tools such as Ekahau for Wi-Fi design and IBwave for cellular wireless design, you will be able to predict how access points you will need, identify potentially challenging coverage areas, and get an understanding of the scale you need given specific device and application support requirements.

Take into consideration what devices will connect in that area, and what they will be used for. For example, a meeting room that was built to live stream high-quality video will likely need better throughput and coverage. Wi-Fi can require more access points to be placed to compensate for noisy environments and demanding throughput requirements.

Areas such as conference rooms, lobbies, or auditoriums may need additional hardware to support a higher number of devices. Active site surveys post-installation can also shed light on competing signals in the area that may interfere with your network or other wireless devices.

Lastly, original blueprints can be used to determine the exact square footage and sometimes the construction material used in your building. This helps give you an idea of ideal access point placement but can also aid in identifying troublesome building materials such as concrete, stone masonry, and sheet metal.

Implementation

When you have a visual representation of your enterprise network, you’ll want to have a firm understanding of what you’ll be supporting, and what level of uptime devices need. These requirements can vary drastically, ranging from guest Wi-Fi coverage in an open lobby, to lifesaving medical equipment communicating with a server.

With Wi-Fi, it’s possible to manage Quality of Service (QoS) across different devices and applications, but not service level agreements (SLA) for throughput, latency/jitter and packet error rate assignment. This will have to be achieved through the use of a private cellular wireless network for the relevant critical mobile and IoT device infrastructure.

Try to map out what devices you will have in a coverage area and anticipate their use case and needs. This will help you get an understanding of how you will build out the network. For example, having separate VLANs for each type of service helps manage the network easier, implement security policies, and troubleshoot network problems.

For example, guest wireless will need to be accessible from within the lobby as well as throughout the rest of the campus. This network will need to be isolated from any company assets, and have proper bandwidth limits to ensure it is not abused. VLANs help make all of this possible and can be used to strategically isolate certain traffic for IoT devices, HIPAA compliant services, security cameras, and VoIP service.

This can take time to plan out your access and routing policies but will be well worth it in the management phase of your deployment. You may encounter times when certain access rules need to be specified to make sure devices work. If a company device connects to the guest Wi-Fi, will their corporate email still work? Or does a rule allowing access to a DNS server needs to be applied? These are all small challenges you’ll likely encounter along the way.

As hinted earlier, QoS with predictable service levels can be a challenge when relying on Wi-Fi alone. You’ll want to plan how you’ll implement the prioritization of traffic and what that will look like. Many solutions utilize rules that treat VLAN tagged traffic differently depending on the policy for wireless QoS. For example, VoIP is often one of the highest priorities because of its sensitivity to latency - and might require the use of private cellular for highest levels of predictability and coverage.

Management

Management will be made significantly easier with the supporting two steps in place. In almost all cases for enterprise wireless, you’ll be using a centralized on-premises and/or cloud-hosted controller to manage your access points. Network operations portals also give system administrators a scalable way to monitor and maintain access points across multiple buildings and networks.

Centralized management allows you to create configurations for all your devices that can be quickly and easily applied to new endpoints if one would physically fail. Firmware can also be updated en masse across an organization, and alerts can be configured to help you identify specific problem areas.


Private LTE: The Evolution of Enterprise Wireless

The larger and more demanding enterprise wireless becomes, the more evident its limitations might get. Much of this is due to hard constraints that are built directly into the Wi-Fi standard. Thankfully, private cellular technology offers an additional layer of connectivity for organizations to continue their mobility journey and serve new generation of digital initiatives that are critical to their success.

Private cellular works similarly to enterprise Wi-Fi but uses 4G and 5G wireless technology while communicating with smartphones, tablets, laptops, gateways, CPE devices, etc. This newer technology was built with service level predictability, device level security and wide area coverage in mind. Take a look at how effectively planning for a private LTE network can solve the problems often found in large-scale wireless networks.

Coverage

While Wi-Fi works well in most environments, certain devices are better served over private 4G LTE and 5G wireless connections. Highly mobile devices such as autonomous vehicles or cargo tracking sensors generally require predictable coverage that extends beyond the reach of Wi-Fi access points.

Since private LTE/5G was built with a macro-scale in mind, each access point will cover about four times more space compared to Wi-Fi indoors, and ten times more outdoors. With higher power levels, less hardware is needed to provide proper coverage - simplifying deployments next to an existing Wi-Fi network.

Reliability

Cellular connectivity has built in features that help provide a consistent and robust connection, even under difficult conditions. One traditional challenge with enterprise wireless is centered around supporting devices that are in motion.

Devices requiring constant connectivity while moving often lose coverage or experience significant signal degradation between access points. Devices may regain a signal or choose the weaker of two points and stay connected to that poor signal.

Due to infrastructure control of mobility events and traffic transmissions over the air - instead of leaving it to the connected devices to decide - cellular base stations can support nearly twice the channel efficiency of Wi-Fi while providing a seamless mobility for devices on the move, making them better suited to handle these types of applications.

Quality-of-Service (QoS) and the specific performance level with an SLA for a wireless application can easily be configured and adapted to a critical device group or application. When paired with artificial intelligence, this creates an ever-improving environment that is constantly evolving to increase reliability to devices deemed a priority.

Roaming features also allow devices to use the public wide area networks while transitioning back to the private network if there is a lapse in coverage. This feature is ideal for companies that operate in large spaces such as farmland, oil fields, or large corporate campuses. This also allows employees to utilize dual SIM technology to authenticate once inside the network and return to their standard cellular service when they leave.

Security

Private cellular wireless provides an extra layer of security through SIM authentication. Small SIM cards inside each device provide authentication and identification details for each company asset. This creates an environment where only whitelisted devices are allowed to operate, which can be paired with additional forms of security such as two-factor authentication.

Thanks to Celona’s 5G LAN solution, enterprises can now build their own private infrastructure to support their mobile networks. Owning your own infrastructure provides better security and overall control of your data. Businesses that have to adhere to compliance standards such as HIPAA can use private cellular connectivity to improve data security and device level policy enforcement.

Control

Celona’s unique MicroSlicing technology also allows organizations that use private cellular wireless to take granular control over how their resources are allocated. Latency, packet error rate and bandwidth SLAs can be applied to specific device groups and applications.

One of the most powerful features that can be applied to private cellular networks is the use of artificial intelligence. In a Celona network, AI algorithms are programmed to constantly monitor your network performance for each MicroSlicing policy to ensure SLAs are being met for critical applications. The Celona AI engine works to optimize network performance and can even redirect traffic across different paths within the Celona mobile core.

Since a Celona 5G LAN utilizes the existing enterprise network infrastructure for its backbone, you’ll have full visibility and control into exactly what is happening in the network. Network operators can schedule automated routine maintenance, set up condition-based alerts, or comb over audit logs manually to review the environment’s health.


The Celona Solution

Celona partners with enterprise organizations to enable private cellular connectivity in their facilities with its turnkey 5G LAN solution.

Plug-and-play Celona cellular wireless access points can be quickly deployed throughout the campus, while proactive monitoring ensures network SLAs, such as throughput and latency requirements, are consistently being met for critical use cases.  

Celona uses its cloud-native network operating system to make implementing private mobile networks an out-of-box experience. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure without interrupting business operations.

If you’re building your network for the future, Celona can help. Check out our network planner to see what your Celona network would look like, or test-drive the Celona 5G LAN Solution for yourself through our free trial.

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