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A Business Case for Wi-Fi

A recent report from Forrester Research revealed that half of the information workers in the US split their time between the home, office and other remote locations – highlighting an increased demand for enterprise mobility.

For a long time, mobile working has been reserved for sales teams and field employees, roughly 20% of the workforce, but increasingly we are seeing businesses take steps to mobilise the remaining 80%.

Businesses are waking up to the convenience of internet anywhere for smartphone and tablet users  and the potential to greatly increase productivity by encouraging remote working.

Increasing productivity is one thing, but procurement managers certianly don’t want to fork out for international roaming and direct dial rates. So what are the options? With the majority of workers opting to use their phones indoors, both at their homes and offices, indoor coverage is key to any solution.

The enterprise coverage challenge

With 60-70% of mobile traffic generated indoors, either at home or in the office, indoor coverage is key to any enterprises mobile strategy.  Employees can be mobily productive if they can’t connect to the network. 

In-building coverage for office environments poses a specific set of challenges.  Larger structures with deep interior rooms may have so many layers of building materials that they completely block cellular signals from the macro network. 

In addition, the high concentration of hundreds and even thousands, of employees accessing the mobile network from smartphones and tablets throughtout the day can quickly overwhelm a standard mobile network. 

 

Why Wi-Fi?

It’s difficult to find an enterprise that is not deploying Wi-Fi. Routing voice and data traffic over Wi-Fi allows organisations to mobilise their workforce at no extra cost. With Wi-Fi networks already deployed across offices, coffee shops and other public spaces, companies can offer their workforce a more flexible working practice without the premium prices associated with operators’ data services.

To support this, there is now a smarter way to use Wi-Fi based on the mobile industry’s 3GPP UMA/GAN specification. Smart Wi-Fi enables voice and data offload, increases in-building capacity and provides improved indoor coverage similar to a femtocell.

The Smart Wi-Fi technology solution combats limitations of basic Wi-Fi by enabling smartphones to automatically connect to the Wi-Fi network, seamlessly integrating with existing user interfaces (same dialler, contact manager, etc.) to allow for voice calls over Wi-Fi, and hibernating the cellular network whilst Wi-Fi is in use in order to prolong battery life.

One US company with global operations made the switch to Smart Wi-Fi mobile services to stay competitive and profitable.  The changes saved the entertainment company 30 percent of its mobile phone expenditure in the first year, and it cut spending on mobile phone service by about $400,000 per year.

Available options

Mobile operators around the world have adopted this ‘Smart’ Wi-Fi approach, including T-Mobile US with ‘Wi-Fi Calling’.  As the name of T-Mobile’s service states, the company enables calls to be routed over Wi-Fi whenever in range.

By leveraging any Wi-Fi access point, T-Mobile is able to use the Wi-Fi Calling service from enterprise Wi-Fi access points along with the subscriber’s own home Wi-Fi network.  The result is an overall increase in the quality of the user’s mobile experience, without addition network infrastructure from T-Mobile. 

Conclusion

Wi-Fi is the dominant indoor wireless technology available today.  To capitalise on this infrastructure, mobile service providers have begun offering devices with Smart Wi-Fi capabilities to improve indoor coverage and provide macro network offload. 

As Wi-Fi adoption continues to spread, across offices and public spaces, it will allow organisations to take further advantage of this pervasive technology to save money and make operations more efficient.