Guest Blog written by Scott Morrison, Vice President SCTG – Small Cell Eng
Enterprises have long recognised the benefits of wireless – to enable faster, more productive working processes and a more empowered, more flexible workforce. After all, it is the enterprise sector that pioneered Wi-Fi deployments, often working with service providers, and it represents a significant business for Cisco worldwide. But the feedback from our enterprise partners is that businesses are hungry to build on this wireless foundation. Specifically, they want to extend the reach and power of their applications by combining the power of their Wi-Fi networks with the universal service of cellular networks.
Businesses want a simpler approach to mobile and they want it everywhere. For example, many workforce and process automation systems are isolated in individual locations today. Blending indoor Wi-Fi with cellular networks will help these systems to make faster, better and in time more predictive decisions.
This presents a both a challenge and a huge opportunity for service providers. For example, many service providers are now actively incorporating Wi-Fi as a central part of their access strategy, and incorporating context based coordination to seamlessly select the access technology that will deliver the best experience. At Cisco we call this approach, where the user can be independent and unaware of the specific wireless technology, Universal Intelligent Access.
Our showcase deployment, at our Reading UK office, shows how Service Providers and enterprises can work together to make this approach a reality.
This is a typical enterprise building of around 15,000m2, with a mix of office and open spaces. Constructed of steel and concrete, with heat-insulating glass, it is effective at absorbing most of the outside cellular signal, leading to uneven coverage and performance. Like most enterprise buildings, it has an established Wi-Fi network – unsurprisingly it is from market leader Cisco.
The showcase demonstrates just how easy it is to add cellular to the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. This can be done by attaching standalone small cell access points to the same power and data connections through the building. Even better, Cisco’s latest generation of small cells, like the LTE Universal Small Cell 8718 pictured here, simply clip on to existing Wi-Fi access points – in this case a Cisco Aironet 3700 – a trivial five-minute operation. What’s more, only one in five of the Wi-Fi access points need to be added to provide perfect cellular coverage and performance throughout the building.
This showcase deployment also indicates the business potential for the intelligent convergence of LTE and Wi-Fi in an enterprise environment:
- where users are unable to distinguish between the experience of Wi-Fi or LTE indoors
- where applications running on short range Wi-Fi can be given the broader geographical context of the macro cellular network
- where voice is universal and can be made independent of the access technology
These are the tangible first steps to universal intelligent access, deployed and working today.
Of course, no matter how integrated and coordinated the indoor wireless networks may be, it is the effectiveness of the whole network that determines the user and application experience. That’s where Cisco SON comes in, which in addition to its market-leading role of automating macro networks from multiple vendors, also coordinates and automates indoor small cell networks. But that’s a subject worthy of a separate post.
You can see the Cisco Universal Small Cell Solution in action at Small Cells World in London this week 9-11 June.
You can find out more about our small cell solutions here.