Solving The BYOD Problem

Enterprise employees are increasingly bringing their own wireless smartphones and tablets to the office, and they expect them to work in all locations. The “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend threatens to swamp enterprise network capabilities and make for a lot of dissatisfied users.

There are multiple factors driving this phenomenon, including the evolving workforce (remote and home office staff, the use of contract and temporary staff) and the growing role of technology in all types of businesses. BYOD places pressure on IT departments to act now to improve network services for wireless users, and the answer isn’t to simply beef-up Wi-Fi networks.

Pushing wireless users onto the Wi-Fi network may seem like a great solution, since the Wi-Fi network is already in place. However, there are several different types of users, and Wi-Fi administrators can’t serve them all. For example, security concerns prohibit visitors and often contractors accessing the Wi-Fi network, and even employees, may not be able to get the bandwidth they need in a congested Wi-Fi network.

The solution to these issues is to provide access to the mobile data network. Today’s 4G networks deliver roughly the equivalent data throughput to Wi-Fi, and individual users can have individual accounts so the enterprise need not provide the access. The challenge for 4G network access isn’t always extended to reach inside of building walls, so mobile network access may be limited inside enterprises.

To address this problem, enterprises must provide indoor mobile network signals. There are two major alternatives for providing mobile service inside buildings and both involve working with the mobile service providers. One option is to use small cells such as picocells to deliver the wireless signal indoors.

However, picocells typically only support one mobile operator. The enterprise will want to provide mobile network access for customers of all mobile service providers, and to do so with picocells would mean installing individual picocells for each operator’s frequencies.

Another issue with picocells is that it is difficult to provide uniform performance within a large enterprise. The picocell has a fixed amount of capacity and reach that is tied to the device location. The deployment might necessitate multiple picocells with overlapping coverage, which would have to be engineered to minimise interference among the cells.

A better solution is to use a broadband, multi-operator distributed antenna system, or DAS. A DAS provides mobile service by distributing multiple wireless signals through a series of ceiling- or wall-mounted antennas located throughout the enterprise. The DAS can deliver service for all major operators through a single infrastructure and set of antennas, providing a much more efficient way to deliver mobile service. Every antenna broadcasts the same frequencies, so there are no interference concerns.

With an in-building DAS in place, enterprises can provide wireless data services to all users in a BYOD environment without worrying about Wi-Fi security or Wi-Fi network overload. To obtain a DAS, the enterprise contracts with a DAS vendor for the deployment and then negotiates retransmission rights with the mobile operators to carry their signals over the DAS. The process is fairly straightforward.

DAS solutions are available for enterprises of all sizes, from small companies up to multinational corporations with large campuses. With a DAS, everyone bringing a wireless device to the facility can expect strong and uniform mobile data services throughout the building or campus.

Today’s enterprises must deal with an onslaught of BYOD devices, and relying on outdoor 4G networks to provide indoor service can’t meet their connectivity needs. By deploying a DAS, the enterprise can efficiently and effectively serve all BYOD users while avoiding Wi-Fi network management burdens.

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John Spindler is the Vice President of Product Management for TE’s wireless business. He is responsible for developing and managing an innovative wireless product portfolio for the company’s Wireless Business Unit. During his more than 20 years industry experience, John has held a variety of product management positions with companies such as Nortel Networks, GTE and InteCom. In these positions, he had responsibility for the areas of networking, network management, computer telephony integration and wireless technologies. John received a Bachelors of Arts Degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and an MBA from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.