This is a guest post from Arjan Kievits a Technical Consultant Wi-Fi at Vosko Networking BV. Keep in mind that the following blog is written with the knowledge of the Dutch market and may not relate to other countries…
By now LTE (Long Term Evolution) is being deployed at a fast rate and ever more devices support this new solution for high speed wireless data. Yes, it started with data only, no voice although now VoLTE is ready for use. At the start of LTE, Voice-over-LTE was still in a test-stage so if you did make a call (does anyone still do that?) you’d be using 2G or 3G…
LTE has been developed as a solution for the congestion of data-transmissions in 3G-networks and on top of that offers enhanced QoE (Quality of Experience) and real-time IP services. Quite a significant progress compared to 0G/1G (analogue voice), 2G (digitized data, compression and (GSM) capacity) and 3G (Packet Data Core). The next table presents an overview of the (theoretical) speeds related to the technology, Wi-Fi included:
These kind of great numbers raise the question: Why use Wi-Fi?
I get this question a lot and besides all kinds of reasons I could mention but would massively increase the length of this blog, my first reaction usually is the same: Coverage! Ever looked at where and when you were able to connect using LTE? And did you also notice this rarely works well inside a building (especially large offices/Enterprises, 800MHz excluded)? New buildings are even worse and there’s a reason for that: Providers (NL) have a requirement that states they have to guarantee coverage for up to 97%, but only right up to the façade of the building, at your doorstep! That is…not INSIDE the building!
That alone will make a business use of LTE as a replacement for Wi-Fi networks problematic to say the least. There are solutions to the coverage-problem, such as DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems) with uplinks to one or more providers but both the DAS-infrastructure and the uplinks are very expensive. You can use a bridge-like uplink to the nearest cell-tower, but this is illegal and will most certainly turn into a capacity-problem.
Another important point is connecting to LTE in the first place.
Not all equipment is SIM-capable, so they can’t even connect using cellular technology. Besides, lots of cellular devices automatically connect to Wi-Fi if they get the chance. There’s a reason providers like to off-load data to Wi-Fi-networks and that is to prevent their packet-core and LTE-infrastructure being overloaded. Providers themselves advertise Wi-Fi Hotspot and the next chart shows a significant growth in data-offloading for the near future:
So, let’s ask the question again: why use Wi-Fi? Well, THAT’s why!
Wi-Fi keeps on evolving, both in technology and usage, and more devices support technologies such as IEEE802.11ac (Wave-1 and upcoming Wave-2). But even without these newer standards, the benefits of Wi-Fi over LTE from an Enterprise/large office perspective is significant. De growth in offloading alone will require a good Wi-Fi network. Nowadays, Wi-Fi-networks are designed taking the increase of connected devices into account. Besides that, the challenges of non-Wi-Fi technologies in Enterprise networks all require attention, some of those (like LAA-LTE/LTE-U, DAS, LBS, 11ac, etc.) will be addressed in upcoming blogs so keep posted!
If this blog raises questions or you’d like to know more, do not hesitate to get in touch. Feedback is appreciated, too.