Let’s begin with: Why all the excitement?
Network power is the new computing power. Remember back in the 2000s when computers would double in speed every 2 years? Now a good computer with solid ram will last you a decade at least. But your network could probably stand for a huge upgrade if it is half that age.
Everything from the most popularly known cell wireless (4G LTE and 5G coming soon) to the incredible gains of building-wide Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet protocols has totally changed the game of digital infrastructure for your office. When it is released in the next couple of months Wi-Fi 6 will be 30% faster than Wi-Fi 5, enabling transfer speeds of over 1,300 Mbps.
The extra speed gives businesses a lot to play with in terms of office computing, connected devices, and communications. New communications set-ups are possible now that were impossible or ill-advised only a couple of years ago. Many of these save time, effort, maintenance, and money while increasing performance and sound quality, which makes now the perfect time to start planning your next upgrade.
We’ll discuss some of the opportunities and new bottlenecks of advanced networks, so hopefully you’ll walk away with some great ideas for optimizing your business communications with Wi-Fi mobile devices, whether you’re a small business or a large institution.
Voice over Wi-Fi with Mu-MIMO: Living the dream of a wireless workplace
Nobody likes cords, not even IT geeks like us. Do you see cords in Star Trek? Fact is: Plenty of offices are starting to rip out their cords and instead use these options.
Wi-Fi VoIP Deskphones Are Crucial but Not for Everyone
If you have the capital, you can go out and buy Wi-Fi enabled VoIP deskphones. Many deliver advanced conferencing features with video cameras and screens, all of which run perfectly well over Wi-Fi.
Benefits of Wi-Fi deskphones:
- Wireless solutions can be placed anywhere
- Advanced features such as multi-line, video and conferencing are ideal for some roles and rooms
Mobile Apps Turn Smartphones into Workphones with Cloud Platform
Many workers might not need dedicated deskphones, but they still need a dedicated line, preferably one they can take home with them.
Cost-efficient solutions leverage cloud telephony platforms with easy-install mobile applications. These turn smartphones into workphones that run on office Wi-Fi. When Wi-Fi is unavailable, they can run on carrier network data, as well, giving employees added flexibility.
There are a few big benefits of mobile apps:
- Offices can be up-and-running with mobile-forward communications within hours. (Convergence Solutions typically quotes a 1-day maximum when clients need ASAP deployment.)
- Low upfront cost
- No learning curve: Since workers already use their phones, it is a small matter of learning the mobile app. Whereas deskphones are another technology to learn.
Bandwidth Limitations? How to Fit More Users onto Wi-Fi
If you plan on leveraging Wi-Fi for office communications, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss some of the potential problems you might encounter with increasing users and traffic.
Wi-Fi bandwidth is not Internet bandwidth
Wi-Fi bandwidth refers to traffic in the office only! If you have an Internet connection of 100 Mbps and Wi-Fi 5, then your Internet Service is your limiting factor as far as data usage goes. You might also use Wi-Fi bandwidth for video surveillance, on-premise server requests, and any non-cloud-based internal services. Services like these are not sent out of the office and would count toward Wi-Fi bandwidth only. However, all data that is sent and received to/from an outside source eats up Internet bandwidth as well, and this is distributed among the whole office.
For instance, one client called with quality of service problems, and since they were using our cloud platform we saw they were splitting a 100 Mbps network across 40 different users during peak hours. So without another word from them, we knew the source of the issue. (Our software gives us non-personally identifiable usage data that helps us provide premium service like we did in this case.)
To calculate bandwidth per user, you simply divide the total bandwidth by the number of users. In their case it was 100 Mbps divided by 40, giving each user just 2.5 Mbps download speeds and even less upload. They needed to boost their Internet speeds to handle an office of that size, but the Wi-Fi bandwidth was fine.
As user count rises, older routers and access points can run into problems because they don’t have Mu-MIMO.
Mu-MIMO, the power of how many?
Multi-user Multiple Input Multiple Output (Mu-MIMO) is a feature of Wi-Fi 5 that is being perfected by Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 5 allows downstream Mu-MIMO and can transmit signal downstream to many users simultaneously. Think of it like this. A bunch of cars are trying to cross a single-lane bridge. Wi-Fi 5 adds multiple lanes to the downstream traffic lanes. This helps a lot. In fact many routers today can support up to 250 users. However, remember it will share bandwidth among these users equally.
If the router has a maximum bandwidth of 500 Mbps, 250 users will have 2 Mbps each. That is not a lot! Consider a large University lecture hall, with cell phones, laptops, and other devices. You could easily run into service issues under these conditions.
Once you start to talk about more users, you introduce more unpredictability in the system. The network might be able to handle traffic most of the time, but sometimes there might be too many users in one location. Optimizing your network is about planning for these peak drains in specific locations.
Older routers don’t think about bandwidth; they just claim the nearest users. But there can be problems when too many users would crowd around a single access point. Smart routers can be programmed to spread out users based on distance but also number of users. So access point 1 might be closer to users 100-150, but it will allow access point 2 to handle traffic for 50, so that it can increase effective bandwidth for its 100 active users.
Summing it Up: Effective Wi-Fi Driven Solutions for Large Offices and Institutions
With so many advancements in Wi-Fi tech it is now possible for even large offices to deploy high-definition, premium quality communications and data services via Wi-Fi only. These new infrastructures support extremely agile communications networks, allowing employees to BYOD if they want, or to use wireless desktop phones. We are approaching the Star Trek dream.
Convergence Solutions was incredibly helpful to me when I joined my firm. Convergence had long managed our Telecomm PBX and handset equipment so I turned to them to help our full office renovations. Once our immediate phone relocation and wiring needs were handled promptly and professionally by the Convergence team, I found we were using a variety of unrelated vendors to manage our voice, conference call, IP Phones, and internet services. It was clear there was a lot to improve upon in terms of service, price and quality with this confederacy of dunces, so I stopped to talk with Steve Solton about our overall communications infrastructure. After a brief discussion, it was apparent Convergence were experts on more than just the PBX in my back room, they began to identify our network server and port issues, suggested solid state industry enhancements, AV Conferencing solutions and much more. We are implementing many of these ‘Convergence’ solutions presently, none of which are minor, but all which are being expertly handled.
Why Convergence Cloud
The telecom industry is moving too slowly. Why nickle-and-dime you over minutes when it’s all just data?
Convergence Cloud delivers unlimited local or long-distance minutes. Every one of our plans are inclusive with no additional items costs.
Friendly Customer Support Based in Denver
As a Denver business, we are in the neighborhood to support you as much or as little as you need. If VoIP is new to you, our service representatives can take you through the process, so you know your communications will go uninterrupted.