Next-Generation Wireless Networks: The Future of Convergence and Enterprise Infrastructures

Clayt Mason, CEO, Connectivity Wireless Solutions
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The wireless world is changing.

Consumers have bigger, faster expectations. Enterprises have need of more powerful, intricate operational and business infrastructures. And CIOs are challenged to keep up with these demands all the while optimizing space and expenditures in the process.  

“Because fiber-based infrastructures are scalable, converging network operations onto a single, unified platform, is the most cost-effective solution for today’s disparate wireless challenges” 

But what if the answer wasn’t found in “bigger and more”? What if the solution was a simple “as strong and as sensible as streamlining”?  

Sound too good (or costly) to be true? Let’s take a moment to explore the challenges of today’s enterprise landscapes and opportunities for tomorrow’s wireless world.

The Changing LANscape 

Due to burgeoning cloud-based applications, HD video streaming and social media apps, more and more devices are being manufactured with dual network capabilities, allowing consumers to connect via cellular spectrum and unlicensed spectrum, e.g., Bluetooth and WiFi. 

It comes as no surprise that this ultimately requires enterprise networks to become more scalable and flexible, in anticipation of future devices and related data and consumer demands, and optimized for both WLAN and cellular devices.  

While within copper-rich LAN enterprises, this elicits an internal tug-of-war for additional space and funding, the traditional upgrade methods of rip-and-replace and running additional strands of CAT 5/6 are becoming an increasingly ill-cost-effective solution. 

Even at their best, copper-based DAS, LAN andBusiness Management Systems still strain to keep up with the demand due to the limitations of copper cabling. 

So let’s talk fiber.  

Fiber vs Copper 

Traditional two- and three-tier LAN designs, as well as other system architectures—DAS, BMS, PoE, etc.—are a product of copper limitations in attenuation, bandwidth and physical properties, namely weight and bulk. 

But copper’s innate weaknesses are fiber’s inherent strengths: 

Single mode fiber is shown to be far superior to CAT 5 and 6 copper in terms of throughput (supporting 6x the number of devices and end-users than those supported by CAT 5) and attenuation (reaching kilometers versus meters). 

Additionally, fiber’s lighter and flexible composition requires significantly less structural support and space than copper, allowing enterprises to architect the system to fit their facility, not the other way around.

Next-generation Wireless Networks 

The imminence of smart buildings with limitless, interconnected applications and seamless device connection boasts great and exciting possibilities for enterprises and end-users alike, but it also calls for a transformation in the IT infrastructures and OT standards needed to support forthcoming demands.

That’s where POLs’ upgradability comes into play. 

All-fiber backbones offer everything needed to run the systems and applications your enterprise needs today, including IT, DAS, PoE and BMS, among others, with a virtually limitless capacity to support the data and connection needs of tomorrow. 

And while upgrading your enterprise infrastructure for the sake of HD video streaming and Instagrams, WiFi and cloud-based applications may seem undue at the moment, these independent, separate applications are but a precursor to the interactive, unified wireless world of tomorrow’s IoT—a tomorrow that begins today. 

So let’s explore some of the benefits that Passive Optical LANs offer enterprises today: 

Security

As enterprise systems continue to expand with big data growth, it is important to consider the measures being taken to ensure network security and access.

While traditional copper-rich LANS can be modified for critical security measures, it is costly, requiring specialized cabling and, in facilities that house highly sensitive information, is subject to daily inspection.

Fiber on the other hand, is dielectric, requiring a direct tap to infiltrate the system which is quite difficult due to the physical nature of the product, and on the chance that the fiber is successfully tapped, it is very easily detected. Additionally, fiber can easily be encrypted for supplemental protection.

Lastly, from a public safety perspective, it’s worth mentioning that fiber is inflammable.

Cost Savings

The main capital expenditure savings of POL comes from installation and IDF/riser closet equipment. As previously mentioned, fiber is lightweight, flexible and requires far fewer strands to support a full infrastructure than copper. Additionally, fiber has fewer installation requirements. All of which save on installation time and, ultimately, installation costs. 

The main contributors to operational savings are floor space, power and cooling. Passive Optical LANs use passive components, replacing access layer and building aggregation layer switches, significantly reducing, and in some cases eliminating, IDF closets.

Because passive splitters do not require cooling it is not unusual for facilities to see an approximate 69 percent network floor space reduction and on-going energy cost savings of approximately 74 percent. Further, the smaller infrastructure footprint allows enterprises to utilized square footage formerly allotted for IDF closets for revenue-generating purposes.

Future-proof 

When aiming for sustainability and green certifications, enterprises will see evidence of immediate environmental benefits of Passive Optical LANs—foregone copper mining and 50 percent reduced plastic waste—as well as ongoing operational energy savings as a result of conserved HVAC and power. Passive Optical LANs not only help reach sustainability goals and green certifications today, but, when fully utilized as a converged network solution, they help maintain a minimal infrastructure footprint at the addition of future applications. Moreover, as these networks become denser and more data-driven, fiber will be able to withstand bandwidth increases without affecting its attenuation. Because fiber-based infrastructures are scalable, converging network operations onto a single, unified platform, in most cases, is the most cost-effective solution for today’s disparate wireless challenges and the foundation for tomorrow’s connected world.

A Final Thought: 

It’s helpful to think of Passive Optical LANs as a present gateway to the world of tomorrow. For now, fiber is simply a functional backbone for integrating independent business applications and systems onto a single platform, but in the near future, as the Internet of Things matures, it is practical to presume that widespread POL will serve as a foundational element and enabler for the world of connected and interactive “Things.” 

As converged networks open this new world of possibilities, is your enterprise ready and able to explore the opportunities? 

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