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Debunking myths of wireless broadband in business

James Weaver

Twelve seasoned companies share their experience with reliability, agility, and cost of Wireless WANs

You may have heard concerns about deploying wireless wide-area networks (WWAN) for business. Is it as reliable as wired connections? Is metered billing risky? Can the performance keep up with wired connectivity? The struggle against WWAN uncertainty is real, but so is the rise in companies proving these myths wrong.

A new report by Nemertes, a global research-based advisory and consulting firm, reveals some powerful analysis based on interviews with 12 companies that use Wireless WAN (WWAN) solutions. The analysis is clear: The agility of wireless broadband and the ability to reduce downtime are essential for modern business. What more and more organizations are learning, though, is that you can have these benefits without sacrificing performance or increasing your network costs. Perhaps most importantly, LTE and 5G are unifying everything on the evolving corporate WAN — from fixed locations like stores and small offices to vehicle fleets and IoT everywhere.

Far better uptime while maintaining excellent network performance

Is there anything more important than uptime for business efficiency? Not when you consider the breadth of devices and applications that need the ability to constantly send data to the cloud and elsewhere. From surveillance cameras and sensors to Point-of-Sale devices and guest Wi-Fi, it’s clear that most connection disruptions are severe business disruptions.

Wireless broadband has become perhaps the best antidote for downtime and a proven driver of improved reliability. Those interviewed by Nemertes saw a dramatic reduction of time lost to Internet outages. The organizations with at least 90% of their sites using WWAN as the primary link reported an 88% reduction of their average mean downtime, while those with at least 90% of locations using WWAN for failover saw a 62% reduction.

Further, eight of the 12 organizations experienced the same or better speeds with wireless broadband.

One retailer explained its increased reliability this way: “ ‘Internet down’ used to be our number 2 help ticket type; now it is down to number 20. And the 4G de-escalates the calls; they are less of a fire drill.”

Much faster deployment with WWAN

In a business world now dominated by connected technologies and applications, the importance of constant availability cannot be understated — but neither can the value of rapid deployment. Whether you’re a small business just getting started or a sizable corporation opening new locations on a monthly basis, you likely can’t afford to wait weeks or months for wired lines to be installed.

Among those interviewed, organizations average about 35 days or wired line deployment. Average time for cellular broadband solutions? 26 minutes. This incredible disparity underscores how difficult it is to rely on traditional wired connectivity for business when wireless Internet is so readily available.

A medical services provider that was interviewed for the report noted that the ubiquity of electronic medical records and imaging files makes constant connectivity imperative. This company implemented LTE at thousands of clinics. First the cellular broadband connection allows each site to get up and running immediately; later, once wired lines are installed, they configure their all-in-one solution to use wired as the primary link and WWAN for failover.

Cost-effectiveness of wireless broadband

The perceived expense of cellular broadband has long been perhaps the most common barrier to implementing WWAN for business. After all, pay-per-bit pricing is capable of pushing monthly bills really high and making them extremely unpredictable, which is an unsavory thought for any organization.

However, the customers that Nemertes talked to echoed what we’ve been hearing from companies for a while now: When you look at network costs from a comprehensive perspective, WWAN is very cost-effective.

On average, these companies also saw their monthly per-site broadband costs reduced from $304 to $141 and their per-Mbps costs sliced by 90%, compared to the legacy links that the organization replaced. Not every organization will be replacing more expensive legacy links like MPLS, but organizations may be surprised how competitive WWAN links are. Further, most companies were able to negotiate their plans to mitigate risks of overage.

Also, participants in this report reduced the amount of staff members dedicated to WAN-related duties by an average of 19%, with those professionals spending 54% less time troubleshooting WAN issues. In other words, they are able to spend more time improving business and much less time fixing problems.

These numbers underscore that with the right strategies and solution in place, WWAN can be not only more agile and higher performing than many traditional WAN links, but also better for the bottom line.

“We have maybe a tenth of a staff position dedicated to WAN management now, far less expensive than when we paid for managed services, and for 160 sites instead of 30, and current staff are far less experienced,” one customer said.

WWAN has arrived; is your company prepared?

As the organizations highlighted in this report have illustrated, and as Nemertes has asserted, WWAN and 5G are rapidly picking up momentum as a central component of WAN architecture. As I mentioned in a webinar about this report, results will vary upon use case. But overall, this data shows that compared to wired connectivity, WWAN is light-years faster to turn up; more reliable; and, overall, often more cost-effective.

With that mind, businesses should consider what they can do to begin planning for WWAN immediately. First, assess the various ways that WWAN can accelerate or extend your business operations. Second, do a POC, which is very easy with wireless. And third, start talking to a mobile network operator about rate plan options and ask what is negotiable.

The stories in this report are convincing testimonies about a very strong trend; every company gained more confidence in WWAN and increased their use of WWAN. I have every reason to believe that your organization will have the same experience.

You can explore these 12 customer stories of WWAN success in our white paper: The Viability of a Wireless WAN for Business.

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