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Should you consider wireless WAN service for your enterprise?

Learn the advantages and disadvantages of using wireless in your enterprise wide area network (WAN). This article on wireless WAN service considerations explains how 3G and 4G technology developments

Should you consider wireless for your enterprise wide area network (WAN)? This tip details the advantages and disadvantages...

of wireless WAN service and explains how 3G and 4G technology developments will affect your purchasing decision.

Thanks to the emergence of 4G wireless technologies including WiMAX and Long Term Evolution (LTE), IT architects are increasingly considering high-speed wireless technologies as an alternative to last-mile services based on TDM, cable, DSL, or Ethernet -- either for primary circuit replacement or as a wireless WAN backup service.

Wireless WAN services offer some significant advantages, including:

  • No wires: Where available, 4G services offer high bandwidth without the need to pay for, or wait for, wired services to reach your location. In many underdeveloped or remote regions, wireless services offer the potential to bring high-speed access to locations yet to be reached by wires, or where installing a wired infrastructure isn't economically justifiable.
  • Lower cost: Wireless WAN services are often billed on a base monthly fee plus usage rate, making them suitable as an on-demand backup service versus an always-on connection where pricing isn't tied to usage.
  • Low latency: Emerging wireless WAN services are becoming suitable for voice and video, enabling wireless WANs to support the full spectrum of enterprise IP-based applications.
  • Mobility: Wireless WAN services are ideal for temporary locations such as field offices, clinical trial locations, or construction sites. The ability to quickly get up and running, and quickly move to the next location, are key differentiators when compared with wired alternatives, where getting connected could take days (or weeks).

The big constraint on wireless WAN adoption is availability. Outside major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Europe, 4G wireless technologies aren't generally available and may not be available for several more years. While 3G services might be fine for backing up a small office consisting of a handful of workers, 3G wireless services have limited bandwidth. This makes them less than ideal as a primary means of network access for most situations and less suited to latency-sensitive applications such as voice. Given the lack of broad availability of 4G, it's no wonder that Nemertes Research's analysis shows that just 4% of companies are planning a wireless WAN deployment in 2010. However, 38% are evaluating 4G with an eye to deploying wireless WAN services in 2011.

For those in the evaluation stage, there's good news on the horizon. Clearwire has extended its WiMAX offering to 27 markets in the U.S. and is now moving forward with plans to offer services in Europe. AT&T and Verizon too are increasing their investments in LTE throughout their operating regions, with Verizon committing to a 2010 delivery of its production LTE network. While European 4G deployments have been slowed by regulatory battles over voice roaming, some providers, such as TeliaSonera in Norway and Sweden, are already moving forward; and the U.K., India and other markets are getting ready to auction spectrum to support 4G.

So as the market for wireless WAN service improves, IT architects should absolutely consider WWAN as part of their primary and backup access plans.

For further reading, view our WWAN resources homepage.

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This was last published in March 2010

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