Wi-Fi emerged as the primary type of network in enterprise environments last year as businesses increasingly adopt smartphones and tablets, BYOD initiatives, and new technologies.
802.11ac is all the rage, and rightly so. It represents another change in the 802.11 protocol, this one promising to boost speeds into the Gigabit world. This year 802.11ac-enabled access point sales will rise as more devices appear on the market for cheaper prices.
An optimised 802.11ac infrastructure will depend on solid wireless fundamentals, thoughtful radio design, smart antenna systems, and dynamic RF adaptation.
SMBs are up against it when it comes to deploying a robust WLAN, as they have fewer IT staff and tight budgets. They have had two choices: high-end, expensive and complex enterprise WLAN systems or affordable but featureless consumer-grade Wi-Fi. There has been very little available in between.
2014 will see cloud offerings for Wi-Fi management and services continue to provide enterprise-grade technology for the average SMB. But while it will continue to offer a good plug-and-play deployment model for remote sites and remote employees, it won't be cost-effective for most SMBs.
Location-based services have received a lot of attention in the enterprise world because so many people now have multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
A range of verticals are now developing various location-based service models. Wi-Fi based location analytics will play a bigger role in organisations wanting to increase access to business intelligence, further define their security policy, or improve the customer or user Wi-Fi experience.
Expect Wi-Fi to provide much more than internet access. As wireless matures, users will begin looking for site or venue-specific apps they can access easily as they arrive at particular locations.
Hotspot 2.0 has been developed and promoted predominantly by carriers and equipment suppliers. But I expect it to gain traction in the enterprise as another way to provide Wi-Fi access and turn the WLAN into a profit centre.
Since operators want Wi-Fi network access, the real opportunity for an enterprise or venue owner will be to wholesale their WLAN capacity to operators, charging them recurring fees for that access.
Enterprise WLANs involve large capital and operational expenditure and Hotspot 2.0 offers a chance for a return on investment and an ongoing revenue stream.
Social media applications, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, have permeated almost every online interaction.
More services, applications and subscriptions are either encouraging or requiring consumers to sign in using a social media identity.
In 2014, we will see this extend to Wi-Fi and become pervasive among organisations providing guest access.
James Calderbank is EMEA director of enterprise sales at Ruckus Wireless
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