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4G comes down to earth

he push to 4G wireless coverage across Canada is changing the game for today’s enterprise. It includes the burgeoning Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard, WiMAX technology, and even new satellite broadband offerings. In effect, 4G has...


May 1, 2012  


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he push to 4G wireless coverage across Canada is changing the game for today’s enterprise. It includes the burgeoning Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard, WiMAX technology, and even new satellite broadband offerings. In effect, 4G has become a code term for “wireless broadband”, although it is more accurately defined as offering 100 megabits per second for communication from vehicles in motion, and 1 gigabit per second when stationary.

“The current 4G deployment in Canada has been loosely described as pre-LTE,” says Jeff Seifert, chief technology officer for Cisco Canada. “It is wideband, and uses high bandwidth wireless spectrum.”

From an enterprise perspective, the present challenge is that mobile workers on 4G and LTE networks also want to pick up campus WiFi networks. That reduces data charges off of cellular providers, but presents a real challenge for an IT department. Privacy and security policies have to be set, device usage and payment plans must be put in place, and the cabling on the ground has to handle the increased traffic coming off the WLAN.

“It makes sense that organizations would have policies that allow this,” says Seifert. “They want to leverage the unlicensed spectrum.”

But it can be a complex task. This is one reason for the new relationship between the Canadian carrier Telus and Vox Mobile of Independence, Ohio, which offers a suite of end-to-end managed mobility services (MMS). The partnership is a direct response to the demand that 4G is bringing to mobile security and device management, with more and more employees wanting to bring their own devices to work (BYOD) — and on to enterprise networks.

“Choice isn’t new,” says Kris Snyder, CEO of Vox Mobile. “But what really happened was that the BlackBerry at the enterprise level got settled quickly, it had a big presence, and it wasn’t until the Apple iPhone got into peoples’ hands that mobility was more than a phone with email as the killer app.”

Now it is employees who are driving choice back into the enterprise, and the rollout of 4G means they expect broadband everywhere. Rogers and Telus both expect their LTE networks to be accessible by approximately 60% of the Canadian population by the end of 2012. Bell, which now offers LTE to about 6 million Canadians, is also rushing to add more coverage. And for those left out in the cold, New Brunswick-based Xplornet Communi–cations Inc. launched its ViaSat-1 broadband satellite in October 2011, and a second satellite, Hughes-Jupiter, is set to be launched later this year.

“With 4G everywhere, that means during 2012 more pressure will be driven into the enterprise,” says Snyder. “At present about 50% of organizations have people carrying two devices. Five of the top ten banks in the United States have adopted BYOD policies.”

Snyder says that the key is to understand segmentation. In a bank, for example, financial regulations might mean that a core group will stay on company BlackBerrys, with the enterprise maintaining full device control. Then there could be a hybrid segment that can use iOS or BlackBerry, but not Android or Windows. A third segment of low-risk users might be permitted to use whatever device they want — but their activity would be sand-boxed on the network, and the devices unsubsidized.

Inevitably, this onslaught of mobile devices will affect the enterprise network.

“When looking at WLAN infrastructure, we can do an assessment to see if more traffic is driven to the network,” says Nathan Pitka, director of product marketing at Telus. “If higher traffic requires upgrades, that’s a service we can bring to our side of the table.”

If employees are bringing their 4G devices to work and dumping their broadband requirements onto a campus WiFi network, IT managers would do well to be prepared. Without visibility into their employees’ mobile experience, they’ll scramble to manage the load and, possibly, put in unnecessary funding requests for more hardware. The added visibility and management capabilities offered by solutions like Vox Mobile’s should result in a smarter use of the WLAN.

“The six products we are bringing to the Canadian market cover the complete mobile life cycle,” says Snyder. “That makes this a unique offering in Canada.”

Specifically, Vox Mobile’s offerings within its MMS portfolio are: Advise, which analyses mobile business needs; Acquire, which delivers a portal for purchases and service requests; Adapt, for device configuration; Administer, for monitoring and management; Assist, for support; and Analyze for wireless expense management.

“Each offering can be purchased individually,” says Snyder. “The Acquire portal can handle a workflow request. Perhaps you want to bring an iPad to work and run it off WiFi — a manager can determine if you can or can’t, and will authorize the device on the network.”

Handling multi-device
broadband

As more 4G devices enter the enterprise environment, network administrators find themselves in a position akin to city planners subbing as air traffic controllers who are then faced with an onslaught of jumbo jets. Moving all that traffic — and doing it safely — can be a challenge, particularly if you’re new to the game and the infrastructure on the ground isn’t built for it.

“When you bring your own device to work, you need context-based security,” says Seifert. “There is architecture to provide the right level of security — you can enable a certificate on devices to ensure they are encrypted and trusted.”

But that can get a little confusing given that we are no longer in the one-size-fits-all BlackBerry environment. The number of LTE devices is small but growing. Examples include the latest edition of the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Note, the Nokia Lumina 900, the Optimus LTE, the HTC Raider, the Galaxy Tab 8.9, as well as LTE turbo sticks.

“Almost every organization has an acute awareness that users want to bring their devices to work,” says Seifert. “They all have BYOD programs underway. Most have shifted away from providing mobile devices, and are letting users roll their own devices on to the network.”

At this Spring’s Enterprise Connect 2012 show in Orlando, Florida, Cisco announced that it was bringing its Jabber unified communications platform to both the iPad and to Windows-based devices. Jabber was already running on the Android operating system, Apple’s iOS and Mac, RIM’s BlackBerry, and Cisco’s own Cius tablet. The company’s attempt to move collaboration beyond the desktop is a clear indication that 4G and improvements in WiFi have pushed broadband out to all devices.

“Wireless service providers have come at this more from their traditional wireless market when it comes to business development,” says Seifert. “But they are well aware of the trend. This isn’t about selling the latest 4G handset, it is about selling infrastructure.”

That said, Seifert feels that the growth in 4G and wireless broadband means that architecture is now more interlocked, making it incumbent on providers to have deeper capabilities.

“We can use cabling as an example,” he says. “You used to have to partner to ensure your cabling was up to standard, and then you might have had had another partner for WAN connectivity — now these are more or less interlocked.”

But as IT infrastructures become more interconnected, increased partner capabilities don’t result in the end — or even the simplification — of the partner ecosystem. As BYOD becomes the norm, the need for cooperation among multiple partners becomes crucial.

“There is an unprecedented opportunity for channel partners,” says Seifert. “If you have a niche in one area you can now expand and augment — there are inflection points for new technologies and new areas.”

This runs all the way from the handheld device to the virtual desktop and back to the dat
a centre. It all has to be managed effectively. And, given that Cisco estimates 90% of organizations are preparing for BYOD, and 65% are either deploying or looking to deploy a social software tool, it is crucial that enterprises get a handle on how they are managing these new forms of traffic.

 Smart traffic on campus

A good way to assess how an organization might address the increased traffic coming from wireless broadband is to take a look at a real campus — like the one at the University of British Columbia (UBC). UBC has 54,000 students from 140 different countries; its campus is immense, with more than 200 buildings covering a wide area.

“We have more than 20,000 concurrent users on the wireless network at peak usage times,” says Michael Thorson, director of infrastructure at UBC. “It’s a mix of WiFi smartphones, laptops, and various tablets (iPads and Android) now added to that mix.”

Thorson and his team have to deliver services to a student population that is both demanding and in flux. As a result, spatial configuration on the campus is constantly evolving. “We, like most universities, have been living with BYOD requirements for years,” says Thorson. “Students constantly bring the latest, greatest gear onto the campus, and they expect it to work on our network.”

“This past fall we saw much higher requests than in the past,” he adds. “People showed up with more than one device to connect to our WiFi network, a phone and a laptop, maybe an iPad, too. There was a modest run on the infrastructure, but we quickly expanded our Radius authentications service from two to eight virtual servers on the secure network.”

UBC has a campus-wide log-in for its secure network, which offers full Internet access, as well as access to the University’s learning management and other software services. There is strong research and academic demand through BCNET, a not-for-profit shared IT services organization, and through eduroam, a secure world-wide roaming access service. There is also an open WiFi network that UBC set up during the Olympics. This secondary network has a different SSID on the same controllers; it has its own security profile with lower bandwidth allocation.

“The peaks are always in the same place,” says Thorson.

“You need to build infrastructure for the hot spots, as you can’t do anything dynamic about that — you build for maximum demand, and look away when it’s at the minimum.”

But given that more and more students are expecting to dovetail their cellular access with the campus WiFi network, it is incumbent on the University to engage with service providers when it comes to assessing coverage viability.

“On the cellular side there are some interference or low coverage problems,” says Thorson. “We are now working with the carriers to improve coverage and reduce interference. We had new buildings where reception wasn’t great, but are now working more proactively with the carriers to get their antennas in the right place. On the WiFi side we have long-established criteria for the new buildings, but on the cellular side we are still working with Building Operations to get cellular requirements into their building planning.”

Whatever comes off the towers can be easily handled by the infrastructure UBC has in place on the ground.

“Most of our buildings are connected via 10 Gig,” says Thorson. “You can’t get that kind of bandwidth with wireless yet. As it stands, we have some areas on campus that are just fine with wireless, and others that want 10 gig to the desktop, though 1 gig to the desktop is usually good enough.”

UBC’s broadband roadmap will likely result in the University skipping 40 Gig and going straight to 100 Gig.

That backbone, and how it delivers to the desktop, will depend on what becomes standard with the vendors. Currently, most PCs you buy have one or more 1 gig connections, not too many come with 10 gig as a standard. Within this context, wireless devices remain something of a question