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What are the challenges of deploying UC apps over Wi-Fi?

What are the challenges in using UC apps over Wi-Fi? UC expert Michael Finneran explains the network issues caused by deploying UC over Wi-Fi and how they can be resolved.

As mobility has become the norm among workforces, there is a growing expectation for employees to use their unified communications applications over Wi-Fi in an office environment.

But deploying UC over Wi-Fi is no small task. Enterprises must make sure they have a Wi-Fi network with enough coverage and capacity to serve everyone's UC app needs.

In the Enterprise Connect panel "Getting BYOD right," Michael Finneran, principal at dBrn Associates, discussed a major problem with UC apps and Wi-Fi networks: stickiness.

"Wi-Fi wasn't designed for mobility; it was designed for laptops," Finneran said.

Mobile devices are just that -- mobile -- and devices will often latch onto a Wi-Fi access point for as long as they can to maintain a connection. For employees who are using their UC apps over Wi-Fi, this connection conundrum can result in dropped calls and other performance glitches.

"The problem is, if you're at walking pace, you can pass through the entire coverage area of an access point in about 20 seconds," he said.

To prevent stickiness, network managers can turn down signal power to a mobile device to force the client onto a stronger access point. But that strategy isn't always successful.

"The biggest problem we're finding with Wi-Fi in a real mobile environment is the party is moving, the signal power drops so fast and the client hangs on for so long, the call disconnects before we can affect the handoff," Finneran said.

Quality of service can be used to improve the performance of UC apps over Wi-Fi. Even though traffic is on a shared channel, network managers can prioritize traffic by determining which users are on voice or video calls. Network managers can then define different interframe spacing, the minimum number of microseconds that a channel must remain clear after the previous transmission ends, for high-priority and low-priority traffic.

"So, if you're on a voice or video device, you won't wait as long as a data or best-effort device," Finneran said. "Even though it's a shared channel, we can prioritize one user over the other if we can recognize he's on a voice call."

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