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Unlocking the benefits of mobile UC with wireless LANs

The wireless LAN makes way for the successful integration of mobile UC applications like presence, mobile video conferencing and VoWLANs.

With new mobile device capabilities come new demands on infrastructure, not the least of which is the wireless LAN (WLAN) -- which the workforce increasingly relies upon as its primary or even sole mode of access.

Nemertes' research shows a 36% increase in wireless-only workers this year, a sizeable jump showing the convergence of two phenomena -- the maturation of the wireless LAN and the workforce's growing comfort in using it, and the explosion of wireless-only devices in the workplace.

The resulting strain on wireless LANs can surprise and quickly overwhelm unprepared IT departments. Workers returning from the holidays with new tablets, for example, could result in an unprovisioned and immediate increase in network traffic. More powerful mobile devices are shifting usage patterns from consumption-only applications to business-driven use cases, such as mobile video conferencing and VoWLAN (Voice over WLAN).

Once an extensive wireless LAN infrastructure and cutting-edge mobile devices are deployed, enterprises can fully embrace the benefits of mobile UC. Unified communications and collaboration tools are a natural evolution for IT departments looking to extend their role as strategic technology partners. IT can now easily add tools that take advantage of presence, allowing workers to quickly access information -- such as the location and availability of a coworker -- and ping the coworker with the appropriate communication technology. Timely, relevant data can now be pulled out of presence-focused databases by applications designed to increase worker productivity and collaboration.

Fifty-six percent of companies are implementing UC without the benefit of a business case or even criteria for success, with the exception of user satisfaction. In fact, companies that don't define a business case before deploying UC have greater success with their initiative. UC's value increases much like one of its defining pieces, the social network. The greater the population using UC and the more features they access, the greater the capability and success they will derive from using it. In essence, the value of UC doesn't become obvious to IT or its users until IT deploys it.

Continuing the theme of IT empowering employees, it may be time for companies to move voice from cellular to Wi-Fi to reap the benefits of UC and reduce costs. Voice over Wi-Fi continues to mature as a technology, allowing companies to take indoor voice traffic off of the expensive cellular network, and even remove the traditional desk phone where it makes sense.

Fixed mobile convergence (FMC) may not have reached the level of maturity where a soft handoff is guaranteed for every call coming in off the macro cell environment, but it's close. The integration will only get better, so at the very least, investing in the underlying wireless LAN infrastructure should be prioritized by IT.

A robust, dense and forward-looking wireless LAN is the basis for a complete mobile UC strategy that can scale with both the rapid pace of communications technology and the ever-increasing requirements of the mobile-empowered worker.

Read why having a robust wireless LAN (WLAN) infrastructure is no longer a convenience but a necessity, as demand for mobile UC and mobile device support grows.

About the author: Philip Clarke is a research analyst with Nemertes Research, where he conducts research, employs statistical analysis and develops research reports. Clarke focuses mainly on the state of the cellular market, forecasting next-generation wireless network implementations and near-future network solutions such as cognitive radio and dynamic spectrum allocation. He holds a master's degree in telecommunications and a bachelor's in information systems, both from the University of Colorado.

This was last published in November 2011

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