Frank Hanzlik, Managing Director of the WiFi Alliance, speaks to Business Management about the convenience wireless networks bring to organizations – ensuring users can stay in touch anytime and everywhere, not only with each other, but also with customers too. Not only does this add to an increase in productivity, but also leads to greater accuracy in everyday tasks along with considerable cost savings. In fact, an NOP study highlights how organizations save an average of US$164,000 annually on cabling costs and labor. With benefits like these, it’s no wonder that WLAN is having such an impact and that the savvy are getting and staying connected.
BM. How are next-generation wireless networks revolutionizing the way companies operate? FH. The expectation is moving toward constant connectivity. The constraints of being out of touch from customers and from critical operations data is something that is rapidly changing. It is something that is going to allow companies to not only operate more productively, but to deliver better customer service.
BM. How should companies go about choosing the right WLAN solution to fit their needs? FH. The first thing is to start with a needs assessment. It is vital to sit down and decide what you are trying to accomplish. Sit down with some of the key stakeholders within the company, look at the technology and its capabilities, and then really understand what the technology needs to do today and how it needs to grow in the future. With this in place, the next step is being able to go out to a typical RFP or RFI procurement process, get some quotes back from a few vendors then make a decision to ultimately select a strategic partner.
The great thing about the WLAN industry is that it has been around for a number of years (six years in terms of what we know as Wi-Fi) and there has really been a very strong level of support for Wi-Fi Certified – the program we focus on. This is an independent third party assessment to make sure that products from one manufacturer can really work with the products of another manufacturer. As a result, enterprise customers can look for products that are Wi-Fi Certified and know they have the ability to look at multi sourcing. They know they are the kind of products that have gone through vigorous interoperability testing and ultimately this will lead to better pricing as well.
BM. Network security is always of paramount importance to organizations. How best should security concerns be mitigated? FH. Firstly, it is important to ensure that you are enabling security on your wireless network. All the wireless networks that are shipped today have security. It’s really just a matter of switching it on. Products that have been shipped though our wireless certification program since spring of this year have all been shipped with what we call Wi-Fi Protective Access 2 (WPA2). This included the latest level of commercially available security and encryption technology so a network will be deployed with very reliable security.
BM. Can you explain any interesting developments and trends in enterprise mobility? FH. Probably the most interesting is voice and how it will start permeating the local area network. We’ve seen companies that have been experimenting in some cases with Voice Over Wi-Fi. Other companies have deployed this technology and have been doing so for a number of years in certain vertical market applications. What we are really beginning to see is a new generation of interest in terms of Voice Over WI-FI. Organizations have really been trying to leverage these existing networks maybe expanding or upgrading them a little bit and being able to support not only data and voice on that. Enterprise customers are going to have a variety of solutions from solution providers and handset providers to be able to make very cost-effective calls over their wireless networks in these campus environments.
BM. How is technology likely to improve in the future? FH. One of the big technology events on the horizon is 802.11n. This is a new technology, which will be coming out probably sometime next year. At the moment, it is still in the process of getting standardized by the IEEE, which develops standards for the wireless industry. It is something that will take the existing networks and really turbo-charge these with substantial speed and also some extended range capabilities. Therefore, this is something, which I think is going to provide an excellent platform for enterprise users who are looking to expand the number of users they have in their network, the kind of applications they may want to support in terms of voice and in terms of multi-media capabilities. So we think this will be a very exiting development that will continue the growth of wireless technology.