The need to accommodate more endpoints is driving a boom in wireless network services and deployments.
Unlike in the past, when wireless technology was often considered a "nice to have" afterthought, the technology is becoming a more integral part of all network upgrade work, solutions providers said. In some offices, it isn't uncommon to see IP phones and video endpoints connected directly to the wired network, while notebook computers connect via the wireless networks blanketing the campus.
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"Everyone is evaluating and upgrading," said Dave Casey, CEO of Westron Communications, a network integrator in Frisco, Texas.
Westron has seen a 150% growth in its wireless deployments in the past several years, Casey said.
Why wireless network services?
Companies that installed wireless six or seven years ago when it first became viable are now updating that equipment to newer 802.11n technology, which offers much better speed and bandwidth.
"Wireless is more active than it has ever been," said Chris Poe, CTO of Atrion Networking, an integrator in Warwick, R.I. "Organizations that generally weren't as interested in mobility and wireless are now treating them as part and parcel of the plan."
Atrion tripled its wireless network services and sales business last fiscal year, Poe said.
Few customers are opting for or waiting for the emerging 802.11ac Wi-Fi Alliance standard that is supposed to be finalized in late 2012, which will offer multi-station wireless LAN throughput of up to 1 GB per second.
Wireless is being added to almost every project.
director of technology solutions, BBH Solutions
"Wireless is being added to almost every project we are doing," said Perry Malamed, director of technology solutions for BBH Solutions, a network integrator in New York. "You are seeing a lot of companies that haven't done anything including this as part of network refreshes, so they can consider everything together."
Wireless network services opportunities
That means small- and medium-sized businesses are more willing to invest in thorough site assessments and surveys, pre-installation network design and get enough bandwidth to ensure the installation lasts for a while before needing to be updated, integrators said.
"Wireless needs to be installed safely, securely and with the right performance levels," Malamed said.
In particular, more corporate networks are accommodating separate guest networks to help quarantine systems brought in by either business partners who need to connect during a visit or need to manage mobile devices they don't have direct control over.
"People are realizing that employees are no longer chained to a desk and that network access needs to be pervasive," Poe said.
In some cases, guest access is being used by companies as a perk for their customers. Some community banks and restaurants are installing wireless so that it can be used by patrons while they are waiting their turn for service, but they want to ensure activity is insulated from mission-critical applications.