The Human Factor: Indoor Wi-Fi and Cellular (LTE/5G) in Enterprise
In my prior role, before Corning, as a leader in global Infrastructure Architecture, our team’s User Experience (UX) goal was to create a Magic User Experience where IT services just functioned with minimal human intervention required. In the infrastructure arena, we focused on simplifing many dimensions of the UX to increase customer satisfaction.
So, you ask, what’s the point of this?
Well, in our industry, conversations around solving indoor wireless service issues and the potential options tend to devolve into technical discussions that completely miss the point of what people are wanting from wireless service and, secondarily, the whole set of business costs that cascade from IT’s technology mix decisions.
Let’s set the stage by asking what do the people want from our wireless services? It’s simply this: Employees, contractors, and guests are seeking reliable and fast service for their mobile devices and laptops throughout the facilities. With the guiding principle, from a customer satisfaction perspective, that these services are available without any special steps required.
As IT decides on the technology mix to solve cellular mobility issues, there are two options at the top of the list:
- Use Wi-Fi for all indoor wireless
- Assume investment in required network upgrades, tools, processes, and people.
- IT Role: assume direct operational support for all mobile devices indoors.
- Keep devices on their native networks (LTE/5G cellular or Wi-Fi)
- Assume investment in indoor small cells or DAS to provide LTE/5G coverage.
- IT Role: assume an oversight role for cellular improvement operations.
I’ve been in many conversations/debates around the two available options and have observed that the actual burden of direct operational support for the “use Wi-Fi for all” is either not considered or is underestimated. I’ll begin with a story:
A company’s CIO was directly approached by their enterprise infrastructure vendor to adopt Wi-Fi for indoor cellular device support. The pitch made sense to him around leveraging a single network for laptops and mobility, so he asked for his Infrastructure team’s opinion. The opening question presented was “do you want all 12,000 employees on this campus to know they can call IT for dropped calls?” As they explained that doubling the amount of devices attached to the enterprise network would require headcount and technology refresh funding along with the political liability of owning indoor cellular issues, the idea kind of died right there. From a political liability perspective, when powerful non-technical business people had issues, they escalated to the CIO so end user facing services like cellular mobility had to be rock solid and trouble free. With these factors in mind, IT made a strategic decision to add indoor cellular service improvements to the campus buildings as it was the least support-intensive decision for IT operation and didn’t require additional IT headcount.
Not convinced yet? Let’s move on. Since most medium-large enterprises don’t launch new services without making sure their technology and support infrastructures are ready, let’s compare a few areas of concern that need planning work: