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Forecast 2014: Boost your mobile bandwidth

Sandra Gittlen | Sept. 24, 2013
Wireless networks rule, but wired systems will still have an important place in the hierarchy in the coming year.

Eric Hanselman, an analyst at 451 Research, agrees. Users expect the same computing experience they get at home, he says. Yet as data goes mobile and heads out to the cloud, that response time may slow down.

In addition, organizations assume that a swap to the cloud is simple but don't always consider the bandwidth needed for the back-and-forth data movement. "Every CIO's nightmare is the complaint that bandwidth access to a particular application is faster from my home network versus the enterprise," Hanselman says.

Such expectations are not lost on Horn. With departments such as radiology primed to go mobile, the Advocate Health Care IT team has to tread lightly. "We know that radiology, which needs high-quality resolution and performance, will be a tremendous consumer of wireless bandwidth — maybe even its No. 1 consumer," Horn says. A wired workstation with a 1Gbps interface lets users access an image such as an MRI in two to three seconds. "That same image could take a minute or two over the wireless network," he explains.

Also, he worries about the quality of images transmitted wirelessly. With today's technology, "it would be hard to get the image in and buffered quickly," Horn says. Before moving forward, he would put wireless networks to the test to ensure that the performance is good and the images are high quality.

"Wireless has so many practical limitations that we're very careful to [make sure] we don't bring about expectations that aren't attainable," he says.

In the next 12 months, do you anticipate allowing employees to bring more, fewer or the same number of consumer devices/technologies into your organization?

  • More 54%
  • Less 5%
  • The same 29%
  • We do not plan to allow consumer devices 12%

Source: Computerworld Forecast survey; base: 221 IT executive respondents; June 2013

To maintain access point density and coverage, and keep bandwidth capacity at a workable level wherever possible, Horn has opted to keep some devices on the wired network. "We still look at the wired opportunity — even with new construction," he says. "If an employee is typically going to be standing in the same area to do their task, then we put them on the wired network."

He has been studying the potential of 802.11ac but doesn't see it as a panacea for what ails most wireless networks today. He claims the dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) could present engineering challenges and keep it from reaching its 1Gbps theoretical data rate. "If we install it into a real network with competing interference, that will de-rate the speed and not make it worth implementation costs," he says. That said, as Advocate constructs new buildings, Horn is planning cabling to support 802.11ac for potential future adoption.


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