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Whos Afraid of the Wireless WAN?


IF YOU ARE A TELECOM CONSULTANT
and your bread and butter has been wireline data such as IP VPN, MPLS or VoIP, you probably are asking yourself what the world of wireless means for your companys future. While you recognize that your prospects and clients all have mobile phone usage, the widget-based wireless voice sale does not excite you. The endlessly changing voice minute plans as well as the two-month shelf life for new mobile devices seem to be more of a headache to learn than they are worth. And besides, you are more comfortable discussing business and network applications, multiple locations, distributed networks, bits, bytes and infrastructure. Theres good news: You dont necessarily have to move away from your comfort zone to sell wireless. The wireless wide area network (WWAN) brings mobility solutions a lot closer to traditional enterprise networking.

The WWAN is a distributed network that leverages wireless connectivity to send and receive data packets across the network. It would replace the traditional wireline backbone, such as DSL or IP with a cellular modem inside a wireless router at each customer site to create a WAN. In addition, there is a host of personal tools like smartphones and mobile broadband cards for laptops that help the mobile business professional access information using wireless technology and connectivity anywhere and anytime there is sufficient wireless coverage.


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A laptop is connected to the mobile router via a secure (WPA or high-encryption) wireless LAN (802.11) or a 10/100 LAN via Ethernet to the mobile router. The mobile router sends the encrypted data packets via IPSec tunnels to the wireless network. The wireless network switches the packets to the Internet gateway and hands off to the destination router on a typical IP network with a Cisco router.

As a group, traditional wireline-centric telecom consultants are just beginning to acknowledge the importance of mobility in the workforce. It is important for companies of all sizes to leverage wirelesss ubiquitous access to provide critical up-to-the-minute information to their employees. This is especially important for workers, such as sales executives or field technicians, with jobs that drive revenue or touch customers.

Mobility is creating a fundamental shift in the way people work and do business that is not unlike the shift from mainframe computing to distributed computing to network computing through the decades. Business has entered the Age of Enterprise Mobility, where traditional corporate networks and the associated business-critical applications are extended to a mobile infrastructure. The arrival of the highspeed 3G has made this era of the wireless WAN a reality.

The statistics for the growth of mobility solutions are promising. Businesses of all sizes are investing in mobile solutions to increase the productivity of their workforces. Gartner Inc. analysts conducted a survey of 1,400 CEOs of multinational corporations who put mobile workforce enablement initiatives at the top of their technology priorities for 2006. Analysts at Yankee Group Research Inc. predict that in 2007, more than 42 percent of the American workforce will be mobile, which means they spend more than 20 percent of the business workday away from their primary workspace. Analysts at IDC predict more than 30 percent of small businesses in 2007 will enable remote network access for employees.

These statistics point to the need for more mobility solutions with access to proprietary corporate information. While the mobile worker leverages tools, such as mobile broadband cards in laptops, mobile routers, Wi-Fi hotspots and smartphones with e-mail, voice and text capabilities to conduct their business, the WWAN actually will enable businesses to build networks that leverage wireless connectivity that can be deployed anywhere there is coverage.

Indeed, one of the key benefits of the WWAN is that it is truly mobile and can be moved wherever its needed. In addition, wireless deployment only takes a matter of days. So, if a client needs an ATM at a sporting event, no problem. The ATM can be equipped with a mobile broadband card inside a mobile router to process requests for cash. When the event is finished, the mobile ATM can be used at another event. The ROI for the enterprise is immediate.



Top Globals MB8000

The WWAN is made possible by CDMAbased carriers like Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless, which are blazing the path in the United States as 3G network speeds reach an average download of 400kbps to 700kbps and upload of 70kbps average on the EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) network. With the latest EV-DO Revison A upgrade, Sprints network speeds are optimized to an average of 450kbps to 800kbps download and an average of 300kbps to 400kbps upload. Sprint has plans to cover more than 220 million people with Rev. A by the third quarter of 2007. Even more throughput is possible when 4G networks come online. As one example, WiMAX likely will provide up to 10MB of throughput wirelessly over a square mile. Top Global, a maker of 3G routers already is experimenting with its nextgeneration 4G routers leveraging WiMAX.

Even the most basic router can be configured for backup networking, credit card processing or Internet connectivity. Top Globals MobileBridge (MB6000) is a good example of a basic router. It retails at $299. The next step up, the MB8000, is designed for higher-level networking and can initiate VPN tunnels, encrypt the data and also authenticate. Each MB8000 has a built-in radius server. It retails at $699. The soonto- be-released MB6800 provides automatic failover capabilities from a primary wireline connection to the wireless connection. The MSRP has not been released yet, but likely will be priced slightly above the MB6000. Other router manufacturers with similar products for the enterprise include Digi International Inc., AirLink Communications Inc., Junxion Inc. and JBM Electronics Co. Linksys and Kyocera Wireless Corp. both manufacture routers targeted for SOHO and consumer markets. Some mobile operators carry wireless routers in their inventories, but most do not provide commissions or volume discounts on their sales.

In contrast, mobile broadband cards, which are manufactured by companies such as Novatel Wireless Inc. and Sierra Wireless Inc., are subsidized by the carriers when service is activated. The cost for an average business customer to purchase a single card is anywhere from $100 to $0 depending on available promotions. The price costs for unlimited data usage range from $150 per line to $59.99, depending on the level of management provided by the carrier.

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This diagram illustrates a backup wireless network to a primary wireline network for point-of-sale transactions using the mobile broadband card inside the router to provide connectivity for credit card transactions. The router in this case, the MB6000 from Top Global also has secure Wi-FI-enabled to allow for a PoS terminal to be on the backup network without physically tethering to the router.

Many businesses are taking advantage of a high-speed, rapid-deployment WWAN architecture to host a variety of missioncritical business applications. Master agency Intelisys Communications Inc., which is based in Northern California, teamed up with Top Global to successfully provide a turnkey, fully managed WWAN solution to a customer that makes kiosks to dispense DVDs in supermarkets. The network will reach 3,000 sites nationwide in 2007 using a Sprint mobile broadband card inside a Top Global MB6000 to run secure credit card transactions. Due to the rapid turnup of sites, the customer was able to go to market at a speed that surpassed competitors using a traditional wireline-based solution like DSL.

This is but one of many applications for the mobile router. Here are a few examples that might help you think about potential applications for your customers:

  • Mobile hotspots, that can broadcast the signal wirelessly to more than one user
  • Backup networks providing true land/air diversity for enterprises
  • Guest network services in conference rooms
  • ATMs or kiosks for rapid turn-up of stores
  • Even wireless VoIP with quality-of-service queuing for telecommuters

The applications for the WWAN are endless and will become increasingly more robust as the network speeds continue to be optimized and the market becomes increasingly mature in both applications and networking sophistication.

Intelisys, for one, has keyed in on this explosively growing segment of the mobility market and now is positioning its company to be a single-source WWAN provider for channel partners and their enterprise customers. Its turnkey solution includes comprehensive and a la carte services, such as custom engineering of mobile routers, configuration and equipment staging, managed national deployments and post-sales support, such as 24/7 help desk and trouble-ticket resolution.

The wireless WAN is a unique opportunity for a wireline-focused channel partner to break into a new world of mobility solutions while leveraging their existing knowledge of networking.

Natasha Royer Coons is the founder and president of TeraNova Consulting Group, a new firm providing fully managed mobility solutions and wireless WAN products, services and expertise to channel partners nationwide. She brings a decade of experience as a former solutions consultant and SC manager advising partners on wireless and wireline products for Sprint Nextel Corp. Reach her at natasha@teranovaglobal.com.


Editors Note: This is the first in a series of articles by the author about holistic mobility, the future of wireless applications, device and infrastructure management, and the importance of leveraging customer relationship management (CRM) tools to drive more value to the customer.

Links
AirLink Communications Inc. www.airlink.com
Digi International Inc. www.digi.com
Gartner Inc. www.gartner.com
IDC www.idc.com
Intelisys Communications Inc. www.intelisyscorp.com
JBM Electronics Co. www.jbmelectronics.com
Junxion Inc. www.junxion.com
Kyocera Wireless Corp. www.kyocera-wireless.com
Linksys www.linksys.com
Novatel Wireless Inc. www.novatelwireless.com
Sierra Wireless Inc. www.sierrawireless.com
Sprint Nextel Corp. www.sprint.com
TeraNova Consulting Group www.teranovaglobal.com
Top Global USA Inc. www.topglobalusa.com
Verizon Wireless www.verizonwireless.com
Yankee Group Research Inc. www.yankeegroup.com

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