Wireless bandwidth: Are we running out of room?

As mobile devices proliferate, wireless networks are edging near capacity -- a potential threat to price, performance, and innovation.

1 2 3 4 Page 4
Page 4 of 4

Like CUNA Mutual, SBLI allows employees to use personal devices for work-related activities. That concerns Capizzi, citing the scenario where an employee might be using the device extensively on weekends. To offset increased costs of bandwidth requirements, he says, he would probably recommend subsidizing the cost of the devices based on work-related usage; anything above that would be the employee's responsibility.

Relative to today's usage patterns, Forrester's Golvin sees few impending changes, saying, "Some businesses might examine their communications budgets more carefully, but by and large, employers see increased productivity as a result of their employees being connected and performing whatever task is in front of them." In other words, the mobile revolution will continue, spectrum crunch or no.

If and when prices do rise significantly or data caps become more onerous, Golvin believes employers will either invest in better management tools, so they can monitor how much employees are working versus playing games, or deploy dual-SIMM devices and require employees to swap out the SIMMs for personal activities -- or both.

ABI Research's Solis agrees that companies won't limit users in the short term, and cites another technological option. IT can make sure that when people are around company locations, they're on the company network, whether over Wi-Fi, or some kind of femtocell or picocell bandwidth extension devices that are part of the private network.

Golvin adds, "Employees already alter their behavior to get the 'best' experience [from their gadgets], whether that's the fastest, the cheapest, or with the lowest latency. End users will continue to develop more awareness of the impact of their behavior, just like they did with voice minutes."

Full-blown crisis or short-term crunch?

Experts vacillate between calling the wireless spectrum situation a crisis or a crunch.

Based on networking experience stretching back more than 20 years, CUNA Mutual's Winger is confident that the situation will correct itself, whether through more bandwidth or better technology. (For more on potential bandwidth stretching technologies, see Busting bandwidth barriers.)

"In the early 90s, we were dealing with narrowband technology, but the technology eventually evolved to spread spectrum, where data could hop. There are advances occurring in multiple solutions, so there are many possible alternatives," Winger says. "We solved those issues, and we'll solve these."

Silicon Valley-based freelancer Howard Baldwin writes about networking and mobile technology, among other enterprise-related issues.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 3 4 Page 4
Page 4 of 4
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon