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Enterprise Wi-Fi is Booming, But Complex

NEW ORLEANS -- International CTIA Wireless -- Enterprise Wi-Fi networks are rapidly evolving into more complex networks, creating potential revenue opportunities and engineering challenges for wireless service providers.

That's the insight of consultants for Accenture , who admit their company "can't hire people fast enough" to help engineer robust Wi-Fi networks that meet the needs of specific industry verticals.

"Wi-Fi is the new norm for enterprises," says Vaibhav Parmar, partner with Acccenture. "It is playing a significant role in the delivery of services and the business processes themselves."

The interest in Wi-Fi goes well beyond "the bring-your-own-device and put up some access points stage," adds Shahid Ahmed, partner in the global technology consulting arm of Accenture. "These require an understanding of very vertical business processes and sophistication in how the technology is used."

For example, an oil and gas refinery wants to use Wi-Fi networking in its facility for things such as personnel tracking and monitoring of potentially dangerous gas levels. Setting up the network for these mission-critical applications is tricky because of how the many metal pipes and tanks affect the propagation of wireless signals, Parmar says.

"It requires highly skilled engineering talent," he says.

But the volume of business is growing at a pace that could make acquiring that talent worthwhile for wireless service providers looking for new revenue sources, especially in market segments such as retail, which is pervasive and quite large.

"A discount clothing retailer will be very interested in tracking sales, doing instant mark-ups and mark-downs and real-time inventory, plus they'll want push-to-talk communications within the store," says Ahmed.

Other specific sites such as sports stadiums represent a huge challenge because of the growing amount of upload traffic from patrons using smartphones to take and share pictures and videos. That's where wireless service providers can target their expertise, Ahmed says.

Accenture is seeing more European service providers interested in these kinds of Wi-Fi sales opportunities, he adds, in part because Long Term Evolution (LTE) is moving slower in that market and Wi-Fi represents the best way to handle the growing enterprise traffic without clogging up the 3G network.

But Ahmed and Parmar expect to see more U.S. wireless operators show an interest in the Wi-Fi possibilities because of the lucrative revenue the enterprise market can deliver.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

Flook 12/5/2012 | 5:33:28 PM
re: Enterprise Wi-Fi is Booming, But Complex

I don't think meeting the requirements of the verticals' Wi-Fi networks will be particularly challenging for service providers, given their understanding of vertical sectors and having rolled out Wi-Fi themselves. Would not be surprised if Accenture is found a fat cow to milk for all it's worth and is making it sound like rocket science.

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 5:33:30 PM
re: Enterprise Wi-Fi is Booming, But Complex

It's going to take effort on their part to understand the nuances of each of the industry verticals because cookie-cutter WiFi won't work.

digits 12/5/2012 | 5:33:30 PM
re: Enterprise Wi-Fi is Booming, But Complex

If the mobile operators haven't put their enterprise strategists onto the Wi-Fi + M2M + outsourced management combo yet then they'd better wake up and at least check out the business opportunity, and, I'd suggest, not just in the US of A.

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