It’s All About Scale

The growth of WiFi-enabled, smart mobile devices is staggering.  Apple is shipping iPhones in record numbers while Android-based smartphones continue their meteoric rise and dominance.  Tablets aren’t far behind since Apple’s iPad exploded onto the scene, setting the bar and creating the opportunity for the likes of the popular Galaxy Tab and the newly-announced Kindle Fire.

At the heart of this growth is our insatiable desire for ubiquitous access to content, especially multimedia, in any place at any time, and is fueled by the availability of universal mobile connectivity via WiFi and other wireless infrastructure.  It’s interesting that many users now carry more than one mobile device – typically a smart (converged) mobile phone plus a tablet and/or laptop. What is also intriguing is that their uses are becoming concurrent as well.

With such a proliferation of smart mobile devices demanding universal mobile connectivity to bandwidth hungry multimedia, the scaling implications for WiFi network infrastructure have grown way beyond what was previously the norm.  Here are a few key areas to consider when scaling to meet this emerging demand:

With available WiFi frequency spectrum being a limited resource, management of the available bandwidth is now a requirement.  Strategies must include RF Spectrum Management coupled with selective Access Point (AP) placement, orthogonal dynamic channel selection methodologies with channel re-use, band-steering (b/g to a/n) and AP/client power management, just to name a few.  Beyond the AP, the WiFi infrastructure must be able to set policies for associated devices, traffic types, and services to effectively manage and preserve precious bandwidth while delivering the required experience.

The number of concurrent users served by the infrastructure must scale smoothly.  Access must be immediate and secure, supporting WiFi standards for authentication and encryption while offering custom policy options for groups or services, including provisions for wireless guest access.  As one person may carry multiple devices, the ability to associate that person with those devices can prove beneficial to managing user policy and simplify billing.  Recognizing device types and then matching them to the appropriate content or service is becoming increasingly important for delivering a seamless and satisfying user experience.  Infrastructure flexibility is key when supporting such large and diverse populations.

Scaling address management is important too.  With mobile populations, large numbers of addresses must be served and then reclaimed within short periods of time without exhausting the available address space in any given venue.  IPV6 isn’t the norm for all mobile devices and deployed infrastructure, yet it’s looming on the horizon.  With the sheer number of mobile devices expected to be deployed over the next few years, IPV6 is clearly a better choice than increasing the complexity of address translation.

We are truly a mobile society and our demand for universal mobile connectivity will only grow.  It’s clear that keeping pace with that demand requires a more intelligent, dynamic, and scalable WiFi infrastructure.

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