The Cost Benefits of Wireless

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For busy professionals, being able to use laptops in any office space, break room or even the john can be the difference between making and missing tight deadlines. As anyone familiar with Wi-Fi knows, accessing the Internet and corporate servers from a wireless location makes it much easier and more efficient to do business. Yet, many companies wonder whether the convenience that comes with a wireless network is worth the hefty price tag that’s often attached.



Investing in a wireless network doesn’t create your average return on investment, so corporate executives should identify the specific business needs that Wi-Fi will meet before forking out any cash, said James Portaro, Integral Wireless Solutions chief technology officer and chief operating officer.



“You have to have a definitive need to go wireless and justify it within the business realm,” he said. “There has to be a need for mobility.”



Once this need — or an executive’s overwhelming desire — for a wireless network has been identified, several factors can determine the final installation price. The type of network a company requires, the infrastructure it already has and the type of hardware it chooses to buy can translate to a price difference of more than $100,000 for a midsized business, Portaro said.



For example, a midsized business that occupies a floor of a large high-rise could require around 100 access points. Depending on the amount of consultation needed, the nature of the radio frequency (RF) design and the appliances required, the cost of implementing a wireless system could range from between $105,000 and $300,000, Portaro said. And that’s with a wired network already in place.



The main factor that causes this discrepancy is the nature of the network — installing a straight data network costs a lot less than a telephony and location-based design because the telephony system requires many more access points to ensure a high-quality sound.



“If there is a packet lost, or timing that’s delayed from a data perspective, it’s much less noticeable than it is with a telephony design,” Portaro said. “With a telephony design, loss of packets means chirp and jitter from the voice, meaning bad voice quality. Location-based services drive the number of access points up because of the triangulation that has to happen between access points and clients.”



Despite its higher price, Portaro said a wireless telephony system is not something businesses usually pass up. In fact, he said it is usually the main feature that motivates corporate offices to install a wireless network.



“Mobile telephony lets you move around and not miss calls when you’re away from your office, and that is the biggest driving factor,” he said. “It’s all about enhancing the communication effort to the employer or associate.”


Portaro also said the main mistake a company can make when deciding whether to go wireless is justifying Wi-Fi as a cable replacement.



He said going wireless doesn’t get rid of cabling but simply moves it out of sight. Yet, the new 802.11n standard that’s set to come out in 2008 will do more to reduce cabling than any previous system because of the amount of bandwidth it can handle, he said.



“Your wireless infrastructure is going to cost more, but it will be a little bit easier to justify the mobility from an office perspective,” Portaro said. “You’ll have true high-speed data coming to the clients.”

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