July 30, 2018

We are on the precipice of living in a world in which almost every electronic device we interact with is connected to a vast network where data is constantly being exchanged. In this new hyper-connected world, we will discover new opportunities to improve efficiency, create more economic benefits, and reduce human exertion. The network we’re describing here is what’s commonly referred to as the Internet of Things, or IoT.

In just a few years, the IoT will extend far beyond the standard internet-connected devices we use today—these being computers, smartphones, and tablets. As technology progresses, traditionally non-internet-enabled devices such as vehicles, home appliances, energy systems, and manufacturing machines will no longer operate in an enclosed environment. Plus, as voice and data-driven applications become more sophisticated, they too will require more networking power to operate. Virtually every industry can expect to see dramatic shifts as smart technologies become more available and economically viable.

But in order for this technological revolution to take place, our current wireless-enabling infrastructures need to be drastically revamped.

It’s important to note that Wi-Fi is, and will remain to be, a strong augmentation to an effective connectivity strategy, but it is, in fact, just that – a piece of the connectivity puzzle.

Wi-Fi, and Voice-Over-Wi-Fi for that matter, as it exists today will simply not be enough to support the massive amount of data these technologies will be producing and sending. What’s more, a Wi-Fi-only  strategy does not account for the fluid device behavior that is now custom and will become more predominant with the proliferation of IoT devices – that being the continual, fluid transitions between Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity as devices interact. As such, it is important for property owners to start investing in their cellular infrastructure today, along with Wi-Fi, so that their network is ready to support the burgeoning data and cellular demands of both current and future connected devices.

So what exactly will these new wireless infrastructures look like? Undoubtedly, they will largely consist of fiber-based, in-building cellular systems. Because when data rules the connected environment of tomorrow, the bandwidth that fiber-based systems provide will be the crucial ingredient for meeting usage demands.

The Current and Future State of Mobile Devices and Cellular Data Usage

Internet of Things

Current numbers from the Pew Research Center show that in 2018, 77% of US adults own a smartphone. That’s up from 35% when Pew first conducted the survey in 2011. US adult ownership of tablet computers has also risen to 53%.

Another figure to watch is the growing number of people who are “smartphone dependent.” According to Pew, one-in-five American adults use smartphones as their primary means of online access and do not have a traditional home broadband service.

With more mobile devices in the hands of Americans combined with a greater dependency on those devices for internet access, mobile data usage continues to skyrocket. According to the CTIA, a leading trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the US, Americans used a record 15.7 trillion megabytes of mobile data in 2017. This is a near quadrupling of data usage since 2014.

The number of data-only devices—i.e., connected cars, IoT devices, and wearables—rose to 126.4 million in 2017. This follows a nearly 20% year-to-year growth since 2013. To keep up with all this growth and in preparation of the cellular data demands 5G is expected to create, a record 323,448 cell sites were in operation at the end of 2017. This makes for another outstanding growth statistic of 52% over the last decade.

As cellular data usage continues to expand due to video streaming, time spent using mobile apps, the development and proliferation of virtual reality and IoT devices, and the increased number of smartphone and tablet ownership, plans for having a robust wireless infrastructure have become more important than ever.

All of this should have enterprises wondering if their current wireless infrastructure will be capable of supporting the extreme data usage of the very near future. One way to answer this question is to assess the makeup of your current infrastructure. If it’s not at least partially made from fiber, then it’s safe to assume that you’ll have a very serious problem on your hands.

Why A Fiber-Based Infrastructure Is So Important

The majority of wireless infrastructures in place today use cabling made from copper. This is because copper was considered the gold standard for conductivity. However, copper has many limitations in regard to its attenuation, bandwidth, and physical characteristics.

Single mode fiber, on the other hand, is able to support 6 times the number of devices and end users than a CAT 5 copper-made cable. Fiber is also able to transmit data at much greater distances than copper. Moreover, fiber is lighter and more flexible than copper, so it requires less structural support and space. This makes fiber a much easier and more capable material for enterprises to architect their networking systems with.

With all of this in mind, it should be easier to see how an all-fiber infrastructure can offer all the support needed to run the systems and applications your enterprise uses today, while also making you poised to handle the networking demands of future smart-building devices.

But what’s needed for that next step that allows you to expand your IT or OT capabilities for even greater efficiency, security, and productivity?

Enter Passive Optical LANs (POLs).

Benefits of POLs

1. Added Security

In terms of security, POLs offer greater intrusion-detecting capabilities and are more difficult to infiltrate than traditional copper-rich LANs. This makes it easier for network security agents to know when an intrusion has happened and circumvent the situation. It’s also easier to encrypt fiber-based systems, giving you added protection. On top of all that, fiber is inflammable. So it can also be seen as an additional public safety measure.

2. Cost-Saving

POLs also save on costs, especially those associated with installation, floor space, power, and cooling. Fiber’s lightweight and flexible nature means it requires fewer strands to support a full infrastructure and has fewer installation requirements than copper—which saves time and money on installation costs.

Additionally, because POLs utilize passive components, buildings are able to significantly reduce, or in some cases, outright eliminate their intermediate distribution frame (IDF) closets. With less need for cooling, you can expect to see a dramatic drop in energy costs as well as an increase in usable square footage for other revenue-generating purposes. Tied to lower energy costs and the elimination of copper is the transition to a greener and more sustainable work environment—making it easier for enterprises to earn these types of certifications.

3. Future-Proof

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, POLs along with an all-fiber infrastructure means putting your enterprise in a state of future readiness. As people and businesses become more connected through their wireless devices, more and more data will need to be exchanged.

From 4K video streaming and virtual reality devices to interconnected systems sharing massive amounts of data with one another, the bandwidth needed to simultaneously transmit all this information is going to be immense. This makes having a fiber-based infrastructure absolutely necessary to support the hyper-connected world that the IoT is bound to create.

Preparation for the Future Begins Today

If you’re still using a copper-based wireless infrastructure, it’s time to start thinking seriously about replacing it with fiber. So, what’s a good first step? Hiring an in-building cellular systems provider like Connectivity Wireless Solutions to perform an assessment of your current cellular infrastructure and network needs.

Our experts will be able to tell you exactly what can be done to improve your wireless infrastructure and make sure it’s ready to support demands well into the future. To talk to someone about scheduling an on-site assessment, give us a call at 1-888-591-9418 or fill out the contact form here.