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There’s plenty of talk about how companies such as Uber, Netflix and Airbnb are disrupting traditional business models, and similar trends are affecting how IT is delivered and managed, including wireless area networks.

In a recent IT World Canada webinar, Create IT Efficiencies with Managed Network Solutions, Tracy Markwood, senior director of wireline product management for Rogers’ Enterprise Business Unit, outlined the reasons why an organization might want to outsource its WiFi infrastructure. For most IT managers, those reasons probably aren’t all that new – ultimately the goal is to simplify and offload tasks that allow them to focus more on innovation. “With more devices accessing the network, it’s not long before enterprises spend the bulk of their IT budget on patching holes.”

According to research from Vision Critical, 70 per cent of IT efforts are dedicated to “just keeping the lights on,” said Markwood, and managed WiFI-as-a-Service frees up people to do things other than manage a network. The biggest concern IT departments have with challenging the current model is around security, but there are lot of productivity gains to be had by simplifying and outsourcing this infrastructure to a third party, she said.

“Security is a growing concern for Canadian businesses,” Markwood acknowledged, citing a recent Ponemon Institute statistic that 36 per cent of Canadian businesses have experienced a significant data breach over a 12 month period in 2014. But that’s all the more reason to dump legacy WAN infrastructure that requires a lot of manual updates. “It’s really a disaster waiting to happen.”

A managed service can provide an IT manager with complete visibility into the wireless network, including security elements, through a single portal, Markwood said, and allow them to be pre-emptive and proactive so that breaches don’t happen.

Most importantly, it’s gives IT an opportunity to contribute to employee productivity and save money as research shows employees are no longer wanting to be chained to a desk with their multiple devices. WiFi can now deliver the performance to support the tools and applications they are using, she said. “Why would companies pay for cabling cubicles?”

Millennials in particular want to be wireless, Markwood said, and by 2020, they are expected to make up 60 per cent of the workforce. The same visibility that addresses an organization’s security concerns can also help them better understand where people spend their time so the organization can the get best use of its workspaces. According to research by IDC, 75 per cent of Canadians will be mobile workers by 2018, she said.

And it’s not just about transforming how people work. WiFi-as-a-Service allows IT to help their organization better serve customers by leveraging the WiFi connections to conduct analytics that in turn support business decisions, Markwood said. A retailer that extends its WiFi to customers can use better understand store traffic through “location heat maps.” This can help visualize where staff need to be deployed or where products should be placed.

My deploying WiFi-as-a-Service, a mall can create better mobile – and shopping – experiences for its consumers, and retail tenants can benefit from that infrastructure as well as it supports “store wayfinding” – shoppers can easily find what they want quickly.

Ultimately, by spending less time managing infrastructures, IT can help the business leverage its WiFi connectivity to help make strategic business decisions, said Markwood.

According to a forecast released by Dell’Oro Group late last summer, the overall Wireless LAN market will hit a market high of almost US$13 billion in 2019 – more than 30 per cent growth over 2015 revenues, in part because it’s become easier for IT departments to deploy more WiFi access.

Meanwhile, IDC expects cloud-managed WiFi to be a US $1.7 billion business by 2018, with the majority of growth in the WLAN business coming from cloud-based services and other alternative architectures rather than traditional on-premise, controller-based deployments. Earlier this year, AirTight Networks rebranded itself as Mojo Networks and launched cloud-based WiFi access that can scale up to thousands of users across an organization.



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