Brown’s Bytes – Wi-Fi First?


16th March 2018

First of all, many thanks to Neil for stepping in and delivering an excellent Byte last week – probably a relief for regular readers to not have me rambling on! But I’m back!!

This week I thought I’d build on Neil’s thoughts regarding Wi-Fi and bring up a key item that we’re now seeing in the market where we appear to have reached a tipping point towards Wi-Fi first network design. There are a number of items converging at the moment that are driving a step change in how Wi-Fi is being consumed now and how it will be consumed in the future in the enterprise.

Once upon a time we saw the initial implementations of Wi-Fi in the enterprise. These usually took the form of 2 SSIDs being implemented – one for guests and the other for staff. Both were designed with the occasional laptop user in mind.

The office mix at the time was predominately desktop PC based with a few corporate laptops for execs and road warriors. A lot of these laptops would actually spend the majority of their time on the Ethernet LAN at desk and only connect to the Wi-Fi when in a meeting.

This was true also for the guests arriving – usually it was the execs or the road warriors of other companies who would potentially need to connect to the Wi-Fi and use the guest network.

As we all now know, along came mobile phones and tablets and the guest Wi-Fi started to crumble. Suddenly every staff member had a device on the Wi-Fi!


This is where the collision of trends is creating a problem:

  1. The need to deploy Windows 10 – I’ve spoken about this previously, but the key thing here is the deadline of Windows 7 end of life and the fact that many enterprises use an OS update as an opportunity to refresh the hardware.
  2. The market is shifting away from desktop PCs on every desk towards giving users their computer to carry around.
  3. Since Microsoft launched the Surface range of devices there has been a trend to more tablet like devices. The major enterprise providers of hardware such as HP and Lenovo have their Surface equivalent devices and they are proving to be very popular in the enterprise. I suspect partly because they don’t look like another dull laptop!

As Neil pointed out last week, the key thing with all this is that there is now a significant shift to devices that don’t have an Ethernet Port. May sound obvious, but they have been designed to be Wi-Fi first. You can add an Ethernet dongle and I have seen companies giving these out, but they acknowledge that unless the Wi-Fi is out of range then the users are unlikely to plug them in.

Users just expect Wi-Fi to work now… People don’t plug in cables at home any more to get connected and they won’t at work either.

This is creating a step change in the number of devices and the volume of traffic on the Corporate Wi-Fi. Devices now permanently live on the Wi-Fi and that means everything that the user does now transits the Wi-Fi.

Think about every client downloading Windows Updates at the same time alone…

You really need to plan for this! If you’d like to know more about how we can help plan a wireless network to suit your needs today and in the future then please do get in touch.