BYOD and 5G are changing the workplace: how businesses can keep up

The “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) trend has exploded across the country, with more than 90% of workplaces encouraging people to use their personal laptops, phones and tablets in the office, according to IDC.

Just as many consumers have “cut the cord” in their homes and now rely entirely on their cellphones, business owners can adequately rely on a cellular connection for their employee’s handsets, eliminating costly IP phones and fixed landlines in their building, further lowering overhead costs. In fact, MicroMarket found that the BYOD and enterprise mobility solutions industry is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 27.6%.

This increase in personal devices at work also sheds light on a very real issue – that businesses need to have the connectivity bandwidth to handle all of the devices. Most landlords, tenants and building owners view cellular coverage in their buildings as a fourth utility and just as important as water, gas or electricity.

>See also: As wearables enter the workplace, IT revisits BYOD lessons

According to CommScope, while 43% of mobile phone calls originate within a commercial building, only 30% of those business are equipped to handle the growing mobile traffic. However, many large commercial buildings don’t have consistent wireless service throughout – whether it be due to building materials, the outside landscape or even the sheer size of the building.

Another important factor for a business to have a BYOD policy is based on the number of employees. US Census data shows that 89% of all U.S. businesses have fewer than 20 employees. A business with a small number of employees typically results in a company not having a large enough pool of people to leverage and justify the expense of a corporate account with a single carrier.

In these businesses, allowing individual employees to pick and choose a family plan that is right for them works best. In this case, a small business employer can opt to compensate individual employees a fixed monthly amount to apply towards their individual plan.

In addition, more and more employees are working from home or remote locations. With multiple geographic locations for employees, a BYOD policy can be more effective. Individual employees in remote locations can choose the carrier that makes the best financial sense and provides the best coverage for that specific location.

The advent of 5G

In addition to businesses not being equipped to handle the increased cellular coverage, the upcoming evolution from 4G to 5G comes with potential barriers to cell signal as well. The path to 5G will require a macro network based on millimeter wave frequencies, which will take time to develop and build out. Not to mention the additional issue of current devices such as phones, tablets, and other IoT applications not yet being designed to support millimeter wave frequencies.

In addition, 5G signals have greater attenuation (reduced effect) through physical objects. As frequencies go higher, such as for millimetre wave, their broadcast/ propagation deteriorates greatly compared to traditional < 6GHz frequencies.

>See also: 3 ways to manage BYOD for a modern workforce

This means that signal attenuation due to buildings, trees/foliage, and even weather such as snow or rain will severely weaken those signals. Many offices have a difficult time getting 3G and 4G signals inside due to infrastructure and location, so getting higher frequency 5G signals through physical objects will be considerably more difficult.

Solutions for businesses

A lack of comprehensive cellular coverage can cause a number of negative effects, including employee or visitor frustration, reduced productivity, compromised safety and security, and even lost revenues. So how can business owners fix this issue?

Installing an enterprise-grade passive DAS cellular signal booster, such as the systems offered by Wilson Electronics’ WilsonPro line, is a simple solution. WilsonPro’s cell boosters can make cell signal up to 32 times stronger for significantly more reliable voice and data coverage, including 4G LTE, in any large commercial space such as hotels, hospitals, schools, retail spaces, large residential buildings, event venues, and more.

They are easy to integrate, much more cost-effective than active DAS, work with all wireless carriers and can be up and running quickly to ensure strong cell service throughout any building under 200,000 square feet, boosting business productivity and efficiency.

Small cells are another solution for small spaces. A small cell is a low-power base station that covers a limited area. However, they still require a fixed connectivity back to the network in the form of a femtocell, which most carriers offer to small businesses and individual customers, typically for a one-time fee. A femtocell connects to the broadband Internet service and uses it to communicate with the carrier’s cellular network.

>See also: Why Generation Z is about to take your workplace by storm

However, femtocells have some significant limitations. They are carrier-specific, so only benefit users who use the same cellular provider as the business’ femtocell. They also have a fairly low maximum capacity of between eight and 16 simultaneous users for a business-class femtocell. In addition, a femtocell uses Internet bandwidth, which will slow down Internet speeds for other devices.

The BYOD trend is continuing to explode in popularity and the advent of 5G is imminent, so businesses nationwide must take note and make sure they are ready to handle the increased cellular bandwidth. By being prepared, they will ensure their employees remain productive and satisfied at work.


Sourced by Jeff Gudewicz, vice president of product development, Wilson Electronics

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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