Perhaps you could call it a “perfect storm.” Commercial/enterprise markets are experiencing a confluence of technological and operational shifts that all point directly toward the need for improved cellular communications.
Among the key market drivers are Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies that require end users to develop Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions that allow employees to seamlessly use their own smartphones, tablets and laptops with their employer’s Wi-Fi and cellular network. Another key trend is the move to cellular as the primary means of transporting data.
Whatever the reasons, it is all certainly great news for Global Convergence Inc., an Oldsmar, Fla.-based value added reseller and designer of communications networks. The 20-year-old company established an even stronger foothold in the design and implementation of cellular networks with the recent acquisition of Radiant Networks in January 2015. Radiant has expertise in network engineering with an emphasis on enterprise mobility.
“Our focus is on enterprise networks,” explains Jennifer Bryant, vice president of marketing at GCI. “Our expertise is in network switching, traffic routing and enterprise mobility – we are a value-added distributor that sells to integrators and solution providers that sell to end user customers.”
Dan Cooper, vice president of mobility at GCI, adds, “We are very much a channel play. Typically, the channel partner (integrator) may not have that expertise so they come to us to help design it, spec it and deploy it. Design is our wheelhouse as it relates to cellular and complex systems as it relates to Wi-Fi.”
Cooper, who came from Radiant, says he discovered Wilson Electronics about four or five years ago, just as the company was first dipping its toes into the cellphone signal booster market, just as the market started gaining momentum.
“In the case of WilsonPro products, we now have a solution that allows our channel partners to bring cell phone signal boosters to the market. With them, they can repeat cellular coverage indoors in anything from a small retail outlet, to a large warehouse or healthcare venue.”
While GCI designs systems for every mode of communication, it is now getting more requests from integrators to solely design just the cellular repeater systems for their commercial clients.
“We are seeing that more and more, especially in industrial markets. We are doing five one-off repeater systems this week alone across the country, so the momentum is quite strong,” he comments.
Key Market Drivers
So why all the market momentum? Cooper cites three key trends taking place:
- First, in enterprise markets, cellular as a primary transport is being adopted more and more. GCI is seeing more have corporate end users use cellular as their primary interface for transfer of data over a wide area network.
- Second, cellular repeater systems are being deployed to act as fail-overs for the data network.
- Third, there is a need for ubiquitous access between Wi-Fi and cellular. Applications are being developed in the commercial space that allow for secure roaming between Wi-Fi- and cellular networks. Cooper says that third market trend is the biggest opportunity. But there is no cookie-cutter formula for identifying prime candidates for cellphone repeaters.
“Projects are all over the map,” notes Cooper. “We do projects that are as small as 4,000 to 5,000 square feet all the way up to ones that are 800,000 to 900,000 square feet. It spans from singular boosters to full-blown repeaters with amplified signals and multiple antennas.”
The basic rule of thumb for designing a cellphone booster system is pretty simple: eliminate the gaps in coverage. Those cell gaps can bring a commercial business to its proverbial knees, especially if the company is using cellular as a primary means of transporting data.
“For example, let’s take a trucking yard. They might be using their device outside using the cellular network and they walk inside the warehouse and the cellular network completely disappears. That is a very common problem,” says Cooper.
Designing a BYOD Cell Repeater Network
In terms of single-vendor/carrier-specific systems vs. multi-carrier/agnostic systems, GCI gets requests to design both types.
“In the industrial world, you can literally see four antennas of the roof from four different major players (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile). But for regional financial clients, you regular see requests for carrier-specific systems,” says Cooper. “We educate our channel partners on how to identify channel opportunities. Typically, requests come in from executives in the carpeted space looking just for cellular systems but we also get requests construction documents seeking bids for both Wi-Fi and cellular networks.”
Among the ways GCI helps out integrators is with demo kits and survey kits. GCI staff will also sometimes accompany an integrator or VAR as he makes a sales presentation in the field to a corporate client.
“Helping partners with training is something we do,” adds Bryant. “But we also try to be an extension of our channel partners’ engineering team so they don’t have to make investments so they can get a solution installed in the field more quickly.”
GCI primarily designs its systems using the Wilson Electronics Pro70 model boosters.
“We definitely like the price point. We like the regional support. The Wilson Electronics solution fits right in a certain sweet spot we have for installations from both a pricing and coverage standpoint,” says Cooper.
His advice for integrators is to keep their system design and installation simple, but don’t try to fit a low- to mid-range type system into a large enterprise application.
“There is education that needs to be done about the scalability of boosters, repeaters and full-blown distributed antenna systems (DAS) that we have to keep our partners reeled in on,” he notes.
Bryant believes BYOD policies are what is driving the need for cellphone repeater networks, noting that the “market is clamoring for solutions.”
“BYOD represents a huge opportunity for enterprise access to communications and data using the smartphone whether it be with Wi-Fi or with cellular or with both. This all fits right in with the corporate strategy for complete mobility,” she says.
Cooper adds, “MDM has all the momentum right now. The ability to simplify and clean up the number of the devices and set parameters for usage among corporate employees using a BYOD strategy is vital—whether it is with a corporate phone or a personal phone that is accessing corporate resources.”