Networking: Businesses opt for 4G applications

AS more companies seek agile networks for mobile and customer-facing applications, as well as backups for their fixed networks, they are being drawn to 4G.

For instance, in the United Kingdom alone, according to a March 2013 survey by Vanson Bourne, of over 200 Information Technology decision-makers in organisations with at least 500 employees, some 60 per cent said they wanted to take advantage of 4G in the near future.

Among newly minted 4G adopters in the United States are the Barclays Center, United Oil and Hangers Cleaners, which run very different types of businesses but chose to implement 4G to complement their wired networks.

High-speed wireless “has become reliable enough and cost-effective enough that some IT managers are adding it to their networks,” an industry analyst at Plunkett Research, Jack Plunkett, says.

Also encouraging them is the fact that load balancers are now reasonably priced, so DSL and wireless, T1 and wireless or cable and wireless can be utilised simultaneously, he says.

“If one source fails, the other will pick up the entire load,” Plunkett explains.

The Vice-President of Technology for Barclays Center, an entertainment venue in Brooklyn, New York, Chip Foley, recalls that one prime directive during arena construction was to “just make the cell phones work.”

Foley’s employees struggled with schedule dates. “We outfitted these trailers well ahead of our opening because we knew we wouldn’t get much notice from carriers once they were ready to implement services,” Foley explains.

Indeed, once the carrier was ready to install equipment, “we had just a week’s notice,” he says. Even after the gear is installed, it takes the carrier several days to configure and test before the 4G network is functional. “We were down to the wire because the venue was about to open with eight Jay-Z shows,” but both Verizon and AT&T were able to bring their networks online in time.

There are other advantages as well. Kiosks and other types of infrastructure require network connections that need to be moved on a fairly regular basis, Foley says. And once it was all set up, 4G “allows us the flexibility to move to any location in the building without running new cabling, which is expensive and unsightly. We save time and money using the 4G service for areas that are always changing,” he says.

Adding 4G also gives administrative employees a network backup if the in-house Ethernet network fails. “We’re comfortable with this,” Foley says. “Being located in New York City, we know that we have excellent wireless service and coverage.”

For load balancing and failover, Barclays runs Border Gateway Protocol. The precise routing pathways to ISPs are automated, based on business rules that Barclays Center provides. “This assures us that our communications will always be running, even if one ISP develops a problem,” Foley says.

“If fans can’t call, text or tweet during a basketball game, their fan experience is going to be compromised,” he explains. When the arena first opened in September 2012, “we had all of our 4G carriers implemented except one,” Foley says, and yet they still “got complaints. In our business, fans expect 4G LTE service.

“On the wired network side,” he continues, “it was challenging to get infrastructure pulled through the facility, and to establish actual pathways to run lines to trailers with 4G communications.” Barclays Center uses a series of trailers on the periphery of the arena to provide 4G service. A distributed antenna system links 4G modems in the trailers to 4G LTE service from all the major carriers that service Brooklyn.

Barclays Center also discovered that 4G gave it fast time to market and agility that standard networks couldn’t. Occasionally, the center needs temporary network service within the building itself, Foley explains, and for that it uses 4G modems. “They are easier to use, set up and troubleshoot than wired communications,” Foley says, because it takes time and money to pull Ethernet cable and 4G is “easier to fix when things go wrong.”


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