4G offers new opportunities, says Ethos Technology’s Tobin
17 November 2014 | 0
Mobile computing has now become not just the norm but the default choice for probably the majority of business users. The arrival of 3G technology brought us broadband on the move, anywhere anytime. Today we are less than a year into a new 4G world that gives us not just greater bandwidth and data speeds but a richer communications capability that offers businesses a viable alternative to other forms of networking connectivity.
While 4G is essentially mobile technology, there are many significant possibilities opening up with 4G as a landline alternative for fixed locations, temporarily or permanently. An obvious example is a site office on a motorway or in fact any construction site. It needs Internet connectivity at a reasonable speed for a relatively short period, say 18 months. With 4G as the connection and Wi-Fi to allow users to share it, people can work as efficiently as in an urban office building. Similarly, 3G and now 4G can act as a failover back-up for wired systems.
People often try to use 3G dongles and share that connection out from laptops but it is not ideal. We serve our clients with LANCOM 3G/4G business class VPN routers, fully integrated with built-in modem. Just plug in your SIM card and the network is operational. Some models will take dual SIMs from different carriers for redundancy and to balance any download cap limits. There are plenty of good business deals available from the mobile carriers and the bandwidth is more than adequate for most business traffic.
These business class routers have a pair of high performance antennas to ensure the best signal quality. They come in indoor, outdoor and industrial versions and can also be linked to an external antenna, on a rooftop or mast, for example. Some LANCOM 3G/4G routers are equipped with built-in Wi-Fi while others can even function as Wireless LAN controllers for up to 12 x Access Points. Internet access can be direct through the mobile carrier or through a secure VPN back to a head office.
A recent phenomenon has brought this solution for remote sites to the fore. Companies like ESB Networks, Bórd na Móna and Coillte have been suffering from metal cable theft in recent years, so a 3G/4G connection is an attractive alternative for operating CCTV in remote sites.
Outdoor routers are essentially weather-proof, with a temperature range from minus 33 degrees to plus 70 and IP66 [ingress protection] making them waterproof and dustproof. This allows the router to be placed outdoors where the 3G/4G signal is best, factory and aircraft hangar roofs for example. Normal Cat5/Cat5 distances allow the data to be brought back to a comms room without loss as would be the case if RF cable was extended.
Another application of industrial routers with Wi-Fi is in vehicles. They can be powered by 10-30 volt sources, giving reliable 3G and 4G access on the move. We are seeing them in buses, ambulances and security vehicles. Wireless connectivity is increasingly important for mobile health monitoring devices and allows links back to control centres and hospitals. Police forces in Europe are starting to use them in patrol cars, with a 4G base unit giving Wi-Fi access to their handheld devices. Another interesting use is in cash-in-transit security vehicles, giving live CCTV streaming plus GPS for constant tracking.
Gavin Tobin is technical and managing director of Ethos Technology.