Is Network Congestion Choking Your Mobile Experience?

byod congestion

It used to be that businesses could plan for a one-device-per-user ratio in their networks. But that time is quickly passing us by.

With the proliferation of mobile devices and the “bring your own device” to work trend (“BYOD”), today’s employees may be using multiple devices. Companies themselves are now issuing multiple devices to employees. As a result, you may have an employee using a desktop computer and a laptop. Then he or she might use a tablet to take notes during a meeting. Oh, and during the day that same employee sitting in traffic may be using a smartphone with multiple apps.

On top of that, you need to consider all of the other devices that are moving into the wireless access space, such as printers, scanners and even projectors. Finally, don’t forget the increased reliance on cloud computing and the powerful cloud apps that devices connect to and use.

As you can see, it’s a perfect storm brewing.

That can put strain on traditional wireless and VPN/Point to Point network bandwidth infrastructures. In fact, some small and mid-size businesses may have hundreds of devices connecting to their local networks creating a throughput nightmare for IT management trying to rely on a traditional Wi-Fi network configuration.

But what if you could increase bandwidth to your access points without any significant hassle? A few advances in technology, such as Managed Ethernet, can help reduce those infrastructure costs and offer scalability in a manner previously not possible.

How BYOD and Increased Devices Impact Network Capacity

IT managers run into wireless network bandwidth performance problems in part because a typical Wi-Fi connection can really only support between 15, maybe as many as 25 devices. Each has a limitation based on its hardware — any more than that and the connection signal strength begins to deteriorate in a very noticeable manner. A typical tell-tale sign is when someone is attempting to watch streaming video, and the video stutters as video packets are lost due to network congestion.

A router device is still a type of computer which requires processor and memory power to perform its functions. Among those functions is the division of bandwidth at the MAC layer in the 802.11 wireless networking standard, which divides available bandwidth 1/n (where n represents the number of nodes attached to the device).

For instance, a single wireless access point, permitted 4MB of bandwidth with 20 devices attached simultaneously would have roughly 200k of bandwidth to use per device. That’s not sufficient for doing much more than basic Web surfing in today’s high speed world.

In a typical BYOD atmosphere, you have a ratio of 3:1 devices to users. Taking that into consideration, you can see that a different approach to configuring a network is crucial in order to make this work.

A study by Gartner, Inc. suggests that by 2015, 80% of recently-installed corporate wireless networks will become obsolete because of poor infrastructure planning.

BYOD Has Its Benefits – Proper Planning Will Increase Its Effectiveness

When using their own devices, employees experience higher job satisfaction, increased mobility, and improvements in efficiency and productivity. In organizations that welcome employee-owned devices, IT teams can focus on more strategic initiatives, rather than spending the majority of their time dealing with help-desk tickets.

Using their own devices cuts down learning curves, and support issues while allowing the employee to use tools that make them comfortable.

A study by ZK Research suggests that BYOD will soon become the norm for IT. Further, the number of wireless devices will continue to explode as it reaches a 7:1 ratio by just 2016. That’s less than 3 years away!

These numbers give you a taste of the amount of internet bandwidth you may need from your ISP and also the amount of bandwidth you will need on your corporate network to share resources, in the near future.

In multi-site applications where the management of both internet traffic and business resources need to be shared from the main hub to satellite locations, consider strategies such as business Ethernet networks. With the ability to use your service provider to share all of your network resources and internet over existing infrastructure, you relieve your IT dept of considerable support burden. Just as importantly, you ease the burden of the financial and technical costs of doing business. Your Ethernet Service Provider will create the point-to-point shared connections over its network, creating a seamless multi-site “LAN” without all the additional internet connections and equipment typically needed to connect each site.

Ethernet has come a long way in the past decade — under the work of the Metro Ethernet Forum, services have become standardized.

Ethernet can offer increased wireless network bandwidth, better port speed, more access points and better available coverage. It offers scalability to accommodate your business growth — and the growth in devices. It is flexible and affordable, because you use what you need, without having to invest in a much larger than needed network today just to account for future growth. Best of all, it takes strain off the IT Department. Look for providers with a high-capacity backbone that can be scaled up easily, to meet your growing needs.

By anticipating and addressing employees’ needs for multiple devices and more cloud access demand, you will position your company’s IT infrastructure to embrace whatever the future brings. You’ll keep productivity high, enable business continuity, reduce IT help desk tickets, and make things easier for all involved.

BYOD Photo via Shutterstock


Craig Sutton Craig Sutton is the owner of Sutton Brand Management. Using his background in tech, including 5 years managing the servers and networking team for a major regional Internet provider and also owner of an IT and Web software development firm, he harnesses the power of digital and traditional marketing to help small to medium sized businesses excel.

5 Reactions
  1. Craig,
    In our office multiple devices are inevitable. There are many reasons for this including not only the need to work in many different situations but also sometimes as just part of the upgrading process. I’m right now moving from one laptop to another and the process is taking some time in terms of not only my comfort level with a new machine and a new upgrade to my operating system but also the need to transfer data from one machine to another in between tasks. (We have no dedicated IT staff here, and the person who does our IT pulls double and sometimes triple duty with other tasks.) Having enough bandwidth is a constant consideration especially as we work with more and more bandwidth intensive downloads like video. Making sure we have enough bandwidth in our area network is always our top priority.

  2. My office hasn’t embraced the ‘BYOD’ model, mainly because of security concerns. We have multiple access points but I wonder how stores like Starbucks handles congestion?

  3. Wireless infrastructure is very important to BYOD, but it is device management, BYOD policy, training and data security that are the biggest challenges for BYOD. Some businesses are using MDM and other large BYOD management systems which are good for large businesses, but the small companies also need solutions. One thing smaller companies are doing is taking a BYOD objective and finding a small solutions to it. We needed a way for our doctors to text patient info to admin to save time, and we did this by getting the doctors a HIPAA compliant text messaging app (Tigertext) for there phones and tablets. A cost effective and focused solution to fit our small business, that didn’t require additional wireless hardware to make it functionable.