I had the privilege last night of speaking at a press event held at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA, the home of both the New England Patriots and one of the most comprehensive stadium deployments of Wi-Fi that I've ever seen. You can see the full story on that network in our video (via my original blog posting here), and last night Enterasys, who installed this remarkable network, sponsored an event that featured Jonathan Kraft and Fred Kirsch from the Patriots organization, and a panel (moderated by Network World's own John Gallant) that included Fred, Heidi Labritz from the Red Sox, Lorraine Spadaro from DNC Boston (the TD Garden and the Bruins), Jay Wessel from the Boston Celtics, and Michael Krigsman from the consulting and research firm Asuret. While the Garden and Fenway Park have yet to deploy Wi-Fi for fan use, I'm sure that the interest in such was significantly advanced after hearing the enthusiastic remarks from both Mr. Kraft and Mr. Kirsch. They are absolutely thrilled with their Gillette Stadium WLAN, and there are big plans to expand the range of function that this network offers.
But what I found particularly interesting here are a similar set of possibilities enabled for the enterprise. I published my first paper on dense wireless-LAN deployments almost nine years ago, and it's amazing how far we've come with the technology that enables this key capability over the past decade. I noted that the management, control, and monitoring capabilities involved are largely independent of the (equally remarkable) advances in basic radio technologies over that period, and that management- and control-plane functionality would now take center stage in successful dense deployments - the ones that maximize performance and return on investment while minimizing cost. Advances in analytics will also play a huge role here. And all of this is "secret sauce" - you won't see the algorithms and related elements involved discussed in the literature. Standards don't enter into it, and consequently some vendors will simply do better in this dimension than others. And, to get back to the point I was intending to make here, dense deployments in the enterprise will be critical to meeting the demands inherent in a growing user base, supporting BYOD with multiple devices per user, and addressing essentially every application from ERP to videoconferencing without a hiccup - ever.
I also reiterated, with a slightly smaller group of attendees, my belief that the future of cellular is inextricably bound to Wi-Fi, with Wi-Fi providing not just a safety valve in the form of cellular offload, but primary access in high-density, high-demand environments like sporting venues and, again, an increasing number of enterprises. I don't think you'll see a smartphone going forward that doesn't include Wi-Fi, and this is the reason why.
There was also a drawing for two tickets to Sunday's AFC Championship game. I did not win. Sigh - I was really looking forward to trying that network under operational conditions. Yeah, let's go with that...
Mathias is a principal at Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass.