Article | 08 July 2022

How fast does your wireless need to be, really?

Speedtest 800x800
Tim
Written by
Tim Patrick, Pre-Sales & Product Manager The Netherlands

The world is made of data—at least, the business world is. And a common question when moving that data around is about bandwidth: how fast does it go (and can it go faster)? And a surprising number of enterprises don’t consider wireless WAN capable of providing enough of it … without really knowing what “enough” means (or how much they really need).

We understand. Bandwidth is a measure of speed, and as a business customer, you want everything to be fast. But a vanilla Megabits per second figure isn’t the only factor influencing your productivity. Real-world performance—how people perceive the connection’s actual performance while doing their jobs—isn’t a single number: it involves usage patterns, application needs, and resilience of the connection. (If you’re not sure why this matters, the answer is ahead).

In this article, we’ll explore these real-world factors that affect performance—with a free cheat sheet that’ll help you decide how fast your wireless WAN really needs to be.

Consumer and business needs: really, really different

Wireless enables connectivity for things that move around in remote places—which means it can deal with a broader set of use cases than its wired cousins. So while the available speeds of an LTE/5G connection may sound slower than the latest fibre to the home, it’s not a fair comparison. Consumer connections are a different beast. Businesses behave differently, and have different needs.

How different? The issues are fourfold, summarised as where you are, what you do, the people (and non-people!) using the connection, and the criticality of the data.

1. Where you are. Consumers cluster in cities, but wireless data is about reaching areas that aren’t easy to connect with cables. This doesn’t just mean hi-tech solar farms in the desert or mining sites in the mountains (although we’ve done those)—it can be as close to home as a pop-up shop in your local mall, or a food court at a festival site.

Such setups aren’t for watching 4K movies. They’re for transacting payments, connecting to corporate over your SD-WAN, accessing SaaS platforms in the cloud. Which means, reliability, consistency are much more important than your peak download rate.

Reliability and consistency are much more important than your peak download rate.

Often, what matters is the consistency of the connection, not its best-case speed. (In the markets where Blue Wireless is active, download speeds go as high as 300Mbps in some markets while just 2Mbps is available in others … but in every case, the connection will have the reliability our customers need.)

So the first determinant of how fast you need your wireless to be is to establish data profiles, both averages, and peaks. The result may be surprisingly low.

2. What you do. Of course, the consumer internet wakes up when the business internet goes home; that’s been known for decades. But more important than the 9AM rush or the 6PM shutdown are patterns of usage during the day itself.

Consumer usage is a “lean-back experience”, watching videos and accessing websites. The connection needs to cope with lots of downloads, fewer uploads, and choppy patterns of use over time. Business connectivity is a lot more consistent: it’s “lean-forward”. Users exchange more mission-critical data, and their applications use bandwidth steadily for many hours at a time, such as SaaS platforms, video calls, and company systems like payment terminals and inventory management systems. This means perceived network performance is an average of many interactions—not a single factor.

Compared to wired (and wireless) networks built purely for consumers, LTE/5G from Blue Wireless enjoys strong performance across these distributed use cases. Because it’s customised for your situation. A lot of perceived performance depends on how well this is set up—not the raw bandwidth number. Which is why Blue Wireless provides professional installation services, with options for powerful external antennas, no more “plug and pray”.

A lot of perceived performance depends on how well this is set up—not the raw bandwidth number. Which is why Blue Wireless provides professional installation services. No more “plug and pray”.

3. Mission-critical or business-critical. Consumers may not care if they get a spinning hourglass for a minute, but businesses do. So while Blue Wireless makes use of public 4G and 5G to provide internet connectivity, it doesn’t rely on a single network being always-on and always-available. If one network has a problem, your connectivity transfers to one that’s performing well, maintaining your network performance (and your sanity) without interruption.

(Imagine the scene if a customer about to pay at your in-store shopping experience can’t complete their transaction. Once again, consistency and reliability trump raw speed. High bandwidth 75% of the day and none 25% of the day is 100% unsatisfactory; business needs to be always-up and always-on. That’s why having built-in redundancy as well as additional options like fully redundant failover services are critical to success.)

High bandwidth 75% of the day and none 25% of the day is 100% unsatisfactory.

4. The madness of crowds. If you worry your home cinema experience will start stuttering when Junior’s having a Zoom party with his friends upstairs, imagine that problem multiplied across 250 people all doing different jobs. Then add in non-human actors, like machines in your factory exchanging data on the IoT, and you’ve got the fourth big difference between consumer and enterprise wireless: the number of things sharing the connection.

Fortunately, it’s part of our service to size the connection to the need. You’re buying a business service, not mobile phone contracts; our agreements with network operators in 89 countries mean SLA-backed guarantees on bandwidth, which can grow or shrink as your needs do. (That same pop-up store in the mall might need 100Mbps, but only for peak periods over three days.)

Take-away: Wireless can really, really work for your business

So back to our first question: what bandwidth do you need, really? Well, you see the theme here: regardless if it's wired or wireless, match your bandwidth to your actual situation. After all, you wouldn’t use a 10-tonne truck for your weekly shopping. Or put your sweaty gymwear in a Gucci handbag. The use case matters.

To help, take a look at the “cheat sheet” below—it’ll give you a basic idea of the speeds some use cases typically need. And of course, you don’t have to guess. Talk to us, and let us help you find the right solution for your business.

Cheatsheet

If you are...Doing things like...Then you likely need...
Small retail store, perhaps a mall pop-upCustomer payments, email, light SaaS10Mbps or less
Small team working remotely, perhaps managing a construction site or similarBusiness applications, collaborative working with SaaS10Mbps minimum
Offshore site such as near-shore cargo shipProviding internet access to crew with a wide range of applications10-50Mbps, with unlimited data
Remote site providing connectivity to 50+ peopleEnterprise applications, many people using SaaS like Microsoft365 and Zoom, business-critical global SD-WANUp to 100Mbps, with unlimited data
Large site with 250+ peopleEnterprise applications with many people using mission-critical applications for supply chain and resource planning and some people resident on-site100Mbps and up, with unlimited data

Talk to
Tim

Tim Patrick, Pre-Sales & Product Manager

Let's get your wireless journey started. I am happy to walk you through the best wireless solutions for your business, whichever the use case.

Tim