Like all ISPs, Wireless ISPs (WISPs) benefit from the integration of other technologies with the services they provide. In previous articles, we saw how LTE and MPLS can be used in conjunction with WISP infrastructure to deliver more useful and flexible services to subscribers.
In this article, we continue our series devoted to the key themes at WISPAMERICA this year, taking a closer look at how cloud technologies can benefit WISPs and make their offerings more attractive and competitive.
The changing face of the WISP
WISPs are an integral part of the telecommunications infrastructure, especially for regions not generally served by more conventional ISPs, such as rural, mountainous, and remote areas. WISPs are not only deployed in these hard-to-reach locations, but are increasingly viable in urban settings, becoming a competitive alternative to more conventional connectivity methods.
WISPs are no longer fringe service providers but are now more mainstream. This is especially true because of their innovative integration with cloud-based services – particularly for business and enterprise customers.
When we refer to the cloud, we are talking about various service deployment models that can be used to distribute services over the internet. These services can be hosting computing resources, where virtual servers can be created and managed; it can include cloud VoIP services to deliver telephony; or it could incorporate software as a service, where you leverage network-aware applications for your business. In all cases, highly available and reliable network connectivity is needed to deploy these services.
Cloud-based services for WISPs
As more and more businesses take advantage of the cloud, WISPs must adapt to be able to provide these services with utmost reliability and efficiency. There are various setups that can be employed, and WISP network architects must take these into account when designing and upgrading their networks.
Use of third-party cloud-based services – When subscribers use third-party cloud-based services, they are relying more heavily on bandwidth availability and reliability. Wireless connectivity is traditionally more susceptible to network interruptions due to weather, signal interference, or potential disruption of line of sight from growing trees or new buildings. Since cloud services require a robust, high-speed, and continuous connection to the internet, designers must ensure that their wireless links are deployed in a way that minimizes such disruptions.
Employment of in-house cloud-based services – WISPs typically have some rack space made available to them since most deployments include a portion of the backbone network that is owned by the WISP itself. The extent of this backbone depends upon the design of the network. In any case, this rack space can be used to deploy in-house cloud services, including virtual servers, file sharing, voice services, or anything else that WISP subscribers may require. This will enable WISPs to offer solutions that encompass services that go beyond simple internet connectivity. By placing such services at the backbone of the WISP, less internet bandwidth is used to access these services, and they are delivered at potentially higher throughputs and ultimately faster performance due to their proximity to the end user.
Cloud-based WISP management systems – Beyond simply supplying cloud services to the WISP subscriber, cloud-based services can also be of benefit to the WISP itself. One of the biggest costs that WISPs must deal with is network design, maintenance, and expansion, all of which tap heavily into the use of highly skilled personnel. The more time-consuming the maintenance is, the higher the cost of personnel. Streamlining these processes can go a long way towards reducing the size of your tech team, and cloud-based systems are a key part of this. Most WISP infrastructure can now be cloud-controlled, which means all the devices, including access points, switches, routers, and network infrastructure, can be controlled as a single entity from a centralized cloud controller.
Future-proofing the WISP
Remember that delivering internet connectivity is no longer just about internet connectivity. Telephony, virtual servers, software as a service, hardware as a service, and platform as a service are just some of the most common services disseminated in conjunction with ISP facilities. Failing to keep up with these trends will result in being left behind. For this reason, WISPs, due to their specialization, need to ensure that their networks are ready to convey cloud-based services, either via their own infrastructure or through third parties. In order to do this, WISP networks must be future-proofed by:
- Ensuring that there is enough bandwidth to accommodate multiple customers moving to cloud-based services.
- Delivering robust wireless links that take into account the most common factors that can impede their operation, including weather and line-of-sight disruption.
- Verifying that the backbone network is designed with built-in redundancy, which can include multiple internal paths to locally hosted cloud services, as well as multiple links to the internet.
WISPs are an important part of telecommunications services. In order to remain competitive and viable, they must embrace the use of a variety of technologies, including cloud-based services. By employing these, WISPs can future-proof their business while at the same time becoming more attractive to small businesses and enterprise customers alike.
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