There’s an unforeseen cost for companies as workers become more mobile and trends like BYOD become ever more common. It isn’t the cost of a mobile management solution, deploying iOS apps, or even supporting iPads and iPhones that users want to use to connect to the work email and other business resources.
What is this hidden cost? Wi-Fi.
Although an LTE iPad probably gets better network speeds than the average company’s Wi-Fi, the mobile data expense is high enough that most of use Wi-Fi whenever it’s available. Then there’s the fact that Wi-Fi is almost certainly faster than an iPhone’s 3G connection (or an original iPad or iPad 2) – and, of course, many cost-conscious individuals and businesses stick with Wi-Fi only iPad models.
That translates to more Wi-Fi connections and a lot more Wi-Fi traffic – more than most networks have seen over the past decade. The requires more investment in access points and underlying infrastructure.
How much investment is this driving? Enough that analyst Jack Monti from UBS Securities issued a note to clients last week pointing out that Apple isn’t just driving great returns for itself – it’s also driving demand for networking hardware.
Portions of the note, including the following were published by GigaOm:
We believe these results are a primary driver of the strong growth in the enterprise wireless networking market with wireless devices proliferating (iPads, iPhones, tablets, etc.). Note Apple iPads/iPhones do not have wired Ethernet ports and primarily rely on Wi-Fi or cell networks for connectivity. BYOD trends are likely to remain strong with enterprise wireless LAN in demand as a key means of robust connectivity.
That’s great for economic growth, particularly in Europe where most economies have been hit hard by the financial crisis. It’s even great for U.S. networking vendors. But, it’s an extra challenge for cash-strapped IT departments. Unfortunately, it’s also something that companies can ignore or perennially put off.
That means that any company looking at implementing BYOD or scaling up it’s mobile purchasing needs to factor in the cost of supporting a larger contingent of Wi-Fi-using iOS devices – ideally before launching such a program. While there isn’t a lot that can be done to cut the costs of additional Wi-Fi deployment, one option is the prioritize Wi-Fi for mobile devices that have no other connectivity like an iPad and encourage (or even require) workers to use wired ethernet for notebooks wherever possible.