4G LTE Only Network Connectivity at Small Offices?

Someone recently asked a question – can we go with an all 4G LTE network at a small office? Can we eliminate all the wired Ethernet and WiFi requirements at a small office?

My immediate reaction was that it might work for specific use cases. 4G LTE technology uses shared and broadcast channels that are not dedicated to a specific user. Also, the uplink and downlink speeds are asymmetrical in 4G LTE. If a small office is made up of users who only require data connectivity with moderate bandwidth requirements, then they can connect to corporate offices and data centers over remote access VPN solutions initiated from their 4G LTE enabled devices. Some of the service providers are launching IP VPN services over 4G LTE which makes it much easier for Enterprises that are looking for added security. Such VPN services are also ideal for M2M use cases as well. It should be noted that 4G LTE network today does not have native voice support and Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is still in nascent phase with only a handful of commercial launches. Therefore, we are forced to look at Over the Top (OTT) solutions such as IP soft-phones, Skype, Google Hangout etc., for 4G LTE enabled end-points to provide voice services. Such OTT solutions may suffer from voice quality issues due to varying network conditions and lack of QoS. There are other interesting problems that might arise if we work in an all 4G LTE network in a small office. Communication between peers in a 4G LTE network uses backend service provider network infrastructure today. This might cause excessive delays for print jobs or local file sharing where traffic has to go to service provider network over a lower speed uplink and then come down to a neighboring device in the same office. One should carefully evaluate use cases along with bandwidth and delay requirements before making a decision.

We obviously run into problems the moment connectivity requirements go beyond data and we need to connect business grade desk phones, IP phones, printers and any other device that works only on wired or wireless Ethernet. This forces us to use a typical small office design involving an integrated device that provides wired & wireless LAN for end-user devices and wired / 3G / 4G WAN connectivity.


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