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The Mobile Network Choice: Wi-Fi or Cellular?

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Paul Korzeniowski's picture
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Paul is a seasoned (basically old) freelance B2B content producer. Through the years, he has written more than 10,000 items (blogs, news stories, white papers, case studies, press releases and...

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The Mobile Network Choice: Wi-Fi or Cellular?

Energy companies have many employees who work in the field maintaining the multi-trillion dollar grid. The infrastructure is increasingly becoming smarter as these companies take advantage of new technologies, like cloud, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Therefore, workers need access to both the enterprise network and the Internet. Wi-Fi and private cellular networks provide that capability.

As utilities modernize their infrastructure, the volume of data used by remote employees rises.  Because more data is being transferred, they need faster network infrastructure. The choice typically comes down to Wi-Fi and private cellular. So, how do they compare?

Low Cost Versus More Coverage

Wi-Fi is a proven, familiar wireless networking technology frequently used to connect devices to the Internet. This option relies on radio waves to transmit data between devices and access points (such as routers) to provide network coverage.

Private cellular networks, on the other hand, are wireless networks that use cellular technology (increasingly 5G) to deliver connectivity. The pieces (cell receiver, routers, and backhaul equipment) were built for telecommunications companies rather than for businesses.

Wi-Fi networks typically have limited coverage and are designed for use within a single location, such as a home or an office. Their coverage can be in hundreds of feet; they are simple to deploy, usually, the IT team can take on the work; and they are inexpensive.

Private cellular networks were built for wider areas and cover miles. These networks often require a customized deployment, one demanding a high degree of integration expertise and orchestration. In fact, ABI Research found that the installation costs represent half of the total purchase. Consequently, these networks carry a higher price tag.  Another challenge is the components used for these networks have been in high demand and low supply since the pandemic, creating deployment delays, some lasting months.

Security is Job 1

Security is a key consideration for energy companies. They need to protect company and customer information as it moves from place to place. Wi-Fi networks require add-on security that the customer deploys. Cellular networks were built from the ground up to encrypt data as it moves from place to place.

As technology improves, many utilities demand higher speed wireless networks. Wi-Fi is easy to install and low cost while private cellular covers a larger area and includes inherent security but comes at a premium.

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