Why wireless connectivity isn’t king in flex space


There is a big focus on WiFi connectivity in office buildings, but wireless isn’t necessarily king in flexible workspaces. There is a huge convenience to working on laptops in different parts of the office and having continual connectivity without having to plug in a cable, but the reality is that the world of work isn’t fully wireless yet.

Before dismissing cable connectivity in flex space, it’s important to consider the limitations of a wireless-only office and how that might impact longer-term costs and space usage.

WiFi seen as easiest way to offer connectivity

The draw of wireless networks is more than convenience, they are cheaper to install than physical networks. There is more kit to buy with wired connections, such as cabling and data ports. While the requirement for data ports has dropped from two per workstation when everything was plugged in to 1.2, it is still a unit cost per desk.

Avoiding those costs and installing WiFi-only connectivity becomes a problem when someone needs to plug in their printer or telephone handset if taking a self-contained office.

Businesses might also want to plug in their own routers and firewalls. This is typical for the increasing number of large blue-chip organisations taking space in flexible offices. They want the benefits of flex space but with the same level of security and connectivity, they would get taking a traditional office lease.

Aside from being able to plug in routers, without a cable network, it’s harder for these businesses to manage their own network and digital infrastructure efficiently.

Video calls increasing bandwidth demands

WiFi networks can also become oversubscribed and slow – as we’ve learned from the increased demand for video calls since returning to the office after the pandemic – particularly if there is insufficient bandwidth and channels.

When there are problems with WiFi, there are a lot of different issues to eliminate, such as the nearest access points, type of device and operating system, as well as signal interference.

The effectiveness of a wireless network is unknown until the space is fitted out and being used. Smart design features that make the workspace attractive, such as glass partitioning, might actually impede the WiFi signal.

And there is the simple fact that a physical connection will always be better than wireless. Having the option to connect via cable can help ease the pressure on WiFi networks. Plugging into the network is also a quick fix if there is a problem with the WiFi and can help with diagnosing connectivity problems.

Finding the right balance in internet connectivity

Investing in the right wired and wireless network is worthwhile for a flexible workspace. For wired networks, it means having sufficient data ports and the right standard of cabling to future-proof for different and more intense use.

The WiFi network needs to have the right equipment for the workspace environment. It needs to be sufficient to support the volume of users and devices. This includes an appropriate amount of bandwidth to service the number of access points onto the network.

It’s always worth having a physical survey of the WiFi network once the building is fitted out to check it’s working appropriately.

WiFi is obviously here to stay, but putting in the right system and making the right decisions on digital infrastructure now will save flexible workspace operators money further down the line.


This article was originally published in CoStar.

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