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My friend had a house built during the pandemic. He fought through the supply chain disruptions, the financial crisis, the work stoppages, and much, much more. When it was finally done three months ago, he moved into his beautiful new house. He and his family were excited right until the moment they figured out that the macro-cellular service inside was unusable for remote work and school. There was just enough signal to tease them, but not enough to hold a solid connection. They ultimately ended up at a local hotel while the internet service was sorted out. This should have been easy but, of course, nothing ever is.
The first available appointment was three weeks out, according to the online system. Undeterred, he woke up at the crack of dawn to line up at the service provider’s retail store and begged his way into an appointment in three days. The tech showed up with a bucket truck, ran the cable, and then left without finishing the install due to having brought the wrong CPE. Three more days later, a second tech showed up—once again with the wrong CPE. My friend begged the tech to install anyway. The service was brought up, but at half the speed he was paying for. To this day my friend still pays for the high-speed service while receiving the lower-speed service and he is afraid to make any changes lest they break his service.
A different friend of mine moved into a newly built luxury apartment complex around the same time, just as the pandemic was fading. The internet was available instantly at his new condo, but it was designed to operate the same way it would for a hotel. Everybody was on a single, shared, open SSID, with a captive portal with wireless client isolation enabled. He was able to get on instantly but, once on, his devices were able to communicate only through the cloud. Transferring files between devices required USB sticks, and many multiplayer games would error out. Furthermore, he was being charged a technology fee of $75 a month for the network!
So it seems you can’t win. You either have a situation where the network architecture is what makes the most sense (but it’s painful to get going and change) or you can have a network architecture that is reasonably easy to get going (but doesn’t really support the kinds of things you need for remote work and/or school).
Networks for multiple-dwelling (MDU) and mixed-use (MXU) venues are particularly challenging environments. The traditional service provider approach of performing a truck roll to install customer premises equipment for each subscriber works great for single-family homes and individual businesses. MDU and MXU tenants have radically different expectations that are difficult to meet with the traditional model.
The vast majority of MDU and MXU tenants choose these properties for turnkey convenience. Those that prefer to do their own maintenance and landscaping gravitate toward single-family homes and stand-alone buildings. In either case, internet access should be available the moment of move-in—just like power, water, and HVAC. Scheduling a truck roll, which sometimes results in one or more additional truck rolls, in order to activate internet service is both frustrating for residents and costly to service providers. In the contemporary age of the smartphone, where a coffee delivery is a few swipes away, it seems absurd to have to schedule an appointment several days in advance for somebody to provision the internet service.
Active Ethernet solutions where enterprise wireline and wireless equipment are deployed for MDU and MXU have been around for a while. These solutions benefit from providing a single physical umbrella across the entire property. The pre-installed nature of the hardware also enables such solutions to support provisioning without truck rolls. However, the problem with many of these solutions is that the enterprise for which this equipment is designed is defined by a very small number of organizational units that are typically all managed by one or more information technology specialists. MDUs and MXUs have at least as many organizational units as there are tenants and typically have no dedicated on-site IT staff. The result is a set of compromises that exasperate tenants as well as the operator.
The physical residential gateway architecture provides the gold standard for organizational segmentation. Each tenant has their own network, attached to a unique public IP address, for which they have control over their inbound and outbound connectivity. This architecture allows devices that depend on UPnP, such as game consoles, to function properly with zero effort from either the tenant or operator. The unique public address is usually the way service providers comply with CALEA nonrepudiation requirements. The active Ethernet architecture provides the gold standard for instant onboarding as well as universal coverage throughout the property. In a perfect situation, the MDU would have a hybrid offering that combined the best of both worlds.
The RUCKUS WAN gateway (RWG) is exactly this solution. The RWG orchestrates a network composed of enterprise equipment into a symphony of self-provisioned standards-based micro segments for each tenant, complete with virtualized residential gateways that provide support for every application, including those yet to be released. While the RWG works with all the major enterprise equipment manufacturers, we, of course, have ensured maximum polish when deployed with RUCKUS® ICX® switches, ZoneFlex wireless access points, and SmartZone™ wireless controllers. Contact your local RUCKUS sales representative to get a free trial!