Critical Considerations for Cellular OOB

A few weeks back, my colleague traveled to our UK offices for client visits and came home with some more interesting use cases for cellular wireless Out-of-Band.  I have also recently had conversations with service providers about the transition to cellular wireless OOB, here’s what we have heard.

As a connection methodology, cellular wireless IP has some competitive advantages over traditional POTS lines for OOB.  Besides the tremendous opportunity for network cost savings, wireless OOB also allows technicians to collaborate on fixes; multiple engineers can work simultaneously, troubleshooting the remote site.

A few other use cases keep appearing for Cellular Wireless OOB:

  1. A)   Ordering Efficiency

If the service provider and customer agree that OOB is a requirement to provide a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for network assets under management, the question becomes who specifically is required to provide the OOB equipment and network connection. The answer to this question depends on contracting rules and often vary from client to client.  Quite often, when the service provider is providing the (POTS) facility for OOB, a problem can occur.  As an ordering “agent” the carrier will need to get the consent of the customer to have a connection installed into their building or complex; also known as an, “LOA”.  If you extrapolate this process across a large network deployment, things can become quite cumbersome to manage, specifically if there are a large number of LEC’s involved, or the installation is global in scope.

  1. B)   Network Redundancy

Thinking back to the days of SONET ring architecture, the concept of physical redundancy comes to mind.  If the service provider is using an Ethernet or POTS connection to provide OOB to a client, there is a high potential that the ingress for network facilities will travel the same physical path into a particular building.  While networks are highly reliable these days, the possibility exists that a physical network disruption will render a site unavailable.  Employing the same logic that Out-of-Band connections need to be “outside the bandwidth” of the network, it’s also true that using a cellular wireless connection will provide an extra layer of physical redundancy in reaching (the client) remote locations.

  1. C)   Disconnections and, Repurposing

OOB is typically put in place by the service provider as a form of “insurance”.  We often hear stories of engineers trying to access remote sites, only to find the POT line unavailable. While the reason for disconnect is unimportant (elevator call box, fax line, voice facility), the lack of connection can potentially be critical in times of need.  There is also the expense of POTS lines that have been repurposed, both in terms of having to deploy personnel to the site, and the unintended charges that accrue on these facilities (which can be substantial OCONUS).

Cell wireless OOB is not a panacea.  Service providers need to be cognizant of the prospect that cell signals will not be available at some locations, and have a contingency plans for dealing with such cases.  If a site survey is not part of your cellular deployment, look for a solution flexible enough to accommodate multiple scenarios.

This being said, there is little doubt that the future of managed network deployments will rely heavily of cellular wireless OOB.