Technology

4G boxes, lifebuoys for insulated teleworkers

Many companies have been able to maintain a good level of activity during the lockdown phases for health reasons thanks to teleworking. The business has been maintained with a large number of unified communications and collaborative tools in the cloud, but in more or less comfortable working conditions for teleworkers.

The vast majority of them used their home box to connect to the Internet and continue working. But those who only had a weak ADSL connection to share with the rest of the family were clearly penalized for the low speed that copper offered. Not all French people still benefit from fiber, and in this two-speed France, many employees have experienced serious connectivity problems during their lockdowns.

4G boxes delivered urgently to employees

Faced with these problems, many companies have turned to their operators to provide their employees with better connectivity. Their response was to ship 4G routers in droves to these poor employees. “During the Covid crisis, we delivered a large number of ‘4G pebbles’ that enabled companies to provide a dedicated connection to their employees,” said Pierre-Antoine Thiebaut, director of communications and digital procurement at Bouygues Telecom Entreprises. “We deliver the equipment directly to the homes of our clients’ employees, something we have never done before. In doing so, the operator delivered mobile phones, 4G pebbles and routers directly to employees’ homes to bring high-speed connectivity to users who did not have it.

Teleworkers who do not have fiber at home or good mobile speeds have sought a solution by enhancing their 4G connectivity with an outdoor antenna.

The companies were thus able to provide lists of collaborators to deliver, without having to go through a telecommunications integrator, not even through the company headquarters. At the same time, Bouygues Telecom and several providers of file sharing, video conferencing and VPN software services temporarily offered licenses to use their solutions, before regularizing new users thereafter. “We have fully opened VPN access to our customers’ users and updated our Bflex offering as standard, so that all users have access to these advanced features, and we have increased the power of our machines to be able to deliver this VPN service to all users. “

Multi-operator SIM, the optimal solution?

While some companies have turned to their telecom operator, others have sought an independent solution by opting for multi-operator SIMs. The advantage is choosing the operator with the best data coverage for each employee, a definite advantage when teleworkers are geographically distributed throughout France. Several providers offer these services. This is the case of Airmob, a specialist in 4G routers that entered the market five years ago.

Arnaud Lecœur, CEO of Airmob, details the advantage of a multi-carrier offering: “The 4G routers we offer have the ability to activate on the best of the three available networks (Orange / SFR / Bouygues). A company can choose a single network, for its own reasons, but if it does not, we can configure the router to connect to the best network where the teleworker is located ”. This choice can be modified a posteriori, when, for example, a teleworker decides to change workplace to go to the region. The provider can then switch the user to another network if necessary.

Some multi-carrier 4G access providers offer online interfaces to manage the fleet of deployed 4G routers.

The number of 4G routers delivered by Airmob multiplied by a factor of 5 to 10 during the first contention, because the offer is without time commitment and the delivery of the router was made in D + 1. “Our offer is well suited to teleworking , because when the lockdown was imposed on the companies, we delivered many terminals when the employees left the Paris region to go to the region. »In addition to office automation and telecommuting, these multi-operator access kits are widely used in events to provide access to conference participants, as well as in the construction industry to outfit cabins on the job site or for roadside assistance. . For Airmob, telework today represents half of the 15,000 lines managed by the provider.

In addition to the advantage of having equipment capable of using any of the 4G / 5G networks available, these offers have some technical advantages for companies. On the one hand, these players associate a fixed IP address with the SIM card. This allows the company to ensure a first level of remote access filtering. In addition, it is possible to determine the IP addresses to which the user can connect. In this way, the company can force the employee to go through its information system and therefore go through all the security layers of their internal access to connect.

“This is a plus in security, but also in the control of consumption. The router cannot be used for purposes other than those authorized by the company ”, says Arnaud Lecœur. Finally, Airmob offers a router fleet management portal that allows to reload the data plans of each user and adjust the consumption of the entire fleet of routers deployed by teleworkers with the greatest possible precision.

Teleworkers opting for 4G

While some companies have helped their employees by providing 4G / 5G routers or keys, not all have. Legislation on teleworking did not oblige them to do so and, in this case, it was the employees themselves who sought to improve their access by opting for 4G. This was observed by Daniel Doguet, founder of MHz Shop, an online store for wireless networking equipment: “During the first containment, we lost 95% of our orders from regular companies, but we saw the arrival of many new customers who had this problem of the teleworking, particularly in rural areas. Employees who moved to their second home, who had no internet connection and who called us on 4G devices ”.

Some companies have massively deployed 4G routers to isolated employees to connect them to their information system.

Teleworkers who had Box 4G at Bouygues Telecom or SFR and who found their speed insufficient sought to enhance their connection through external antennas. Therefore, MHz Shop noticed strong demand for the South African manufacturer Poynting’s XPOL-2 outdoor antenna, which was the site’s top seller during the contention period. For telecommuters who didn’t have a 4G box, they bought Netgear, Huawei, D-Link routers from general e-commerce sites, or Mikrotik and Teltonika routers offered by MHz Shop. “Although we usually deliver 4G antennas to companies in large quantities, during this crisis the profile of the typical buyer was the teleworking engineer, the end user looking for a solution on his own”, concludes Daniel. Doguet.

Without a doubt, 4G seemed to be a lifesaver for telecommuters who didn’t have fiber in their home. The solution is clearly interesting and will be even more interesting when the real 5G (of the standalone type) is finally available. It remains to solve the problem of white areas or areas where data rates are low. Very often isolated rural areas where fiber is also not available …

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