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The End Of Granite Grid’s Death Grip On Malls

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Granite Grid problems are well known, as is the technology’s chokehold on most malls. That grip, however, may finally be loosening as new tech gives mall retailers breathing room.

Granite Grid Problems

By becoming an ILEC in around 300 largest malls in the US, Granite Communications controls all Internet connectivity for every retailer in that mall.  This is a huge benefit for Granite Communications, as they are now the monopoly in these locations. It’s also a huge benefit for malls, as they make additional revenue from this arrangement. It’s a win/win for, but one group is left out. Retailers.

Retailers stand to suffer Granite Grid problems in multiple ways. Cost and connectivity. The additional cost of Granite Grid puts additional strain on retailers in a time when they are competing with powerhouse online retailers and direct to consumer product companies. Layering connectivity issues on top of that makes it even more difficult to compete in the digital era.

female customer waiting with arms full of un-purchased clothing.
When Granite Grid goes down, customers suffer and profit halts.

To be forced to use Granite Grid from an Infrastructure perspective is challenging. When Granite Goes down everyone in the mall is affected. While most retailers have a 4G LTE Cradlepoint as backup, getting bandwidth is a challenge due to the thick construction and concrete walls inside the mall, making the signal strength poor to nonexistent. This means retailer POS systems alongside any technology needs, augmented reality or social media campaigns, stop. It’s bad for business.

A Solution to Granite Grid-Lock

Because we are technology agnostic researchers, many retail contacts of ours reached out for us to find a solution to their Granite Grid problems and we finally found a solution in a clever use of GEN 2 SD-WAN.

Gen 1 vs Gen 2 SD-WAN is a complicated topic, but suffice it to say, unlike Gen 1 SD-WAN, GEN 2 was built on the Application Layer. Gen 2 SD-WAN is “Application-aware” and this differentiation is paramount, as applications have become the fabric of technology. Gen 1 merely attempted to do this. Gen 2 finally delivers on the promises of SD-WAN.

Gen 2 SD-WAN allows companies to pre-select what applications get priority, and how much bandwidth they should receive and Columbia Sportswear’s tech strategy is an incredible example of how GEN 2 saved them when the Granite Grid problems went down. 

How Columbia Sportswear Used Gen 2 SD-WAN

Columbia Sportswear is a Global retailer, and because of that many of their stores are in Granite Grid malls. Hearing how Gen 2 SD-WAN could keep their preferred applications up in the event of an outage, they trialed the tech in New Jersey. The timing couldn’t have been better.

On Black Friday, the worst-case scenario for retailers occurred became a reality. Granite Grid went down. And down it stayed. Retailers were forced to use those old “Knuckle Busters” to process payments, and retail POS systems fulfilled their alternate meaning for the acronym. Many retailers had a 4G wireless backup, but as usual, it wasn’t enough bandwidth to process their POS machines for credit card payments. Meanwhile, Columbia Sportswear stores didn’t miss a beat.

They pre-determined that if an outage occurred that POS would get all of the bandwidth, than their less critical systems. Apps like in-store music or even voice traffic was automatically throttled or halted and POS systems stayed up. Columbia had its best sales day at this store when every other store had a bad one, as the other stores could not process credit card payments. The world-renown performance outperformed their competitors in their think-ahead tech strategy by having an action plan.

GEN 2 SD-WAN, like any other technology, is not a magic wand, but it sure looked that way when they reviewed the store P&L sheet.

Kris Taylor of 3 Tree Tech
Kris Taylor

Kris Taylor is VP of Customer Experience at 3 Tree Tech in Portland. He is a platform-agnostic tech researcher that transitions siloed organizations into automated DevOps centric businesses. To get his help, message him right here.