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Breaking the chains

The freedom and flexibility of wireless networks are liberating users in ways that were previously impossible.


February 1, 2001  


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Like an eagle soaring above the clouds, network users are discovering the freedom that Wireless Local Access Networks (WLANs) have to offer. Accessing the Information Superhighway no longer means being chained to a desk. Users are not restricted to one location and can freely roam from room to room while still having access to email, data files and the Internet. Office users can take their notebooks to the conference room or a colleague’s workspace without losing access to business critical information on their networks.

The same applies to the home, where parents do not have to sacrifice connection to spend time with their children in the backyard. Downloading a recipe while cooking a roast in the kitchen is also not out of the question. Wherever you are in your home you can print documents and access personal files.

The damage that once occurred as a result of laying cable and drilling holes in a home acted as a deterrent to personal networks. Wireless Personal Area Networks (PANs) can now allow households to share resources and access the Internet at lower costs, without the hassle of cables.

NEW OPPORTUNITY

Previously, users were restricted to making sure they were able to plug in to a network somewhere in their office building or home in order to access the Internet or network. With capabilities of 11 Mbps today, WLANs have opened a window to a whole new range of opportunity for data interaction.

Users are now finding that general office tasks such as email and Internet access have even more potential with the mobility of a laptop. Flexible and mobile work environments also offer significant opportunity to increase staff productivity. Keeping employees informed and responsive, whether they are in a conference room, branch office, or roaming the environment, will improve their efficiency. Businesses can make it easy for employees who share business critical information to connect anywhere, at any time, and allow them unlimited access to information while they are on the move.

The most attractive thing about wireless networking technologies is their ability to increase interaction and communication among users within a building. Better interaction allows for increased productivity as well as the distribution of ideas — the essence of the Information Superhighway.

As more wireless technologies enter the fold, their evolution will continue into other solutions, such as Bluetooth. Much like WLANs, Bluetooth’s benefits will first be felt by high-end laptops users. A limited number of sophisticated multi-device users will also find the cable-replacement capability compelling.

ELIMINATING BARRIERS

Despite the many benefits wireless networking has to offer, there are still many obstacles to overcome in order to ensure that wireless LANs reach their prime. Research shows current users are satisfied with their WLAN experiences. However, potential users of WLANs are still wary of performance and security issues. Using network IDs, firewalls and other encryption techniques can ensure protection from potential eavesdroppers and hackers. And, as the obstacles are overcome, more users will be compelled to take advantage of wireless networks because of the lack of holes to drill, cables to lay, and complicated technologies that add to the complexities of networking.

Market drivers such as the speed of deployment, lower costs than wireline, and security protection will speed the rollout of wireless networking solutions. Networks can be installed without running cabling, eliminating much of the labor and expense of a new network and greatly reducing startup time. Space can even be optimized in hard to wire locations.

Now we can cast off our chains and shackles and interoperate with our legacy wireline LANs at 11 mbs — and yearn wistfully for the empowering technologies that will bring us up to 100 mbs.CS

Iain Grant is Managing Director of the Yankee Group in Canada, a technology-consulting firm in Brockville, ON. An economist by training, Mr. Grant has more than 20 years of diversified experience in the management, development and utilization of information and communication technologies.


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