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Adding 'Quality' to Wireless LANs

Everyone knows QoS is a growing concern for today's multimedia networks--but what about wireless? With its shared-media architecture and specialized protocols for mobility, the wireless LAN presents unique challenges with

Wireless VoIP gives workers who aren't regularly at their desks more flexibility, and it can reduce operational costs associated with the use of cell phones and private radio walkie-talkie systems in the enterprise. Warehouse, distribution, retail and health-care operations have used wireless VoIP for a number of years, and it will become increasingly popular over the next several years as both VoIP and WLAN technologies mature and their prices decrease. In fact, the percentage of large enterprises deploying wireless VoIP is predicted to increase from the single digits today to 33 percent in 2006, according to Infonetics Research.

Wireless QoS can augment other applications as well, such as guest access, where you offer your clients, customers or other visitors wireless access over your WLAN while they're on site. QoS here gives your internal users higher priority than visitors, and likewise, some internal users take precedence over others.

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Then there's the consumer market, where Wi-Fi has been a huge hit as a home networking technology for sharing printers, files and broadband Internet connections. QoS lets home users prioritize how bandwidth gets split among these kinds of operations. WLAN QoS also is necessary for multimedia home entertainment, where moving digitized multimedia content across home systems is gaining steam.

But QoS is more complex in the enterprise because applications are more varied and the physical scale of WLANs is greater. With QoS standards slow to emerge, some organizations have taken pragmatic approaches to ensuring their apps get the bandwidth they need. Some hospitals, for example, deploy multiband 802.11 a/b/g network infrastructures: They dedicate the 5-GHz 802.11a system to data applications and the 2.4-GHz 802.11b/g system to voice.

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