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The Winding Road to Wireless WANs

SUB: If I Had a ...

If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. That old axiom applies perfectly to today's WLAN market. WLANs are the mobility tool du jour because they provide excellent performance at dirt-cheap prices. So rather than ask if WLANs are the best tool for expanding wireless data services from the LAN to the MAN (metropolitan area network), we just start hammering.

Community network zealots are lighting up cities, providing free wireless Internet access and casting a blind eye toward their ISP service contracts and FCC radio regulations. Upstart wireless ISPs are hacking 802.11 devices, convinced they can leverage unlicensed spectrum and low-cost radios to deliver cost-effective alternatives to DSL and cable modems. And leading-edge technology companies--Vivato, for instance--are grafting smart antenna technology onto the 802.11 hammer, offering range and scalability improvements they claim are comparable to those that fiber and commodity switching provided back in the Ethernet revolution.

But at least some of these solutions may be hammers made of glass. They'll work fine as long as the nail isn't too large, but start pounding a bigger nail and your hammer is likely to shatter. Better to consider alternatives.

SUB: What Are My Choices?

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