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Meeting Tomorrow's WLAN Needs

Build for the Future

Preserving the sanity of many wireless network managers is the fact that most of today's WLANs are substantially underutilized. With the possible exception of health care, the industries that have embraced WLANs, including education, government, retail and logistics, make modest demands on their wireless bandwidth. For emerging horizontal enterprise and hotspot use, user density is relatively low and the most common applications--Web access and e-mail--are bandwidth-efficient.

Although performance isn't a big issue today, it will be tomorrow, leading to the same provisioning dilemma as with Ethernet. With wireless, however, technical obstacles are substantially more complex. Before we can get fatter wireless pipes, we must consider performance, capacity, cost, range, backward compatibility and other factors.

IT pros place a high value on backward compatibility, and Ethernet designers often get it for free. Not so with wireless. A NETWORK COMPUTING survey suggests the enterprise wireless growth path of choice over the next three years will be 802.11g, which theoretically delivers about five times the performance of 11b with full backward compatibility. However, effective throughput in a mixed 11b/11g environment will be substantially lower. And though b/g delivers the best range today--an important consideration for some environments--long-range radio transmission is exactly what you don't want.

Think Microcells

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