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Wireless Propagator: In-Building Wireless

Attach the word "wireless" to any topic and you're likely to pique the interest
of your colleagues, technical or otherwise. But mention "in-building wireless,"
and you'll just as quickly lose their attention as your own mind drifts to
images of hot and itchy insulation-lined ceilings and narrow elevator shafts.

In light of the growing enterprise wireless infrastructure market, pervasively
deployed Wi-Fi networks remain relatively rare. The cost/coverage issue in
large open areas such as warehouses and stadiums is just one reason. In a
completely wired office with a small number of mobile workers, it can be
difficult to justify building out beyond the foyer, a few conference rooms and
executive offices.

The other wireless, cellular, faces similar challenges. Both business and
personal mobile phones are in use by most employees, but building
construction--whether modern with cinder blocks, steel trusses and
sheetrock-lined metal studs or historical with foot-thick concrete walls and
floors--often prevent cellular signals from penetrating beyond more than one or
two walls. This limits the use of cellular for both voice and 2.5/3G
applications.

My previous columns have discussed the concept of dual-mode handsets that
use the cellular network when outside and the Wi-Fi network on the inside. That
works fine when the enterprise can justify such an infrastructure, but the
immaturity of the technology and the reality that it ignores existing GSM- or
CDMA-based devices provides reasonable consideration for pause.

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