(This article was first published at the end of 2001 – but we think it’s worth another quick look.) Q. Wi-Fi – like Hi-fi?
A. Er, sort of. Wi-Fi is the marketable name given to a wireless local area network (WLAN) standard which has gone for some time under the unwieldy title of IEEE 802.11b. Q. What does it do?
A. On the simplest level, it’s a replacement for regular LANs, and offers up to 11Mbps rates using the 2.4GHz spectrum within a 100m radius of an access point. Q. So what’s all the fuss about?
A. Of course it isn’t just about LAN cabling replacement. Wi-Fi has been touted as a revolutionary technology for businesses of all sizes and even a challenge for upcoming 3G networks. As well as corporate deployments, users with a laptop and appropriate PC card can exploit Wi-Fi ‘hot spots’ around the world in airports, hotels and campuses. Q. And Starbucks?
A. Yes, there too, in a limited way. The Microsoft campus in Redmond is perhaps a better example of an environment equipped with a Wi-Fi network. Q. Will it threaten 3G?
A. Its speed, cost – no billion dollar licence fees here – and ease of deployment mean blanket Wi-Fi does offer something of an alternative, and a report from Nomura in March 2001 entitled The barbarians at the gate – Wireless LAN storms the 3G citadel certainly put the cat among the pigeons. But there are limits. It isn’t a technology specifically for voice and coverage will be limited. It’s likely it will co-exist with technologies such as 3G and Bluetooth. Q. Security fears?
A. Yes, there are plenty of corporate roll outs not paying too much attention to potential eavesdroppers. But there are solutions out there – often bundled with Wi-Fi kit – that use encryption. Q. What next?
A. Major vendors are pushing Wi-Fi kit and it is so easy to use there are a growing number of ‘guerrilla Wi-Fi networks’ popping up. However, some analysts are already predicting the newer 802.11a standard (Q. ‘a’ – newer? A. Don’t ask) operating at 5GHz and promising even faster data transfer of up to 54Mbps will win the day. For a complete list of Cheat Sheets type ‘CS1’ into the silicon.com Search