When it comes to supporting wireless networking, prices are going down and user expectations are going up. Whether you want to go wireless with four or five PCs in a small office or you need walk-around connectivity for a thousand corporate users, Compaq and IBM offer a number of options that can provide the proper access.

Compaq’s wireless options defined by scope
Compaq defines its wireless solutions in terms of three distance-based platforms: the wireless personal area network (WPAN), the wireless local area network (WLAN), and the wireless wide area network (WWAN).

The WPAN connects devices that are in relatively close proximity to one another. The MultiPort lets you create a WPAN that connects Bluetooth-equipped devices with select Evo Notebooks, Presario Notebooks, and Evo desktops. In the iPAQ product line, the iPAQ Pocket PC H3870 model comes with integrated Bluetooth, and a Bluetooth Wireless Pack option is available for other iPAQ Pocket PC models.

If you need more horsepower in your home network, the Wireless Home Office Gateway model WL310 provides wireless connectivity to Internet service providers so multiple users can share the same Internet connection. It enables the sharing of common network resources, such as files, printers, and scanners.

The WLAN solution provides access for small and medium-size businesses that need constant access across a couple of offices or a dozen floors in a skyscraper.

Some of the key components for Compaq’s wireless solutions include:

  • Compaq 802.11b-BlueTooth MultiPort Module for Compaq Evo Notebooks N400c and N600c. Priced at under $200, it has a range of about 100 meters and supports TCP/IP, IPX/SPX, and UDP. The MultiPort Module relies on Bluetooth wireless technology to provide an interface between Bluetooth devices and Compaq notebooks.
  • The 802.11b MultiPort Wireless LAN Module works with all Evo notebooks and keeps users connected to their network within a building, on a campus, or in a “hot spot” environment.
  • Compaq’s Wireless PC Card WL110 has a range of 525 feet in an open environment, 165 feet in a semiopen environment, and 80 feet in a closed environment.
  • Compaq’s WL215 provides high-speed wireless network for USB-enabled desktops or notebooks.
  • The WL310 Wireless Home Office Gateway is compatible with Compaq Desktop, Compaq Notebook, and iPAQ Pocket PC. Its range is similar to the WL110’s.
  • The Compaq WL410 is a secure, full-featured access point that connects your Ethernet backbone and your wireless clients, supporting up to 50 users per cell.
  • Wireless Enterprise Access Point WL510 is good for difficult-to-wire locations. It provides 10/100 Mbps Ethernet support over a wireless bridge.

IBM customizes wireless solutions by product lines
IBM’s wireless accessories support ThinkPad notebooks or NetVista desktops using both Wi-Fi wireless and Bluetooth wireless technologies. As of this writing, the wireless product lines are organized in groups including IBM-specific, Cisco, Intel, and Novatel wireless. Some of the wireless devices available include:

  • The IBM 11a Wireless LAN CardBus Adapter, which retails for $179. It allows ThinkPad notebook users to stay connected in the office, home, or “campus” environment. It’s compatible with the ThinkPad A Series, R Series, T Series, X Series, s Series, and i Series 1200/1300.
  • The Bluetooth UltraPort Module For Bluetooth wireless communications, used for most ThinkPad and NetVista models, is priced at $129. It allows a ThinkPad to communicate with other Bluetooth devices, so users can perform wireless tasks such as dialing out to the Internet using a cell phone or synchronizing with a PDA. Its range is around 30 feet (10 meters).
  • The IBM High Rate Wireless Access Point 500, priced at $449, provides wireless infrastructure for a home or small business that uses cable or DSL for Internet access. Using the popular IEEE 802.11b wireless technology, this gateway allows users to share a single cable or DSL account.
  • The IBM High Rate Wireless LAN PC Card 128, priced at $99, works in combination with the Wireless Access Point 500 to deliver the speed of IEEE 802.11b standards for wireless LANs and WLANs with the security of 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption.

If you’re looking for a notebook computer designed for Cisco networks, check out the ThinkPad T30 notebooks. They feature integrated Cisco Aironet Wireless 802.11b. The Cisco Aironet 350 Access Point itself retails for $569 and includes a 10/100 Ethernet uplink for integration with existing local area networks.

On the Intel side, IBM offers the Intel/Pro Wireless 5000 802.11a Access Point for around $399. Its indoor range is 40 feet at 54 Mbps and 300 feet at 6 Mbps. Outdoors, the range is 100 feet at 54 Mbps and 1,000 feet at 6 Mbps. You can install up to eight access points per location to increase the available bandwidth to 432 Mbps and support more users.