Will wi-fi end the reign of the wired network?

You have heard the hype. It is clear. 802.11N, commonly known as Wi-Fi n is the next great leap in wireless technology. With 802.11g only giving you up to 56 Mbit/sec, the wireless N standard boasts speeds of up to 5 times faster by taking advantage of multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology. Funny thing is 802.11n is still in a draft mode a year later with no plans to finalize until late 2008 or early 2009.

From a business perspective, many companies cannot wait for the standard to be finalized so they can begin the migration/adoption process but no business in their right mind would adopt the draft standards of 802.11N at this point in time. While many vendors are selling Wi-Fi-n Draft certified equipment, no one knows for sure if this equipment will upgrade when the standard is finalized. Are you willing to take that chance with your IT budget? I certainly would not.

As the bandwidth demands for companies increase dramatically, pressure is mounting for a finalized 802.11n standard. The demand for a standard is simple. There are two technologies that beg for increased bandwidth in order to be effective wirelessly. They are: videoconferencing and voice over IP (VOIP).

I travel a good bit around the country as a Technology Consultant and all conference rooms are equipped with VOIP phones and videoconferencing. I take advantage of these technologies daily.  In several conference rooms, I found that they were only equipped with a wireless connection for VOIP and videoconferencing.  It is painful to make a call and try to stream video on a maximum throughput of 56 Mbit/sec. This is the maximum. The farther you are away from your wireless access point, the slower this speed gets. This is why most VOIP phones and videoconferencing system are hard wired. It allows for 100 Mbit/sec  has a minimal lag.

With Wi-Fi-N draft standard, I have heard of people obtaining 100-120 Mbit/sec with the 802.11n equipment. That will allow wireless to begin to break out of its box.  If your wireless network can obtain the same bandwidth as a wired network, you will see a whole new business model emerge in the future. Over time the wired network may become a thing of the past. I can still remember driving to the beach with my parents as they blasted Elvis on the 8-track player.

New applications will be built on this standard opening up the door for many business users to take advantage of wireless technology. A lot of the limitations placed on companies at this time are bandwidth and security. Once the bandwidth issue is solved with 802.11 n and new security encryption standards birth such 802.11i, there will be no stopping the growth of Wi-Fi in the enterprise.

What do you think?