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Which WLAN technology is the best to implement?

By jasonhiner Moderator ·
If you're implementing a wireless LAN for the first time, then you are undoubtedly wrestling with which of the three WLAN standards (802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g) to support. There's white paper (http://itpapers.techrepublic.com/abstract.aspx?cid=4&docid=81855) from Global Knowledge that helps sort out the differences between the standards and shows the true throughput to expect from them, which can be deceiving if you simply take them at face value. Take a look at the white paper and then tell us about your WLAN implementation plans and which technologies you will support.

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The Alphabet Soup That is Wireless..

by TomSal In reply to Which WLAN technology is ...

I've just recently completed reading a book totally dedicated to wireless networking by Cisco Press (they make very dry, boring books but they are excellent from the stand point of technical information, technical accuracy and coverage of topics).

If I was looking at installing WLAN from scratch for my company right now...I'd probably go with the "a" standard -- 54mbps @ 5ghz frequency.

The reasons:

-This assumes a brand new network, so I'd not have to worry about supporting the b/g standards since no wireless devices yet exist.

-54 mbps bandwidth (just like "g") is nice...but what I like about the "a" standard is that its on the as yet uncrowded 5ghz frequency band. This means the chance of things that can interfere with the "b/g" standards like microwave ovens and wireless phones will not interfere with an "a" network.

-More "handling" capacity. Also with an "a" network you are working with more "channels" -- (I believe the magic number is "12") simultaneously, "g" only uses 3 channels. This means two things that I gleamed from the book I read -- First, an "a" network can handle ("service") more nodes at once than a "g" network can -- makes sense more channels are like more lanes on the highway. Second, because of the fact of more channels theoretically an "a" network is a smidge more difficult to penetrate from a security perspective than a "g" network is.

The downside to A:

The problem with "a" however is two-fold. First, it doesn't play with b or g....at all. Second, the higher 5 ghz frequency means more throughput but less range than the 2.4ghz frequency of b/g.

Now on the flip side -- if I had to build a WLAN that had to play with other existing "b" or "g" only hardware, I'd go with "g"..since it will play with "b" and "g" and you get the 54mbps bandwidth capability.

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Wireless LAN deployment

by wbaltas In reply to Which WLAN technology is ...

We just deployed 24 Wirless access devices and have plans to deploy 30 more.

Our first 24 access points are 802.11a only. The decision to deploy only this technology was done for a few reasons.
We wanted these APs to have identical configurations if possible. All devices that connected to this wireless network are identical, and only one department will use this WLAN. We wanted maximum throughput with a minimum of interference. Distance was not an issue, since the laptop computers that would use these APs would be within a 40' X 40' room. Security was a major cause of concern in this first deployment. Since all locations would only have one AP, interference with another AP that we deployed would not be a problem, however, some of the locations where we deployed these APs were in residential neighborhoods so we had a very real possibility of interference with devices in nearby homes.

To give us the greatest throughput with the minimum amout of interference, we chose the 802.11a (5 GHz radio). Most home devices still use 2.4 GHz radios, and most home wireless networks are setup with 802.11a or 802.11g, so interference should be at a minimum. Just to make sure, we also chose a radio channel in the middle of the spectrum, hoping that most people that might buy an 802.11a system would stay with the default channel or go to the opposite end and pick a very high channel.

The next problem that we had was security. Our corporate policy would not allow an open wireless connection into our network. Using 802.11a gave us two advantages, first, 802.11a access cards are somewhat rare, so this gives us a bit of security by obscurity. Second, these devices are located in buildings that used a lot of metal in the construction, so the radio signal should not penetrate outside of the building. But even with the above, we added a lot in security. We deployed all devices on this network using WPA security (802.1x and tkip), we also added a VPN client that uses AES encryption to our laptop computers. Both the radius server that authenticates the 802.1x and the VPN termination point are within our corporate infrastructure, not the AP itself.


In our next deployment, we have a more varied user base. The next 30 APs that get depolyed will have both 802.11a and 802.11g radios installed. We will still require the WPA security (802.1x and tkip), but we are debating about the VPN software at this time.

Let me know if I can answer further questions.

Bill Baltas

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