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Wireless Networking (WLAN)
Milan's Jargon Buster

Wireless Networking (WLAN)

When to use WLAN?
WLAN provides a convenient networking option when computer cabling is not available or is uneconomical. WLAN is particularly useful for laptop workstations as it provides a practical mobile solution for connecting to the office network.

Is there a cost advantage in using WLAN over wired LAN?
Essentially yes but there could be some pitfalls. Performance may be affected in some circumstances and it is important to evaluate fitness for purpose and environmental issues such as congestion when planning implementation of this option.

WLAN does offer flexibility and mobility to users such as roaming which is not possible with wired LAN.

Is Wireless safe to use?
We have lived with radio for a century or so. Most radio and television broadcasts use wireless transmission, as do radars and wildlife tracking. There is no established evidence that wireless transmission at frequencies and power used commercially is harmful to human health.

Is Wireless secure to use?
Wireless LAN is secure if adequate security measures are properly implemented. The Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE) in the US has prescribed a strong level os security for WLAN. The standard is called IEEE 802.11i, known as WPA2 for Wi-Fi Protected Access generation 2. A number of equipment produced in 2005 and later comply with this standard.

Are there other standards?
Yes there are. IEEE has prescribed a family of standards that ensure interoperability of products made by various vendors as well as for management of radio spectrum. We should use equipment that is compliant with the relevant standards as a good corporate citizen as well as for our own benefit.

Do we need a license to use WLAN?
The Radio Spectrum Management Group of the Ministry of Economic Development oversees the use of radio frequencies in New Zealand. It has allocated a number of frequency bands where license application is not necessary as long as we operate within prescribed limits such as radio signal range and strength. These limits are applicable both inside and outside.

Is WLAN fast enough to be useful?
The answer is definitely yes. The IEEE WLAN standard provides for speeds of up to 54Mbps (megabits per second) of theoretical bandwidth as at May 2006. A newer standard will push this speed to more than 100Mbps. The new level will match most wired networks although the Gigabit (1000Mbps) Ethernet is gaining popularity for wired networks.

What constitutes a WLAN?
The basic elements of Wireless LAN are an Access Point (AP), and a wireless network interface (NIC) in the user PC. Almost all newer laptops now include a Wireless LAN card as standard feature. An Access Point converts data received from wireless users to wired LAN and vice versa. The wireless network interface (NIC) in each PC or laptop includes a low power antenna for transmitting and receiving wireless signals.

Is use of Wireless limited to ose with laptops only?
No, a standard desktop PC can join a WLAN as long as it has a wireless NIC installed and tuned to the same channel of your particular WLAN.

How far from the wired network can wireless connections be used?
Radio signals deteriorate over distance and on encountering obstacles such as walls. The table below shows the relationship between distance and theoretical free space data transmission speed for 2 standards of WLAN equipment. The actual achievable range will be less.

Why use 802.11a if its range is shorter?
Equipment compliant with 802.11a operating in the 5GHz radio spectrum has more channel options. The option translates into more simultaneous users in a given space compared to 802.11g.

How many users can a WLAN support?
All channels will be shared by all users connected to the WLAN in a given space. There is no maximum limit on the number unless imposed by the Access Point. It can be 20 or 25 users. It all depends on performance expectations, usage scenario and tuning.

NOTE: The information here is provided as a guide only. Please consult a professional to recommend the right solution for your specific requirements.

Call us if you are planning to install or fine tune a Wireless LAN for your business. Phone: (027)443 0166, Fax: (09)443 0347, or send us an email with your contact details and we will help you with your implementation

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