Imagine being able to take your laptop anywhere in your home or office and still connect to the Internet, use your printer, and share files with other computers. And wouldn't it be great to set up your desktop computer(s) exactly where you want, without worrying about the hassles and installation costs of running Ethernet cables through the walls? Do you want to connect to the Internet at secure 'hot spot' locations popping up all over the world? Are you ready for an easy, secure and versatile network that won't turn your workspace into a snake pit of cabling?
You are ready for Wi-Fi! It's time to retire the wire!
In the not-too-distant past the wired world was swept by a new invention called the Internet. This revolutionized the way we live and work by bringing information, entertainment and access to products/services into homes and offices all over the world. The only problem was that you had to be plugged in to use the Internet!
Today there is Wi-Fi. An entirely new generation of portable computers and PDAs have entered our lives, and coupled with Wi-Fi technology you can still access your e-mail and the web while freely roaming your home, office, airports, parks, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and thousands of the other places where Wi-Fi 'hot spots' are popping up. Now data can instantly be at your fingertips whenever and wherever it is most convenient, whether you are visiting a client, breaking for lunch, traveling out of town, or relaxing on the couch.
What is Wi-Fi?
An abbreviation of wireless fidelity, 'Wi-Fi' is a take-off of "hi-fi" and is considered a generic term that refers to the IEEE 802.11 communications standards for wireless local area networks (WLANs). Wi-Fi technology has been developed as an alternative to connecting networked devices by using Ethernet cables. When you replace Ethernet cables with Wi-Fi adapters, you're able to connect to a network quickly, easily, and without the clutter, hassles and limitations of wires.
IEEE 802.11b - the 'B' standard
802.11b products began appearing in the marketplace in late 1999.and quickly became the most popular and widely used form of Wi-Fi. It operates in the 2.4 GHz radio spectrum, which is also shared with devices such as cordless phones and microwave ovens. When these types of devices are all operating within the same area they can cause signal interference, which can lead to slowing of your wireless data transmission speed. When indoors and encountering obstacles such as walls and signal interference from other devices, 802.11b will operate within a 100- 150 feet range. While the theoretical maximum transfer speed is 11 Mbps, the actual real world performance is about 4-6 Mbps which is still several times faster than a cable, DSL orT1 Internet connection.
Wi-Fi technology has grown considerably over the last couple of years. At its infancy, Wi-Fi was touted by multiple vendors and analysts as a hot new technology that would redefine how we live and work in the online world. Now that we've had a few years of Wi-Fi implementation realities to look back on, Wi-Fi has become better understood in terms of technological implementation strategies and Wi-Fi business models. At this point, we can make a more accurate estimation on the realities of Wi-Fi revenue and ROI, based on real world case studies and analysis.
Wi-Fi business models come in three main shapes.
- The first is the Wi-Fi enabled enterprise, or WLANs. WLANs have been implemented in multiple businesses and corporations across the globe, as a low-cost implementation and productivity enhancer.
- The second Wi-Fi business model is for fee-based public Wi-Fi Hot Spots. This business model is dominated by the large WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers).
- The final business model is a free public Wi-Fi Hot Spot. This model presumes that the Hot Spot itself is not a revenue-generating proposition, but the value-add of having a Hot Spot in your business venue will bring increased purchases from customers who stay at your venue longer, or return more frequently, based on the presence of the Hot Spot.
IEEE 802.11a-Wi-Fi 5
First appearing a year after 802.11b, 802.11a is a fester version of Wi-Fi that boasts a theoretical maximum speed of 54 Mbps. The actual real-world performance of'A' is 15- 20 Mbps, or about four times faster than 802.11b. It operates in the 5 GHz band, and when inside atypical home or office building will have a 50 - 75 foot wireless working distance.
While the range of 802.11a is less than that of 802.11b, in many other areas the 'A' standard excels. This newer version - also dubbed Wi-Fi 5 - performs better in high density areas. Thanks to the less-frequently used 5 GHz band there are fewer signal-interfering devices to compete with 802.11a transmissions, and the A technology features more non-overlapping channels so that more users can work in close proximity without interfering with each other.
IEEE 802.11g - the 'G' standard
Introduced in 2003, 802.11 g combines many of the best features of the previous two standards. Like the'B' standard, 802.11 g has a long working distance of 100 - 150 feet; and it is even compatible with other B products. The G standard uses 2.4 GHz radio frequencies, so like B it is more susceptible to signal interference from other devices.
Similar to it's 'A' counterpart, 802.11 g shares the advantage of extremely fast data throughput. In a home or office, users can enjoy speeds of 15 - 20 Mbps, unless a mix of G and B products are being used in which case the transfer speed will be limited to the maximum of 802.11b.
IEEE 802.11 – What's with the funny letter-number combo?
'IEEE' is an acronym for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a non-profit organization that helps to establish standards and guidelines in a wide range of industries from computer engineering to biomedical technology. Establishing and following standards helps to ensure that products from different manufacturers all work similarly and are compatible with each other.
'802.11' is the categorical number assigned to development and manufacturing standards set for Wi-Fi technology. The standards specify performance, capabilities, compatibility, and other issues related to designing a Wi-Fi product.
The easiest and most analyzed business model for measuring ROI in the Wi-Fi space is in enterprise WLANs. In this category, multiple companies have implemented WLANs across their business structure, and have measured performance gains and per employee productivity increases based on the mobility and availability of online access through WLANs. A recent NOP World survey of 300 companies, sizes varying from 100 employees to thousands of employees, reported an average of 3.5 hours more connectivity time per employee per day with the introduction of WLAN access. This translates to a per employee productivity increase of 27%.Beyond productivity gains from WLANs, some companies, those which anticipate adds, drops, and moves of desktops for employees, can see measurable cost savings for labor and cabling by replacing wired infrastructure with WLANs. This can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings annually over the wired equivalent networks.
Where can I use Wi-Fi?
• Home. You can build a wireless home network without installing physical wires around the house, through the walls, or in the ceiling. You can connect your computers to each other, as well as wirelessly link your television, stereo and printer.
• Office. Meetings can be conducted anywhere in the office building while using laptops to wirelessly connect to network resources and information. Business contacts can be wirelessly synchronized between a computer and PDA, and a PDA can be used to check e-mail and other business-related tasks. Users can silently exchange and share notes during meetings wirelessly.
• College campus.Students can wirelessly use the school's network to study, research, access class notes and teacher's sites, and improve the learning experience from anywhere around the.
• Airports and hotels. Traveling executives can connect to Internet to access e-mail, manage their travel itineraries, and log-in to the corporate network to stay connected while on the go.
• Restaurants and coffee shops. McDonalds, Starbucks, and thousands of other businesses now offer wireless Internet access; check your e-mail and surf the Web while sipping on your favorite beverage or enjoying a meal.
• Hospitals Doctors and nurses can use tablet. PCs with a wireless network to obtain patient records and real-time vital signs at the patient bedside without, relying on physical paper handling.
• Factories. Floor workers can reference information on parts, correct procedures, specifications and other information without impractical or impossible wired network connections.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: Same solar system, different worlds
While W-Fi and Bluetooth are both wireless networking technologies that do have some overlapping capabilities, they are best used for different purposes.
W-Fi is a wireless means for computers and computing devices such as a PDAs to communicate. It has the world broken up into zones where wireless networks can be accessed. Each wireless network is simply a convenient alternative to a wired network, and you can gain all the benefits of a wired network with the added convenience of portability and no cables, plugs, or configurations to worry about. As an increasing number of homes, offices and public places set up W-Fi networks, it will become continually easier to access the Internet, e-mail and data without ever needing one particular location to work. When connected to a W-Fi network all of the resources on that network will be available to you, such as printers, shared data, Internet/intranet access, and more.
Bluetooth offers a world of portable connectivity and convenience, and can wirelessly connect devices together that wouldn't be able to connect to a W-Fi network. Bluetooth can wirelessly connect not only computers and portable handheld devices, but also wirelessly link them with printers, cameras and cell phones. Bluetooth-enabled wireless headsets for mobile phones are available, as are keyboards and mice. New cars feature Bluetooth electronics so you may pair your mobile phone with your vehicle for integrated hands-free mobile communication through your built-in audio system or Bluetooth enabled headset. Toshiba offers a Bluetooth enabled refrigerator/freezer. It is a power-efficient means of transferring data between devices at low speeds; Bluetooth offers a maximum speed of up to 723 Kbps, more than 15 times slower than 802.11b. Most Bluetooth devices have a maximum working distance of 30 feet, but the most powerful 'Class 1' devices can work up to 330 feet away. Bluetooth aims to quickly and easily allow you to perform low-bandwidth tasks such as synchronizing a PDA with your cell phone or computer, printing to a nearby printer, or connecting a cell phone to a wireless headset. The convenience of being able to quickly perform tasks using Bluetooth technology at any time or place- without the need for a network to be present- distinguishes it from W-Fi.
Wi-Fi in the real world
Powerful 'Class 1' devices can work up to 330 feet away. Bluetooth aims to quickly and easily allow you to perform low-bandwidth tasks such as synchronizing a PDA with your cell phone or computer, printing to a nearby printer, or connecting a cell phone to a wireless headset. The convenience of being able to quickly perform tasks using Bluetooth technology at any time or place - without the need for a network to be present - distinguishes it from Wi-Fi.
Which Wi-Fi is best for you
If you intend to purchase new Wi-Fi equipment for your home or small office you should go with the G standard. You will enjoy speed and distance, and because G products are backward compatible with the market-dominated B standard you will have the newest technology while being able to access and work with older 802.11b networks and hot spots. Wi-Fi5, also known as 802.11a, is best suited for large corporate offices where a high concentration of wireless devices will be used in a very confined area.
802.11 Standards Compared
|Max. theoretical speed:
|Real world speed
||100 - 150 ft
||50 - 75 ft
|Can also work with
• Long working distance
• Most commonly adopted
• Hot spots available all over the nation
• Least expensive
• Fast data transmission
• More users can work in close proximity
• Little signal interference from other devices
• Fast data transmission
• Backward compatible with 802.11b devices
• Long working distance
• Hot spots available all over the nation
|Best suited for
• Small offices
• Enterprise-level networks
• Medium or small office:- Miat are densely populated
• Small offices
|Hot spots available?
||Yes. Wide spread adoption makes hot spots easy to find.
||Sort of Most hot spots use compatible 802.11b. But more 802 11 g hot spots are appearing.
The newest standard for wireless security is called WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption. WPA is a far stronger security protocol that fixes the weaknesses in the previous security standard, WEP (Wired Equivalency Protocol). By using a perpetually changing 'key' to unlock encrypted data that is wirelessly sent across your network, WPA encryption remains secure and all but impossible to hack. Security when accessing a public Wi-Fi network, or hot spot, can be difficult to achieve. Often the providers of public hot spots have not enabled the security encryption features, and most hot spots use 802.11b technology which features WEP, which is too easy to crack. Adding a software firewall or virtual private network (VPN) can increase the level of security on your computer itself, but still won't prevent hackers from 'sniffing' your wireless transmissions in the air and getting your private info.
How to set up a wireless network
To set up a wireless network connected to the Internet, you will need the following:
• An Internet connection (preferably broadband)
• Wireless access point
• Wireless network adapter for your notebook (built in or PC Card) or desktop computer (PCI).
Some or all of these components often are built in to one device; and depending on what you already have, you may not need to buy all of this equipment to unwire your home or office.
• Ad hoc mode: Refers to a peer-to-peer connection in which two wireless devices are connected directly with each other, without the presence of a wireless network or access point.
• Encryption: The scrambling data so that only authorized recipients can read or process it. Usually a key or password is needed to decrypt the data, which is assigned by the user. Encryption is critical to keeping wireless data transmissions secure so that only intended users can access the data.
• FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Server: A secure web server, or computer, that is accessible from any location via the Internet and is used to store and transfer large data files.
• Hot Spot: A public or commercial location where Wi-Fi Internet access is available either for free or for a daily/hourly rate.
• IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers): A non-profit organization that establishes standards and guidelines in a wide range of industries from computer engineering to biomedical technology. Establishing and following standards, such as all 802.11 specifications, helps to ensure that products from different manufacturers all work similarly and are compatible with each other.
• WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy): The original encryption-based security standard for WLAN technology, most commonly used with 802.11 b and 802.11 a. It has proved to be fundamentally insecure, and newer 802.11g products are now accompanied by the more secure WPA encryption security.
• Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity): Devices that are Wi-Fi-certified may bear the Wi-Fi logo. Certification is granted by the Wi-Fi Alliance to ensure that products meet the standards set by the IEEE for interoperability among 802.11 products.
• Wi-Fi Alliance: Formerly known as WECA (Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance), this nonprofit international association was formed in 1999 to certify the interoperability of Wi-Fi products based on the 802.11 specification. It was formed and is now governed by more than 180 member companies.
• WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network): A wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) network. Wi-Fi and WLAN are used interchangeably for the most part, though the term 'Wi-Fi' implies products that are certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance whereas WLAN refers to all 802.11 products/networks regardless of certification.
• WPA (Wireless Protected Access): An updated encryption-based security standard that fixes many of the security holes in WEP encryption, and is included with 802.11g products. Many WLAN hardware owners will be able to download software or firmware that supports WPA from the manufacturers of devices they already have.
• VPN (Virtual Private Network): A connection between two PCs in different networks that allows data to be sent securely over a shared or public network, such as the Internet. This is done by creating a "tunnel" that connects the two PCs and encrypts data so it can be transmitted over the Internet as if it were still within those networks. VPN is a less expensive alternative to a dedicated line.
Wi-Fi offers a very affordable, high-speed, simple and dependable way to create a network, access the Internet, communicate and share data wirelessly while indoors or outside. You can access a hot spot or wireless network in the convenience of your own home, your office, or in public. The fast speed and long signal range of Wi-Fi lets you move anywhere you want without sacrificing performance or compromising comfort.
Companies such as Broadcom, Dell, Microsoft, Intel, Panasonic, Toshiba and many more are all backing the development of Wi-Fi technology and consistently introducing new products to the market. With such a huge support base and worldwide adoption of the 802.11 standard, Wi-Fi is already in your neighborhood and ready to help you 'retire the wire!'