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Why wireless?

This tip discusses the reasons that you'd want to install a wireless component to your existing Ethernet infrastructure.

How do you make any sense of a technology that changes so fast? The easiest thing to do is to consider the easiest thing first, and then move on to the more complex. And the easiest, right now, is wireless Ethernet. Compared to the endless variety of emerging wireless personal communication devices and services, wireless Ethernet is a more manageable, proven technology that is becoming more common in corporate networks.

This tip discusses the reasons that you'd want to install a wireless component to your existing Ethernet infrastructure. It's excerpted from MCSE Training Guide: Networking Essentials, Second Edition, by Glenn Berg, published by New Riders. You can read more of this book on

Wireless networks are especially useful for the following situations:
7 Spaces where cabling would be impossible or inconvenient. These include open lobbies, inaccessible parts of buildings, older buildings, historical buildings where renovation is prohibited, and outdoor installations.
7 People who move around a lot within their work environment. Network administrators, for instance, must troubleshoot a large office network. Nurses and doctors need to make rounds at a hospital.
7 Temporary installations. These situations include any temporary department set up for a specific purpose that soon will be torn down or relocated.
7 People who travel outside of the work environment and need instantaneous access to network resources.
7 Satellite offices or branches, ships at sea, or teams in remote field locations that need to be connected to a main office or location.

It is often advantageous for a network to include some wireless nodes. Typically, though, the wireless nodes are part of what is otherwise a traditional, cable-based network. An access point is a stationary transceiver connected to the cable-based LAN that enables the cordless PC to communicate with the network. The access point acts as a conduit for the wireless PC. The process is initiated when the wireless PC sends a signal to the access point; from there, the signal reaches the network. The truly wireless communication, therefore, is the communication from the wireless PC to the access point. Use of an access point transceiver is one of several ways to achieve wireless networking. This is similar to when you use your remote control for your TV. Think of the remote control unit in your hand as the computer, and the area on the TV set that receives the signal as your access point, or stationary receiver.

You can classify wireless LAN communications according to transmission method. The four most common LAN wireless transmission methods are as follows:
7 Infrared
7 Laser
7 Narrow-band radio
7 Spread-spectrum radio
7 Microwave

In future tips, we'll consider the advantages and disadvantages of these methods.

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This was last published in October 2000

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