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Wireless LAN

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How Wireless LANs are Used in the Real World

Wireless LANs frequently augment rather than replace wired LAN networks-often providing the final few meters of connectivity between a wired network and the mobile user. The following list describes some of the many applications made possible through the power and flexibility of wireless LANs: Doctors and nurses in hospitals are more productive because hand-held or notebook computers with wireless LAN capability deliver patient information instantly. Consulting or accounting audit teams or small workgroups increase productivity with quick network setup. Students holding class on a campus greensward access the Internet to consult the catalog of the Library of Congress. Network managers in dynamic environments minimize the overhead caused by moves, extensions to networks, and other changes with wireless LANs. Training sites at corporations and students at universities use wireless connectivity to ease access to information, information exchanges, and learning. Network managers installing networked computers in older buildings find that wireless LANs are a cost-effective network infrastructure solution. Trade show and branch office workers minimize setup requirements by installing pre-configured wireless LANs needing no local MIS support. Warehouse workers use wireless LANs to exchange information with central databases, thereby increasing productivity. Network managers implement wireless LANs to provide backup for mission-critical applications running on wired networks. Senior executives in meetings make quicker decisions because they have real-time information at their fingertips.

Wireless LAN Technology

Manufacturers of wireless LANs have a range of technologies to choose from when designing a wireless LAN solution. Each technology comes with its own set of advantages and limitations.

Narrowband Technology

A narrowband radio system transmits and receives user information on a specific radio frequency. Narrowband radio keeps the radio signal frequency as narrow as possible just to pass the information. Undesirable crosstalk between communications channels is avoided by carefully coordinating different users on different channel frequencies.A private telephone line is much like a radio frequency. When each home in a neighborhood has its own private telephone line, people in one home cannot listen to calls made to other homes. In a radio system, privacy and noninterference are accomplished by the use of separate radio frequencies. The radio receiver filters out all radio signals except the ones on its designated frequency. From a customer standpoint, one drawback of narrowband technology is that the end-user must obtain an FCC license for each site where it is employed.

Spread Spectrum Technology

Most wireless LAN systems use spread-spectrum technology, a wideband radio frequency technique developed by the military for use in reliable, secure, mission-critical communications systems. Spread-spectrum is designed to trade off bandwidth efficiency for reliability, integrity, and security. In other words, more bandwidth is consumed than in the case of narrowband transmission, but the tradeoff produces a signal that is, in effect, louder and thus easier to detect, provided that the receiver knows the parameters of the spread-spectrum signal being broadcast. If a receiver is not tuned to the right frequency, a spread-spectrum signal looks like background noise. There are two types of spread spectrum radio: frequency hopping and direct sequence.

Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum Technology

Frequency-hopping spread-spectrum (FHSS) uses a narrowband carrier that changes frequency in a pattern known to both transmitter and receiver. Properly synchronized, the net effect is to maintain a single logical channel. To an unintended receiver, FHSS appears to be short-duration impulse noise.Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum TechnologyDirect-sequence spread-spectrum (DSSS) generates a redundant bit pattern for each bit to be transmitted. This bit pattern is called a chip (or chipping code). The longer the chip, the greater the probability that the original data can be recovered (and, of course, the more bandwidth required). Even if one or more bits in the chip are damaged during transmission, statistical techniques embedded in the radio can recover the original data without the need for retransmission. To an unintended receiver, DSSS appears as low-power wideband noise and is rejected (ignored) by most narrowband receivers.

Infrared Technology
See
Free Space Optics (FSO)

A third technology, little used in commercial wireless LANs, is infrared. Infrared (IR) systems use very high frequencies, just below visible light in the electromagnetic spectrum, to carry data. Like light, IR cannot penetrate opaque objects; it is either directed (line-of-sight) or diffuse technology. Inexpensive directed systems provide very limited range (3 ft) and typically are used for personal area networks but occasionally are used in specific wireless LAN applications. High performance directed IR is impractical for mobile users and is therefore used only to implement fixed sub-networks. Diffuse (or reflective) IR wireless LAN systems do not require line-of-sight, but cells are limited to individual rooms.

 

 

 

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