Wireless Local Area networks (WLANs) have been employed to add mobility features to office and campus networks since the late 1980s. This article presents a discussion of the current state of WLAN technology and some of the products available.
Physically, there are two ways to implement wireless LANs: infrared and radio. Since radio is currently the most popular choice, we will restrict this discussion to radio wireless LANs.
WLANs are a distinct category of products and technology that must be differentiated from Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) and Wide Area Networks (WANs). Examples of wireless MANs are Ricochet, Ardis, and RAM Mobile Data which provide city-wide coverage for low bit-rate data services. The most visible wireless WAN system is the cellular telephone system which can be used for data services just as telephone land lines can be used with a modem for data services. However, the bandwidth limitations when using switched cellular technology are severe, and data connections generally are not tolerant of the extended drop-outs that can occur. Conversely, WLANs are generally accepted to be 1Mbps links or above (although a few drop into the 100's of Kbps), short range (100's of meters) technologies which do not need to support vehicular mobility (high speed handoffs) or wide area coverage. What they do provide is the wireless equivalent of a LAN for file sharing, remote database access, file server access, internet access, e-mail, and all the other applications which operate over LANs, only the user is no... [continues]
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