By Joshua Erdman
I have worked in the world of wireless since 1999. When it first became available the main purpose was to create a slow wireless link between two distantly located campuses (with line of sight of course). Wireless was chosen usually to avoid the high cost of a dedicated data line offered by the phone company (such as a T-1) and the speeds were about the same.
As wireless devices became more available I found myself fighting the currents of change. "Why use a slower, insecure wireless technology when I can plug a 100base-T connection right into my PC instead." However my boss at the time was really into neat toys and loved the freedom of wireless; now he could work anywhere (He never could sit at his own desk). I felt that wireless did have its place, like in a warehouse for forklift operators, or someone scanning barcodes throughout a grocery store, but certainly not ever in an office environment.
Wireless is something that you just cannot ignore these days. The available frequencies in the 2.4GHz spectrum can be tight. Using simple wireless analysis software you can quickly see just how many wireless networks are in your vicinity.
Wireless technology has evolved over the last few years. New standards have been approved introducing new compatibility problems between them. We have provided a detailed article discussing the wireless standards (or protocols). With this evolution has also brought new uses for wireless technology, Point-to-Point (the original and traditional use) and Distributed wireless.
Point-to-Point involves 2 transmitters, one at each end. These transmitters are typically more expensive and more powerful than the
NetGear, Linksys, or D-Link transmitters a consumer is familiar with. They are designed to handle the weather for installations outside.
Point-to-MultiPoint is similar to a star pattern, when you may have one central transmitter (even if it is a relay point) connected to other transmitters. These transmitters usually are the same types as the ones you would use for Point-to-Point however the configurations are more complicated.
Distributed Wireless provides a wireless Ethernet connection for users. This is usually with a low transmission power and can involve a
large variety of transmitters. As laptop users come and go, the wireless equipment they will vary. This is
especially the case for public
Internet access points such as Internet cafes.
With all these different wireless applications, you need to also be knowledgeable in the different types of antennas. Each type is shaped differently to provide optimal radiating patterns for the specific application.
Article last reviewed: 04/11/2006