Wireless Local Area Networks, Explained
Most of us probably have a wireless router in our house right now. 802.11a/b/g were the old standards, 802.11n is the current standard and 802.11ac is coming in the near future. You don’t know how it works, but you plugged in your wireless router when you picked it up from Best Buy (or your cable/internet provider), fumbled your way through it and low and behold-- you’re a wireless networking specialist! Congratulations. You’re not sure exactly what's happening on the back end, but your laptop at home works as well as your smartphone connecting to your WLAN to surf the web.
Well, we'll give you a glance behind those connectivity scenes. What you did is to free yourself from that blue category 5 cable that tethers you between your computer and the outside world. What you also did was to take a step to become part of the next revolution. No one really knows it's there, it just works. Have you gone into a restaurant and noticed you have the ability to connect to the establishments “Wi-Fi”? It’s the same thing, a wireless local area network that allows you to go off the Carriers network and onto a local “Hot Spot” to allow you to browse and connect with your fellow human beings?
Connecting to our fellow human beings! The emphasis falls on the user experience. And it all comes back to that wireless router box, doesn't it? Our world has grown so dependent on Wi-Fi, it's hard to imagine life without it. Imagine walking into a hotel on a business trip or vacation. The cellular coverage is not that great so you decide to use the hotels' Wi-Fi. You notice you have good signal on the Wi-Fi, but you can’t connect at a good speed, because it's like the old dial up telephone line for your computer. Your user experience just went from “hero to zero” in a matter of minutes. You can’t get your work done, you can’t connect to your Facebook, Twitter or Linked In and you realize you are not staying at this hotel again. Your user experience was a big fat zero!
Think about environments where communication becomes more critical. Imagine at a hospital: the nurse comes in and looks at your bracelet, he/she verifies the meds they're about to give you corresponds to your bed number and your name. The nurse does his routine room checking in on you and then heads back to enter in all the particulars of this stop. What if the nurse had a wireless mobile computing device with barcode scanner? They walk into your room, scan your bracelet, confirm you name, dispense the medications and update the report--all in minutes. Accurate records, accurate inventory and most of all accurate medications. All because of that wireless local area network, WLAN or the most commonly used: Wi-Fi.
Warehousing allows for trucks to deliver and pickup materials. All of those materials have to get counted coming into and out of the warehouse. What if one small device allowed an RFID tag to be scanned? What if one small mobile computer allowed for a pallet to be counted all in a matter of seconds? Time and money saved all because of the WLAN, 802.11n or call it Wi-Fi.
To top it off, you send your son or daughter to college. And as much as you would like to think that studying is the number one priority of those 20,000 kids, I believe I read it was surfing the web for music, Facebook, Twitter and emails! Seamless connectivity all around and throughout the campus can be attained all because of Wi-Fi. Cameras can be placed strategically around the campus and wirelessly connect to the network. Dispatching of Campus Police, report writing and ticketing, all through the campus' wireless system!
It all started with you connecting your device and not knowing what you were really doing. If your connection at home is good enough for you, you can download and send at reasonable speeds. But campuses, hospitality businesses, healthcare and warehouses all require one thing: Bandwidth--and a lot more than you and I use at home. To give you that bandwidth, you need that one connection of "Hi" speed data. By adding in “Access Points or AP’s” (essentially the wireless router from your house) you can not only extend your coverage, you can control these AP’s and manage traffic. Using Carrier grade equipment, you can achieve a secured network, you can control what the employees can download and upload, you can put coverage where you need it and you can free your employees and give them the mobility they require. You can send telephone audio, video, computer data files and system controls all over this wireless local area network.
So what’s next? More bandwidth? Yes, but also more Security. As users gain more and more mobility and need more and more data, the bandwidth limitations of the 802.11a/b/g will not handle the demand. 802.11n is roughly 130-150Mb throughput. 802.11ac will theoretically create up to 1Gb bandwidth, but more like 330-400Mb. Consider 802.11ac about twice as fast with future potential. All have design constraints, all have demands and ultimately in a corporate environment, all should be controlled and secured.
Hope I helped you recognize a little more about what's happening in the background of wireless network technology!
This article was written by Tom Treichler, Director of Sales & Service at Chicago Communications. Tom has over 30 years of experience in the industry with a background in engineering, system integration, and wireless broadband. If you have any questions for Tom, or another representative at ChiComm, please contact us.