Wireless LANs can improve business process efficiencies, provide scalability, improve infrastructure costs, contribute to customer and employee satisfaction, and help resolve business continuity issues. When considering a wireless LAN implementation, users should address security, bandwidth, roaming, and interference issues. Getting the most value with the least risk means engaging a supplier with real field experience in WLAN design and installation.
The Age of the Wireless LANIn today s dynamic business environment, workers have come to expectseamless access: anywhere at any time. Wireless LANs (WLANs) arebecoming more popular as an access vehicle because they free usersfrom the need to be cabled to a physical network. A wireless LAN canprovide access to shared information on the fly, enabling real-timeconnectivity to all types of network resources from anywhere withinrange of an Access Point (AP).Wireless LANs use standards-based Radio Frequency (RF) technologyto transmit and receive data over the air. Since they are RF-based,wireless LANs in operation are very similar to the model we re familiarwith as radio listeners. Anyone who is tuned in to the proper frequencycan receive the information. Current wireless LAN standards create ashared medium in which all users associated with a specific wirelessLAN transmission device share the transmission capacity in a securefashion. A 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard may be an optionfor businesses needing added security.Businesses are finding that wireless LANs can support a generalimprovement in process efficiency, while also adding increasedscalability to existing networks. Given the recent advances in security,wireless LANs have become a practical alternative to traditional wirednetworks. They can also solve some unique design problems thatavoid cost-prohibitive investments in cabling, and reduce LANadministrative costs.Benefits of Wireless LANsMany benefits are realized through the use of wireless LAN technology,including: increasing productivity, realizing technology and operationalefficiencies and improving employee satisfaction. Foster ProductivityIncrease MobilityWith wireless networks, workers can connect to the enterprise frommany different locations: within a single physical space, within anextended office campus, or on the road in thousands of public venues(such as hotels, airports and coffee shops). Office users can beproductive away from the office, and sales representatives can easilyconnect at work. This increased mobility adds value in terms ofemployee satisfaction, as well as in greater productivity.Improve Inter-Team and Intra-Team CollaborationThrough the use of wireless LANs, team members can assemble andshare information in a conference room, a cafeteria, or from an officecube. Multiple teams in different locations can collaborate real-time.Wireless LANs also support intelligent multi-tasking, allowing workersto check email during breaks in a training session.Enable More Efficient Meetings and Decision MakingThere s often a productivity gap during meetings when additionalinformation is required to continue a meeting, make a decision orfinalize a project. Once inside of a traditional conference room,workers are generally separated from the data they need to supportdecisions or ideas (even if it s a decision as simple as scheduling thenext meeting). That s not the case with a wireless LAN. Employeescan have immediate access to information they need to make quick,informed decisions. The meeting can continue with all decisionmakers present. This hands-on access to information fosters efficientand productive meetings.M ARKETB RIEFUntitled DocumentRealize Technology, Operational and Environmental EfficienciesImprove Scalability and Deployment TimesWireless LANs are easier and faster to deploy (and redeploy) sincethere is no need to run cable and install jacks. They can be expandedto include additional buildings and can extend connectivity to otherwiseisolated LANs. Adding, moving or changing workstations is muchfaster, given the plug-and-play nature of the technology.Foster Business ContinuityBecause they can be installed or relocated quickly, wireless LANs enable faster repair in the event of a problem.Reduce Structural ModificationsSome scenarios prohibit the installation of a wired physical plant.Protected structures such as historical monuments and buildings maynot allow the physical structure to be altered to install cabling. Somefacilities may suffer cosmetically from such modifications. Outdoorscenarios require linkages over terrain that is unsuitable for a wiredconnection. In both cases, wireless LAN s can overcome thedisadvantages offered by a wired infrastructure, and provide nearubiquitous coverage for workers and visitors.Increase Workplace SafetySome physical environments are not well suited for the use of physicalcabling. Examples of such environments include manufacturing plantfloors, warehouse floors and hospitals. In these scenarios, exposed cablescan pose a hazard or obstruction that hinder, deter or even create adanger to workers. Wireless LAN connectivity enables employees towork safely in an environment free from such physical obstacles.Reduce Infrastructure CostWireless connections eliminate the cost of restringing cable every time the LAN is upgraded, or its configuration is changed. Cablingcosts can be a significant part of the LAN administration budget,especially when networks span several floors or multiple buildings.The administrative cost of maintaining the cabling plant is reducedbecause the cost and effort of tracking and recording move/add/change activity is less than in a typical wired environment. In addition,wireless LAN hardware is relatively inexpensive.Enhance Service/SatisfactionIncrease Employee SatisfactionWireless LANs enable employees to be more productive. Instead ofhaving to go home and spend hours in email responding to customerinquiries, employees can use hot spots to respond to issues needing atimely resolution. This can save many hours of late night work thatmay have cut into personal time. In addition, customers are satisfiedbecause they received quick responses. Satisfied customers lead tohappy workers.Improve Customer ServiceWhen employees are out of the office, it is sometimes difficult torespond to customer questions. Many customers wait until later thatevening or the next day to receive information they requested.Wireless LANs enable employees to respond to customer requestsduring meeting breaks, in alternate offices, or even in hotels orInternet cafes.Issues to WatchAlthough there are many advantages to wireless LANs, the technologyis not a magic answer to every kind of network problem. There areseveral issues that need to be assessed while considering a wirelessLAN implementation. As the technology evolves, these issues shouldhave less of an impact on the network.SecuritySince wireless LANs are easy to hack if they re not adequatelyprotected, security should be a major consideration in the networkdesign. Some traditional security technologies (Wired EquivalentPrivacy, WiFi Protected Access and Light Extensible AuthenticationProtocol) may have already proven insufficient when used withwireless LANs. Rogue access points are a serious threat from outside the enterprise. In addition, there is a danger that legitimate users may inadvertently stray into unauthorized areas. The wireless LAN industry is focused on improving security. Newstandards (802.1x, 802.11i, and IPSEC integration) have a number ofsecurity enhancements, and wireless security can also be augmentedthrough additional encryption protocols. Extensible AuthenticationProtocol (EAP) with access control services can help secure transactions.Second-generation management tools are being developed toautomatically detect and block the presence of rogue access points.BandwidthIn a converged voice/data environment, there is often a battle forbandwidth. Wireless LANs offer bandwidth that s equivalent to wiredcounterparts, and can deliver QoS when designed properly. WirelessLAN channelization may be used to combine two channels to doublethe effective throughput. However, when using channelization, themaximum number of clients per access point is reduced by half. Theavailable bandwidth is increased proportionally.Bottleneck effects can also be a problem. Since access points areshared, maximum throughput is generally throttled back to match thelowest rate attainable among the users who are connecting through a given access point.InterferenceNatural interference can reduce wireless LAN transmission rates by upto 60%. Wireless APs have a limited range, so it s important that theybe placed with an understanding of bandwidth and range requirements.The RF signals that support wireless LANs are subject to interference Market Brief - Wireless LAN Technology ______________________________________________________________________________________________________2Untitled Documentfrom the same factors that effect any radio transmission, includingnatural topology, building structures, other RF sources (includingcordless phones and microwave ovens) and even human bodies.Managing potential interference problems is ultimately a matter ofgood design and proper testing. RoamingSupport for roaming within a wireless LAN is still evolving, but willhopefully become seamless and transparent. When moving through a wireless LAN space, users should not be dropped and forced to re-connect as they shift from one AP to another. There are somedesign issues that need to be addressed since not all APs play welltogether when it comes to connection hand-offs.ManagementDue to interoperability issues in matching different vendors andproduct lines, managing wireless LANs may be a challenge. The rapidpace of new developments can also make it hard to keep up withimprovements and evolving standards. Finally, a wireless LAN is nevertotally wireless. At some point, it does need to be connected to thewired network. Some of the wireless devices will need local powerconnections. That means proper attention must be paid toredundancy and fail-over support, which is just as important as withany wired LAN.Conclusion Wireless LANs have the potential to add value to businesses. They can improve productivity, provide scalability, reduce infrastructurecosts, contribute to customer and employee satisfaction and may help resolve business continuity issues. When considering a wirelessLAN, it is important to understand some limitations and issues. Usersshould pay close attention to security. Bandwidth and interferenceneed to be assessed. The network must be designed appropriately,and the solution needs to be managed effectively. The key for gettingthe most value with the least risk is to engage a partner with real fieldexperience in wireless LAN design and installation.For more information contact your AT&TRepresentative or visit us at www.att.com/business.Market Brief - Wireless LAN Technology ______________________________________________________________________________________________________303/14/07 AB-0925 2007 AT&T Knowledge Ventures. All rights reserved. AT&T and the AT&T logo are trademarks of AT&T Knowledge Ventures.