Wireless local area networking (wireless LAN) was developed in the 1990s as an extension of the wired LAN network technology that had become prevalent and dominant in the networked world. In essence, wireless LANs are, as the name suggests, technology for transmitting data and operating local networks without requiring the wires and associated infrastructures this normally brings.
Developed out of the ethernet (the predominant wired LAN technology), wireless LAN technology was first developed in the early 1990s and initially only available at a lower level to wired LANs. Wireless LANs were capable of 1-2 megabits per second (Mbps) transfer rates, as opposed to 100Mbps for the wired LANs.
In order for the wireless LANs to have the same functionality, compatibility and interoperability as the wired systems, wireless makers, including Aironet, pushed for the implementation of the necessary standards.
In June 1997, the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, the body that defined the pre-eminent 802.3 ethernet standard for wired LANs, released the 802.11 standard for wireless local area networking. This is now the industry standard for wireless LAN technology.
Since the late 1990s and the development of IEEE 802.11, this new networking system has experienced rapid growth in a number of vertical markets.
IEEE 802.11b-standard 11Mbps wireless LANs operate in the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency band. There is also room for an increased bandwidth using an optional modulation technique within the specification. This allows the doubling of its current data rate.
Wireless LAN manufacturers developed the 900MHz band to the 2.4GHz band to improve the data rate. This pattern looks set to continue, with a broader frequency band capable of supporting the higher bandwidth available at 5.7GHz. The IEEE has already issued a specification (802.11a) for equipment operating at 5.7GHz, which supports a 54Mbps data rate. The initial price premium will decrease over time as the data rate increases and the cost of components comes down. The 5GHz band promises to allow for the next breakthrough data rate of 100Mbps.
Aironet entered into an agreement with the Bank of America Securites in November 1999, so as to provide a series of wireless LANs to a number of the bank's business units. The bank required flexibility in the intranet systems to allow employees to monitor the markets continuously from anywhere in the offices. The wireless LANs were also useful during relocations, where there was no need for rewiring the networks, leading to savings in time and costs.
Other applications have also been developed to assist hospitals and educational establishments by allowing staff to access information at the point of care with patients or students.
FUTURE OF WIRELESS LAN
Wireless LAN technology will continue to develop its capabilities and market presence. Advantages include its flexibility and the fact that major players such as Cisco Systems will drive it. However, even the providers themselves acknowledge that wireless LANs will be, now and in the future, both more expensive and slower than wired LANs. Until the technology is developed to overcome this, this technology will find it difficult to rival wired LANs.