WiFi

Skyscraper Glass Buildings

Advances in WiFi technology have largely eliminated the need for conventional site surveys along with many other labor-intensive activities that previously generated significant expense for buyers of WiFi systems. These savings can now be directly applied to the purchase of product and improves the return on investment. Consequently, WiFi in the past couple of years have become much easier to plan, configure, install, manage, use and grow even as network requirements have evolved and formerly wired traffic volumes began to make their way to the airwaves.

And this, of course, led to another interesting thought: with so much WiFi traffic comes the requirement for more infrastructure, better performance and lower installation and management costs. Overall WiFi capacity is largely a function of the number of access points (APs) installed, along with the ability of these APs to self manage so as to optimize both traffic loading and spectrum utilization. APs are the bridges between mobile or otherwise wireless users and the rest of the network. In the early days of WiFi (the early 1990s), APs were very expensive — prices well above $2,000.00 were not uncommon, along with performance that was usually well below 2 Mbps — clearly poor price/ performance by modern standards. The high cost of these APs led to an infrastructure planning strategy based on sparse deployments; that is, installations minimizing the number of APs so as to provide at least nominal coverage in a given area while provisioning correspondingly minimal capacity to end users. The low throughput of these APs combined with the inverse relationship between distance and throughput in most wireless systems (the laws of physics at work — the farther a signal travels, the weaker it becomes, and therefore the less reliable and effective in terms of throughput and capacity it is) resulted in a less than satisfying user experience. Until recently, few cared; coverage was the name of the game, and there weren’t all that many wireless users anyway. Most WiFi applications were based on barcode scanning and other low-throughput, high-tolerance for latency activities. There were also major concerns concerning network security.

Wireless Man Suit Laptop

But the arrival of new IEEE 802 standards over recent years changed the WiFi game dramatically. These new standards include improvements for performance, power and security. Awareness of the technology and its broad applicability spurred demand. Lower prices resulting from major investments in very large scale integration (VLSI) chipsets began a steady downward trend with regard to price, again increasing demand. Almost all notebook computers and a great number of handheld devices on the market today have wireless technology as a standard feature. Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology, has also driven WiFi deployment down by eliminating costly electrical outlet installations. All of a sudden a broad horizontal market for WiFi was born. We now have the ability to connect to the Internet while at the airport, coffee shop and a variety of places we spend time each day.