Why Wi-Fi?

Bandwith And Connectivity

As a busy entrepreneur, you need both bandwidth and seamless connectivity everywhere you work. You have to stay in touch with team members and clients, and you must have the bandwidth to move big data files back and forth. Wi-Fi's ability to deliver both these things makes it an obvious choice.

Networks Everywhere
Here are some of the major differences and similarities
among popular wireless networks:
StandardMax Range (Feet)Speed (MBPS)Band (GHZ)
IEEE 802.11a300545
IEEE 802.11b300112.4
IEEE 802.1130022.4

Of course, people are just beginning to appreciate this mighty wielder of bandwidth and connectivity. Wi-Fi network adaptors didn't start shipping in any appreciable quantity until late 1999. A year later, sales had picked up to 2.6 million nodes annually, says research firm Cahners In-Stat Group. That figure should grow to 8 million per year by 2002-still a far cry from the large installed base (as well as annual unit shipments) of Ethernet, Fast Ethernet and wired NICs, says In-Stat industry analyst Gemma Paulo.

At 11Mbps, 802.11b is faster than the many 1Mbps peer-to-peer wired networks in place and pretty comparable to wired Ethernet client/server installations, most of which still move data around at the old 10Mbps. Except for the most esoteric applications, Public Strategies employees don't notice any appreciable differences between the company's wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks, reports Eller.

Of course, as with all networks, maximum bandwidth is an ideal. Traffic loads, radio interference and other types of network friction can slow down Wi-Fi transfer rates. They should get a boost to 54Mbps by the end of this year-that's when we should start to see products using the new 802.11a version of the protocol, which uses a different radio band than that used by the 2.4GHz Spread Spectrum Wi-Fi 802.11b. The 2.4GHz band is the same frequency used by other wireless LAN protocols like Home Radio Frequency and cordless phones. It's also the same band that the upcoming deluge of Bluetooth short-range wireless products will use later this year.

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This article was originally published in the May 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Why Wi-Fi?.

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