Why Wi-Fi?

Wired Vs. Wireless

A new technology like Wi-Fi has to cost more than the wired Ethernet, right? That depends on how you do the accounting, says Eller.

Wi-FI Gear

3Com AirConnect 11 Mbps Wireless LAN
Apple AirPort
Avaya Communication Orinoco Wireless LAN Networking
Cisco Systems Aironet 340 and 350 Series
Compaq WL Series of Wireless LAN Products
Dell TrueMobile wireless
D-Link 11 Mb Wireless Series
Gateway Wireless Network Solutions

At $100 to $200 per PC and $500 to $1,000 per access point, the cost of wireless hardware is typically two to four times the cost of wired network components. But the higher cost of Wi-Fi hardware is offset by its ease of installation and lower main-tenance costs. And you can look forward to steep Wi-Fi adaptor price decreases of up to one-third in the following months, predicts Bradley Morse, vice president of marketing for D-Link, an Irvine, California, manufacturer of networking products.

Most desktop Wi-Fi adaptors require the opening of the PC and the use of a PCI slot. But D-Link has come out with a USB adaptor, the D-Link DWL-120, which you can find for $159 (street), further lowering IT support costs. Likewise, portable users need only slide in a $100 (street) Wi-Fi PC Card in a Type II slot.

But counting costs is shortsighted, says Eller, who's more interested in the productivity benefits. "Nobody did a cost-benefit analysis on Wi-Fi," he reports. "It worked, it was cool, it was useful, and we bought it."

Wireless networks have been around for years but have never really caught on. Part of the problem was their sub-2Mbps transfer speeds. More than that, says Paulo, there has never been the kind of marketing push and distribution infrastructures-not to mention technical support-that are behind Wi-Fi today. "People want to have some kind of assurance that all this stuff will work together," explains Paulo.

It all suggests that work is not just about the office anymore-or even the home office. Eller believes he works best out on the deck in his backyard. It's the only place his wife will let him smoke a cigar while he reads his e-mail.

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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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