Deploying In-Building Wireless Coverage

More enterprises are deploying universal wireless coverage across their campuses. Software has matured, wireless networks are easier to manage and more secure, and bandwidth is approaching that of wired connections.

Today’s work force is more mobile, and the desktop of choice is usually a laptop. As wireless becomes more ubiquitous, it enables an entire collection of new applications that can be used to communicate with employees when they are away from their offices, monitor sensors around a building and even transmit video streams.

Take, for example, 3G cellular broadband offerings. With the popularity of Apple’s iPhone and similar devices, more IT workers want always-on Internet from their smartphones. A survey conducted by Trellia Networks last fall found widespread interest in 3G broadband adoption, with half of the respondents evaluating this technology and another third in the middle of deploying it.

In the hospitality industry, many hotel owners recognize they have to attract premium guests and offer corresponding premium services. They are doing so with various wireless technologies that will open guest doors, track the items in the minibar and deliver Internet telephony to each room.

Hospitals are also coming on board with wireless.

“Five years ago, hospitals were afraid wireless devices were going to interfere with their medical telemetry, so they put bans into effect,” says Scott Sbihli, global product manager of networking systems for GE Healthcare. “But few problems have materialized, and, for the most part, interference isn’t an issue.”

As wireless technologies have matured, many have realized that interference is more of an urban legend than reality. With the proper arrangement of antennae and configuration, everyone’s radios can coexist and not threaten critical functions.

For these new applications to function properly, wireless has to be available everywhere. That requires designing the right in-building coverage, which involves more than proper antenna placement and access point design to avoid radio dead spots.

There are many issues to resolve (see “Issues to Consider” at right), particularly if an IT shop wants to support multiple wireless technologies beyond Wi-Fi and cellular voice connections. There are multiple standards to support, and mixing wired and wireless infrastructure can be more of a black art than cut-and-dried engineering. Deploying centrally managed wireless solutions will take some careful planning and vendor evaluations.

The major vendors for managing mixed cellular/Wi-Fi networks are ADC Telecommunications’ subsidiary LGC Wireless, Powerwave Technologies, InnerWireless and MobileAccess.

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