Emerging WiFi and WLAN Technologies
WiFi and WLAN technologies are evolving to allow for
faster transmission speeds and greater bandwidth. FierceWiFi takes
a look at trends in the market in order to understand what services are on
the horizon. Here’s a quick overview of some exciting new or potential services FierceWiFi covers:
Voice Over WLAN (VoWLAN or Wireless VoIP)
Everyone understands the benefits of VoIP, but with the growth of WLANs, wireless VoIP via WLANs, called VoWLAN or VoWiFi, now makes a lot of sense. Combining the network cost savings of WiFi with the voice efficiency of VoIP, companies such as TeleSym offer software enabling PDAs with WiFi cards to make calls over WLANs. These calls are as clear or clearer than cell phone calls and are a lot less expensive. Spectralink is another company in the VoWLAN market providing phones operating over wireless LANs. Spectralink has identified numerous markets such as healthcare, hospitality, homeland security, etc., which need in-building systems for workers who spend a lot of their time away from their desks. The VoWLAN systems have proven more efficient and effective than two-way radios or pagers. Spectralink and Symbol Technology shipped only 30,000 VoWiFi handsets last year, but the market is expected to grow as Cisco releases VoWLAN handsets and prices drop to under $400/handset.
WiMAX is the recently approved IEEE 802.16 wireless metropolitan area network (MAN) standard for broadband wireless access. WiMAX is real wireless fidelity with connectivity up to several miles as opposed to a couple hundred feet for 802.11a/b/g. Because WLAN technology is much less expensive than cellular infrastructure equipment, some industry experts claim that WiMAX could become a threat to the cell phone industry, which is investing in 3G to offer advanced mobile data services. Similar to the WiFi alliance, the WiMAX Forum is a trade group formed to verify and certify products based on the 802.16 standard.
Now that the 802.11g standard is approved, the IEEE will look at even faster standards like the proposed 802.11n for release in 2005 or 2006. At this point, 802.11g, which runs at rates of up to 54Mbps, is more than adequate for most WiFi users. Although most users would not notice a difference between 50Mbps and 320Mbps, there will eventually be many applications which would run better at a higher speed.
Similar to Bluetooth but around 100x faster, Ultra-wideband or UWB is used to transmit data at high speeds over very short distances; making UWB perfect for the home market. The main challenge to UWB is that the standard works across a wide range of frequencies as opposed to most other networking and consumer electronic technologies which are assigned a narrow band of spectrum. The potential interference problems have raised the eyebrows of major media players like AOL Time Warner who feel that UWB interferes with programming distributed through satellites. The Department of Transportation has also raised concerns about UWB interfering with the GPS systems essential for flying. Despite these concerns, UWB product development is moving forward in the home networking market due to its fast transmission rates.
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