Wireless Local Area Network (Wlan)

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WIRELESS LOCAL AREA NETWORK (WLAN) 1. Introduction. A wireless LAN (WLAN) is a flexible data communication system implemented as an extension to, or as an alternative for, a wired LAN within a building or campus. Using electromagnetic waves, WLANs transmit and receive data over the air, minimizing the need for wired connections. Thus, WLANs combine data connectivity with user mobility, and, through simplified configuration, enable movable LANs. Over the last seven years, WLANs have gained strong popularity in a number of vertical markets, including the health-care, retail, manufacturing, warehousing, and academic arenas. These industries have profited from the productivity gains of using hand-held terminals and notebook computers to transmit real-time information to centralized hosts for processing. Today WLANs are becoming more widely recognized as a general-purpose connectivity alternative for a broad range of business customers. The U.S. wireless LAN market is rapidly approaching $1 billion in revenues. 2. How Wireless LANs work? Wireless LANs use electromagnetic airwaves (radio and infrared) to communicate information from one point to another without relying on any physical connection. Radio waves are often referred to as radio carriers because they simply perform the function of delivering energy to a remote receiver. The data being transmitted is superimposed on the radio carrier so that it can be accurately extracted at the receiving end. Once data is modulated onto the radio carrier, the radio signal occupies more than a single frequency, since the frequency or bit rate of the modulating information adds to the carrier. Multiple radio carriers can exist in the same space at the same time without interfering with each other if the radio waves are transmitted on different radio frequencies. To extract data, a radio receiver tunes in (or selects) one radio frequency while rejecting all other radio signals on different frequencies. In a typical WLAN configuration, a transmitter/receiver (transceiver) device, called an access point, connects to the wired network from a fixed location using standard Ethernet cable. At a minimum, the access point receives, buffers, and transmits data between the WLAN and the wired network infrastructure. A single access point can support a small group of users and can function within a range of less than one hundred to several hundred feet. The access point is usually mounted high but may be mounted essentially anywhere that is practical as long as the desired radio coverage is obtained. End users access the WLAN through wireless LAN adapters, which are implemented as PC cards in notebook computers, or use ISA or PCI adapters in desktop computers. WLAN adapters provide an interface between the client network operating system (NOS) and the airwaves (via an antenna). The nature of the wireless connection is transparent to the NOS. 3. Why Wireless? The widespread reliance on networking in business and the meteoric growth of the Internet and online services are strong testimonies to the benefits of shared data and shared resources. With wireless LANs, users can access shared information without looking for a place to plug in, and network managers can set up or augment networks without installing or moving wires. Wireless LANs offer the following productivity, convenience, and cost advantages over traditional wired networks: Mobility: Wireless LAN systems can provide LAN users with access to real-time information anywhere in their organization. This mobility supports productivity and service opportunities not possible with wired networks. Installation Speed and Simplicity: Installing a wireless LAN system can be fast and easy and can eliminate the need to pull cable through walls and ceilings. Installation Flexibility: Wireless technology allows the network to go where wire cannot go. Reduced Cost-of-Ownership: While the initial investment required for wireless LAN hardware can be higher than the cost of wired LAN hardware, overall installation expenses and life-cycle costs can be significantly lower. Long-term cost benefits are greatest in dynamic environments requiring frequent moves and changes. Scalability: Wireless LAN systems can be configured in a variety of topologies to meet the needs of specific applications and installations. Configurations are easily changed and range from peer-to-peer networks suitable for a small number of users to full infrastructure networks of thousands of users that enable roaming Safety: The output power of wireless LAN systems is very low, much less than that of a hand-held cellular phone. Since radio waves fade rapidly over distance, very little exposure to RF energy is provided to those in the area of a wireless LAN system. Wireless LANs must meet stringent government and industry regulations for safety. No adverse health affects have ever been attributed to wireless LANs. 4. Applications of Wireless LAN’s Wireless LANs frequently augment rather than replace wired LAN networks-often providing the final few meters of connectivity between a wired network and the mobile user. The following list describes some of the many applications made possible through the power and flexibility of wireless LANs: · Doctors and nurses in hospitals are more productive because hand-held or notebook computers with wireless LAN capability deliver patient information instantly. · Consulting or accounting audit teams or small workgroups increase productivity with quick network setup. · Students holding class on a campus greensward access the Internet to consult the catalog of the Library of Congress. · Network managers in dynamic environments minimize the overhead caused by moves, extensions to networks, and other changes with wireless LANs. · Training sites at corporations and students at universities use wireless connectivity to ease access to information, information exchanges, and learning. · Network managers installing networked computers in older buildings find that wireless LANs are a cost-effective network infrastructure solution. · Trade show and branch office workers minimize setup requirements by installing pre-configured wireless LANs needing no local MIS support. · Warehouse workers use wireless LANs to exchange information with central databases, thereby increasing productivity. · Network managers implement wireless LANs to provide backup for mission-critical applications running on wired networks. · Senior executives in meetings make quicker decisions because they have real-time information at their finger-tips. 5. Customer Considerations Customers Consider the following qualities before a purchasing a Wireless LAN. · Range Coverage · Throughput · Integrity and Reliability · Compatibility with the Existing Network · Interoperability of Wireless Device · Licensing Issues · Security · Cost · Battery Life for Mobile Platforms 6. Types of Wireless LAN’s There are two types of Wireless LANs: Ad-hoc Networks This network can be set up by a number mobile users meeting in a small room. It does not need any support from a wired/wireless backbone. There are two ways to implement this network. Broadcasting/Flooding Suppose that a mobile user A wants to send data to another user B in the same area. When the packets containing the data are ready, user A broadcasts the packets. On receiving the packets, the receiver checks the identification on the packet. If that receiver was not the correct destination, then it rebroadcasts the packets. This process is repeated until user B gets the data. Temporary Infrastructure In this method, the mobile users set up a temporary infrastructure. But this method is complicated and it introduces overheads. It is useful only when there is a small number of mobile users. Infrastructure Networks This type of network allows users to move in a building while they are connected to computer resources. In an infrastructure network, a cell is also known as a Basic Service Area (BSA). It contains a number of wireless stations. The size of a BSA depends on the power of the transmitter and receiver units, it also depends on the environment. A number of BSAs are connected to each other and to a distribution system by Access Points (APs). A group of stations belonging to an AP is called a Basic Service Set (BSS) 7. Wireless LAN Technology Manufacturers of wireless LANs have a range of technologies to choose from when designing a wireless LAN solution. Each technology comes with its own set of advantages and limitations. Spread Spectrum Most wireless LAN systems use spread-spectrum technology, a wideband radio frequency technique developed by the military for use in reliable, secure, mission-critical communications systems. Spread-spectrum is designed to trade off bandwidth efficiency for reliability, integrity, and security. In other words, more bandwidth is consumed than in the case of narrowband transmission, but the tradeoff produces a signal that is, in effect, louder and thus easier to detect, provided that the receiver knows the parameters of the spread-spectrum signal being broadcast. If a receiver is not tuned to the right frequency, a spread-spectrum signal looks like background noise. There are two types of spread spectrum radio: frequency hopping and direct sequence. Narrowband Technology A narrowband radio system transmits and receives user information on a specific radio frequency. Narrowband radio keeps the radio signal frequency as narrow as possible just to pass the information. Undesirable cross-talk between communications channels is avoided by carefully coordinating different users on different channel frequencies. A private telephone line is much like a radio frequency. When each home in a neighborhood has its own private telephone line, people in one home cannot listen to calls made to other homes. In a radio system, privacy and noninterference are accomplished by the use of separate radio frequencies. The radio receiver filters out all radio signals except the ones on its designated frequenc

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