Falling wireless networking costs can bring broadband home, says Andrew James.
There has been much discussion recently about wireless networking and, in particular, the development of Wi-Fi hotspots.
This has focused on mobile uses of Wi-Fi and the internet with relatively little attention being paid to the potential benefits within fixed locations.
Having run trials of Wi-Fi in the company, we are now planning to implement wireless Lan technology to allow our users to roam around the building with laptops. I believe the technology has the potential to offer significant business benefits. In fact, the benefits in internal fixed networking may outweigh those for external hotspots for mobile staff.
When new facilities or moves within existing buildings are required, the conventional option of cabling the site can be costly, time-consuming and disruptive.
Consequently, when cabling is installed, it is usually future-proofed to ensure capacity for growth by additional, initially redundant, outlets. This leads to extra costs, which could be substantial in a large building.
The use of wireless networking would avoid many of these problems and keep implementation costs down. Capacity can be added as needed and only paid for when the connections are required, without the need to over-cable for future requirements.
Some cabling would still be needed for telecoms but the increasing use of mobile devices could reduce this further. For situations where cabling is either impractical or extremely expensive, such as in historic buildings or hazardous environments, wireless could be the only feasible option.
Another advantage of wireless networking is that there is no loss of investment should the company change premises or reorganise office layouts. Equipment can be moved to the new location with no need to write off an investment in cabling the site.
In the case of mobile or laptop users, being able to connect to the corporate network without having to locate a live network point will enable true "hot desking" for staff not routinely office-based.
The lower bandwidth that wireless generally provides is also no longer such a major issue. Having implemented 100mbps to all desktops, this bandwidth is commonly far in excess of that actually used. Many applications are using thin client technology such as terminal services or Citrix, which are not dependent on bandwidth. The internet is also generally limited by site connectivity - commonly up to 2Mbytes - rather than desktop bandwidth.
Many of these advantages also apply to those working from home. As broadband internet use becomes more widespread, more devices will need connection to gain full benefits.
It is impractical and prohibitively expensive to wire domestic properties with category five networks, but with the cost of Wi-Fi falling, a broadband wireless network could be installed for less than £100. This price level could drive new uses that have been raised before, such as remote video programming, and could bring many science fiction dreams to reality.
What do you think?
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Andrew James is IT manager at Eclipse Scientific Group