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For Immediate Release
26 July 2005

Essential advice for enterprise-level WiFi

As the trend towards enterprise WiFi continues, Carrie Higbie from Siemon explains why businesses must consider WiFi security, usability and speed alongside convenience.

"WiFi allows an increase in staff mobility and acts as a complimentary extension to mainstream network connections," says Carrie, Global Network Applications Market Manager at Siemon. While wireless will never replace a cabled environment, in some areas it can be beneficial predominantly due to mobility. For instance barcode readers in a factory environment or temporary connections for transient workers.

She offers some valuable advice to businesses that are installing WiFi: "An average of 20 users will connect to one WiFi access point and each of these access points needs connected cabling. These users share a single cable, so the requirement for that cable to be stable is significant as it is a single point of failure for all connected users. This means that it's important for businesses to install quality cabling infrastructure to support their WiFi technology to avoid downtime."

"When considering return on investment it's also important for businesses to remember that the international standards call for two traditionally cabled outlets per work area, so any claims that WiFi saves on cabling is false," says Carrie. "Without the required amount of outlets per work area a business would be operating outside the standards, and would limit their environment for future applications that will require a cabled connection This can also affect the resale or lease values of the property should the new occupant be required to cable the environment."

Carrie continues: "The speed of file transfer also remains a big issue because applications are becoming larger - according to Gates' Law they double in size every 18 months. Users that are accustomed to using a 100Mbps switched network connection where they enjoyed the bandwith individually will find 54Mbps (or less depending on signal strength) shared with multiple users to be nearly unusable - the speed is lacking for large file transfers. Saturation is also becoming an issue in many areas because there are too many devices trying to communicate on the same frequency."

The security of WiFi is also well discussed and Carrie offers an explanation: "As the signals move through open air, the ability to intercept data is great. Although the new Robust Security Network (RSN) is designed to be more robust and less easily broken, identity theft is growing and older wireless networks, including those run throughout homes, are proving to be easy targets for eavesdroppers."

Carrie continues: "WiFi also runs on an unlicensed/unprotected spectrum and therefore is subject to interference beyond technological or regulatory control. In some factories, users have to skip several channels due to problems of multipath or signals bouncing off machinery, people, walls and emission interference from machines."

But WiFi is gaining popularity in some areas because of its convenience, and as Carrie says, the US telecommunications standards body, the TIA, is planning for the future. "The new TIA WLAN standard in progress calls for a telecommunications outlet in the centre of 55 ft network ceiling grids. This will allow businesses to move access points to suit the workplace and assure coverage."

But as a final word of warning Carrie concludes: "As more people adopt WiFi technology, the problems we currently face are likely to grow and businesses should be ready to face them. This is one area where investment protection is subject to neighbouring facilities and the amount of other access points with active wireless traffic. Saturation of the airwaves is a growing problem, which could nullify a user's investment. "


About Siemon
Established in 1903, Siemon is an industry leader specialising in the design and manufacture of high quality, high performance low voltage infrastructure solutions and services for data centres, LANs and intelligent buildings. Headquartered in Connecticut, USA, with global sales, technical and logistics expertise spanning 100 countries, Siemon offers a comprehensive suite of copper and optical fibre cabling systems, cabinets, racks, cable management, data centre power and cooling systems and intelligent infrastructure management solutions.

With more than 400 patents specific to structured cabling, Siemon Labs invests heavily in R&D and the development of industry standards, underlining the company’s long-standing commitment to its customers and the industry. Siemon Interconnect Solutions (SIS) is a Siemon business unit comprised of a team of dedicated technical sales professionals supported by Siemon Labs, mechanical, electrical and signal integrity engineers committed to solving industry and customer driven interconnect challenges. Siemon provides custom network infrastructure solutions to OEMs, leading manufacturers, value-added resellers and system integrators.
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