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Wireless LANs

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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.

Wireless LANs or "WLANs" are the equivalent of wired LANs (usually Ethernet) without the wires. They are meant for office environments and even home use. Other wireless technologies are outlined under "Wireless Communications." Mobile wireless (cellular telephones) is discussed under "Wireless Mobile Communications." Wireless access service (broadband Internet connections) is covered under "Wireless Broadband Access Technologies."

A related wireless technology is the wireless PAN (personal area network), which is a limited-range network for interconnecting mobile devices connecting with peripheral devices. Note that WLANs and PANs are very similar, except that the range of PANs is intentionally limited so that groups of people in the same area (conference room, restaurants, airport terminal) can spontaneously connect. By limiting the range, a typical office can have many different PANs operating at the same time. See "Bluetooth" and "Wireless PANs (Personal Area Networks)."

A typical WLAN consists of a fixed-position wireless transceiver (transmitter/receiver) that broadcasts a signal within an area called a microcell. The transceiver is usually called a base station or an access point. Each base station connects to a wired backbone so that users can communicate with users in other microcells or connect with back-end server farms, Internet connections, and other wired network services.

Microcells may cover an office building floor or a workgroup area. Other microcells may exist next to one another or on different floors of an office building. Roaming is possible between WLAN microcells just like roaming is possible with cell phones. As users move out of the range of one microcell and into the range of another, their connection is handed off to the new microcell base station.

This topic continues in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications" with a discussion of the following:

  • Advantages of WLANs
  • Wireless technologies
  • Infrared
  • Spread spectrum radio
  • Frequency-hopping spread spectrum
  • Direct-sequence spread spectrum
  • Narrowband (or single-frequency) radio
  • Wireless LAN standards
  • IEEE WLAN standards, including IEEE 802.11b and IEEE 802.11a
  • ETSI HiperLAN

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