Pros and Cons of deploying an ‘All wireless’ office

Wireless technologies have matured a lot these days and 802.11n supports 450-600 Mbps of bandwidth per wireless access point, which is a lot when compared to its 802.11 b/g counterparts that used to support only 54 Mbps per access point. So, is an ‘All wireless’ office feasible now? Let’s look at some pros and cons of deploying an All-wireless office.

Note: ‘All Wireless’ does not mean that cables are completely eliminated. The wireless access points required to create the wireless network require to be connected to a backbone LAN (Wired switch ports) using Cat6 Network cables, which is essentially a wired network. So, Network Switches, cables and patch panels are still required in a wireless network but in a reduced quantity. The wireless part comes only between the access points and the computers/ laptops/ end devices accessing the network.

Advantages of an ‘All Wireless’ office:

1. The convenience of having wireless coverage all over the office is simply unmatched. One can move their laptop anywhere (conference room/ cafeteria, for example), and can still continue working. A wireless network enables mobility anywhere within the office.

2. The cost of all those network cables, switch ports, passive components (Racks, Patch panels, Patch cords, Network I/O devices, etc) required for a wired network, can be reduced considerably if a wireless network is used.

3. The Wireless Controller coordinates between all the access points in the campus and gives a central administrative interface to manage the wireless network. It also mitigates the frequency interference issue faced by neighboring access points by making them work in the non-overlapping frequency bands.

4. Most of the laptops come with built-in wireless adapters. Wireless functionality can be enabled on desktops as well, by adding wireless adapters. Many other devices like Multi-Function Printers, IP Surveillance Cameras, Video Conferencing units, etc. have wireless enabled models that can be deployed to connect directly to the wireless network.

5. IEEE 802.11n technology provides a decent bandwidth (450-600 Mbps) per access point that is more than enough for many common applications accessed by the users.

Limitations of an ‘All Wireless’ office:

1. The cost of access points and controllers/ licenses (that support 802.11n) could be considerably high.

2. Adding a wireless adapter to all desktops is another expensive proposition.

3. There maybe some specific industrial devices/ Computer Servers that needs a wired network to connect to.

4. Most of the older laptops have 802.11b/g adapters that connects to the network at a much lower speed than laptops fitted with 802.11n adapters.

5. In certain areas that have dense network users, even a controller may not be able to prevent the interference problem as the commonly used 2.4 GHz frequency band has only three non-overlapping channels. 2.4 Ghz band has other sources of interference (like microwave, bluetooth, etc), as well.

Most of the companies implement an overlay wireless network over their existing wired network. This approach is good as the employees have both the options of connecting to the wired or wireless networks, but still companies could consider implementing ‘All Wireless’ Office, without wired network access to their employees.

The real advantages of a wireless network could be realized only when companies decide to give exclusive wireless network connectivity to their employees without giving them an option for wired network connectivity.

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