Wi-Fi - the next generation mobile computing

20 Sep 2004


Wi-Fi helps untie the connectivity knots of the wired world. By Anirban Biswas

The day is not very far when you will be able to check your mails or surf the internet or even connect your office network sitting in a houseboat in Kashmir with total wire free connectivity. This wire-free connectivity is called as ''wireless fidelity'', more commonly as Wi-Fi.

As the Wi-Fi network is wire-free, it is accessible from any place, which is Wi-Fi enabled. These places are commonly called Wi-Fi hotspots. In the US and Europe, it is a common sight to watch people surfing with their laptops or handheld computing devices hooked on to the internet or their office networks over Wi-Fi connections. Such hotspots are enabled by Wi-Fi connectivity set up by wireless phone companies, coffee chains, hotels or airport companies. The only requirement is that your computing device has to be wireless enabled.

Wi-Fi technology is very powerful. Wi-Fi networks use radio technologies called IEEE 802.11b or 802.11a to provide secure, reliable, fast wireless connectivity. The main features of these specifications are:

802.11a: an extension to the 802.11 technology and is deployed in wireless LAN environments and provides up to 54 Mbps on 12 channels in the 5 GHz band.

802.11b: It is also an extension to the 802.11 technology. Similar to 802.11a, it is also deployed in wireless LAN environments but provides up to 11 Mbps transmission on 3 channels in the 2.4 GHz band, a frequency shared by other popular wireless technologies like Bluetooth, some cordless phones and microwaves.

Large corporate houses use enterprise-level technology and Wi-Fi network to extend standard wired networks to public areas like training classrooms and auditoriums. For example, Intel has incorporated Wi-Fi networks in many of their offices worldwide, providing anytime, anywhere connectivity for employees in offices. Many corporations also provide wireless networks to their offsite and telecommuting workers.

At El Camino Hospital in California''s Silicon Valley in the United States, Wi-Fi phones send information over the Internet instead of phone lines. The phones look and feel like walkie-talkies and can send messages to several staffers at once, or try several numbers until someone answers. Wi-Fi calls cost less and connect faster than cell phones, but maintaining Wi-Fi coverage consistently over large areas is difficult because signals from Wi-Fi antennae travel only a few hundred feet.

ICOA Inc., a broadband service provider of United States expanded beyond its internet terminal business at San Francisco International Airport with a combined Wi-Fi and internet terminal business center system at Greater Baton Rouge Airport, LA. The company then acquired Airport Network Solutions, which has deployed Wi-Fi service at Sacramento International Airport and is in the process of designing and installing wireless LANs at several other airports in the United States.

Wi-Fi networking in India is still in a nascent stage, but some corporate houses are coming up to take the advantages of this wire free internet. Taj hotels has enabled Wi-Fi network to some of their hotels as an added facility to their guests. Plans are also in the offing to locate Wi-Fi facilities at some prominent Indian airports, for the convenience of business travellers.

Café Coffee Day, the popular coffee shop chain in country has enabled Wi-Fi network in Bangalore. So while sipping a cappuccino you feel an urge to check your mails, and you have a wireless enabled laptop with you; you don''t have to rush to office or home or figure out the nearest cyber café.

Though internet access speed can go up to 2 Mbps with Wi-Fi network, but in India we seldom get more than 128 Kbps because most of the Indian Wi-Fi hotspots are hooked up their wireless access point to the internet through cable internet or broadband connection. An alternative could be hooking up with a leased line which will provide much better internet access speed, but of course that will be expensive.

LG Electronics India Ltd. (LGEIL), the Indian subsidiary of the Korean electronics major, LG Electronics, has setup a Wi-Fi network at their manufacturing plant based in Noida. The plant manufactures TV sets, refrigerators, washing machines, air-conditioners and microwave ovens. The idea of enabling Wi-Fi in the manufacturing plant is to give wireless connectivity to its employees. This implementation of Wi-Fi not only gives a free flow of information and better co-ordination between employees but also helped to cut down the cost of cables and cable management.

For small businesses, Wi-Fi can mean connectivity between mobile sales force, office staff and back-office support departments. The built-in flexibility of a Wi-Fi network eliminates the need to move cables and installation of hubs and routers, hence making it easy and affordable for small business to make changes and scale.

Wi-Fi networks at home can bring an entire new dimension to a family''s digital experience. Imagine that all your electronic gadgets like your TVs, computers, stereos, kitchen appliances and other electronic devices connected through Wi-Fi, your home can become a centre for your whole family to learn, play and communicate in a multimedia-rich, audio and visual manner — wirelessly! And that would be the time to say goodbye to the messy cables around the house.

Anybody can use Wi-Fi, almost anywhere. Most computing devices, including notebooks, laptops, PDAs and cell phones, will eventually connect to 802.11-based wireless networks. So Wi-Fi is expected to become an even bigger and hotter technology for both home and businesses in the years to come.

Business History Videos

History of hovercraft Part 3...

Today I shall talk a bit more about the military plans for ...

By Kiron Kasbekar | Presenter: Kiron Kasbekar

History of hovercraft Part 2...

In this episode of our history of hovercraft, we shall exam...

By Kiron Kasbekar | Presenter: Kiron Kasbekar

History of Hovercraft Part 1...

If you’ve been a James Bond movie fan, you may recall seein...

By Kiron Kasbekar | Presenter: Kiron Kasbekar

History of Trams in India | ...

The video I am presenting to you is based on a script writt...

By Aniket Gupta | Presenter: Sheetal Gaikwad

view more