Wireless networks
Wireless enters business through the back door


Even firms that do not have a real need for wireless systems will find it hard to avoid the technology, says Martin Courtney.

Wireless networks

There is always some truth in the argument that suggests the media has a habit of talking constantly about one subject at the expense of others that readers might hold more dearly to their hearts. And if ever there was a candidate for the accusation of excessive hype, it is wireless networking.

It is certainly true that many companies can realise healthy business benefits, and even clearly identifiable returns on investment, from the deployment of wireless systems. However, there is an equally large number of organisations that have no pressing need for any kind of wireless links, be they local Wi-Fi-based networks, wide-area links based on various cellular networks or Bluetoothbased personal networks.

Not that the lack of a genuine business driver has ever proved an insurmountable obstacle to the adoption of wireless or any other type of technology, for that matter.

The IT and communications industries have a long track record of circumventing customer apathy about their wares by sneaking things through the back door; the integration as standard of wireless LAN (WLAN) chipsets in Centrino notebook PCs and GPRS capabilities in mobile phones, and Bluetooth into both, are prime examples.

In each case, we as users find ourselves presented with standard-issue devices – PCs and phones – that we require to effectively carry out our jobs. But now they also have additional functions or capabilities that we might like to try in the interests of convenience, or because they may improve our productivity, or even to impress our friends and colleagues.

These are all reasons why I have tried virtually every type and flavour of wireless technology available over the past few years.

Some of them I ditched almost straight away; GPRS, which I found too slow and too unreliable (whereas my tried and trusted GSM data connection was only slow) and Bluetooth, which I simply didn’t find a real need for. And some I adopted wholeheartedly; WLANs – first 802.11b, then 802.11a and finally 802.11g – and lately 3G (when I can get a connection).

My interest in these wireless technologies may not have proved so acute if I did not work in a profession that requires me to spend a lot of time out of the office and be able to readily access the internet for browsing, messaging and file transfers.

But many other people work in industries with exactly the same requirements, and the growing need for flexible working options in all sectors has further heightened awareness of the advantages of being able to quickly and easily connect to colleagues and information sources from all locations.

Not everyone who tries out wireless connectivity options will find the experience worthwhile, but a sizable number will, and they will expect support and guidance from their IT departments.