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Guide to Wireless

When wireless worlds collide

Next-generation wireless LANs and WANs are on a collision course that will alter the mobile landscape forever. What should enterprises do to get ready?

By Joanie Wexler, Network World
January 28, 2008 12:04 AM ET

Network World - 2008 will be a year of tough decisions for enterprise IT executives trying to scope out a wireless strategy that takes into account exciting new technologies like 802.11n, 4G, WiMAX, dual-mode handsets, voice over Wi-Fi and in-building cellular.

Find out some tips for deploying 802.11n and what you should ask a vendor about 802.11n.

These new technologies will emerge and converge in 2008, which means IT departments need to build a comprehensive mobility strategy that spans LANs, WANs, mobile devices and applications. And that strategy needs to take into account the wild card of cellular carriers offering open access service plans for the first time ever.

With so many of these technologies still in their infancy, 2008 will not be a year of full-out deployments. But it will be a year to develop a long-term plan, to start putting together wireless RFPs and to make the necessary infrastructure upgrades.

IT wish lists:

• Flat per-month, per-user worldwide cellular rates from service aggregators.

• Pooled buckets of cellular voice minutes shared internationally.

• Greater choice in unlocked mobile phones that are portable from network to network.

Click to see: IT wish list

Commercial deployments of 802.11n LANs, 4G mobile WANs and fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) are expected to get under way late in the year, so enterprises need to start making some decisions rather quickly. For example:

Mobile voice. Companies must decide how they plan to provide ubiquitous in-building voice coverage. Do you go with Wi-Fi or cellular? You need to make that decision so you can determine the appropriate mix of handsets for your organization going forward.

802.11n. Next-generation high-speed WLANs are shipping ahead of formal standards. Don't jump in all at once. But don't ignore 802.11n either. Begin adding 802.11n gear conservatively as you open up new offices, retire legacy products, require spot network performance improvements or unwire your access point network by using an 802.11n mesh.(Learn more about Wireless LAN products from our Wireless LAN Buyer's Guide.)

Mobile WAN. WiMAX services with 2M to 4Mbps per-user speeds will go commercial this year. In addition, open-access initiatives from Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Clearwire and the winners of federal auction of the C block of the 700MHz wireless spectrum (now underway), might fundamentally impact your mobile procurements.

Convergence. Build a mobile convergence plan starting with the features you need today. Will extending PBX numbers to mobile users suffice? Or do you require unified e-mail and voice mail systems, corporate directory access, presence capabilities and video mail? Do users need automatic signal handoff from WLAN to mobile WAN? The answers to these questions will determine your potential vendor partners.

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