Five Critical Planning Steps for Wireless LANs
By Michael F. Finneran, dBrn Associates, Inc.
Published May 2004, Posted May 2004




After a few years of small-scale pilot tests, Wireless LANs (WLANs) based on the IEEE 802.11 standards are now moving into the mainstream for enterprise customers. This sudden shift into reality mode (i.e. “we have to buy something!”) raises a number of perplexing questions as users develop specifications to guide that installation. The IEEE 802.11 committees and the Wi-Fi Alliance have developed a range of important new features, and those capabilities must be addressed in our design specifications.


The good news is that overall the wireless LAN technology is maturing. The original crop of products was designed for the requirements of home users and small-scale commercial installations. These solutions could not easily grow to support networks incorporating dozens or hundreds of access points with thousands of users. We are now witnessing the introduction of tools that will allow us to build and maintain those large-scale wireless LANs with features to address the security, performance, and manageability requirements of commercial users. That also means commercial buyers will have to be able to sift through the options and develop a solution that will provide solid foundation from which to grow.


The purpose of this white paper is to identify and review five of the major developments in wireless LANs and provide some general guidelines regarding product selection and the potential pitfalls that will line the path. We will assume a basic understanding of WLAN fundamentals as we the describe these planning steps:


  1. Planning for Capacity, Not Just Coverage

  2. Moving to 802.11a

  3. Assessing Security Enhancements: WPA, 802.11i

  4. Incorporating Quality of Service- 802.11e

  5. Planning for Manageability- Switch to WLAN Switches


About the author:


Michael F. Finneran is an independent telecommunications consulting specializing in wireless networks and technologies. Besides his research and consulting activities, he writes a regular column called Network Intelligence for Business Communications Review and teaches their seminars on Wireless Technologies and Wireless LANs.



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