Advice and Concerns

By Bucek, John | Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Advice and Concerns


Bucek, John, Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education


John Bucek, executive director of information technologies at Mount Saint Mary College, offers the following advice when considering wireless products:

RANGE-- Back in 1996 most products had relatively short range. The product Mount St. Mary uses covers up to 1,000 feet outside, sometimes more, and typically around 200 or 300 feet inside. You also have to look at the speed of the product at range. Today there are some high-speed direct sequence 802.11 products advertised at a data rate of 11 mbps. That is in an ideal situation. PC Week magazine evaluated the products in their labs and found that if you were 30 to 40 away they fell back to a slower speed. If you are going to be in a classroom and most of the people are within 20 feet, it's not a problem. If you are going to be in an environment going through walls where you're roaming about you have to definitely take that into consideration.

SCALABILITY-- That was a big factor. At the time the direct sequence products and the frequency products scaled about the same. Today these high-speed direct sequence products, the 802.11 products that advertise a data rate of 11 mbps, only have three channels available to them, so what this means then is in any one given area, it could only use three channels.

With the frequency hopping product we have 15 channels to use so if we are in a three-dimensional environment, such as a multi-story buildings going out in various directions, it's very comfortable. We can reuse channels as long as they are far enough apart. Trying to do this with three channels may be quite challenging and I've talked to a number of institutions that have had difficulty doing that.

Getting back to scalability, say in one room we put in one 1.6 mbps product. That's fine for doing presentations but now we want to put 20 computers in here. That won't do because we'd be dividing that probably usable data rate of 900 kilobits per second by 20 people and that would be slow performance.

We could put another access point in here and double it and double it, up to 15 so we could bring it up to 25 mbps altogether. You have to consider how much bandwidth you are going to need when you are designing your facility and whether or not the product you're using is going to scale. If you already have to put two or three channels into one room, how are you going to go beyond that room? …

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