Wireless Connection

ORION offers you the standard 2.4 Ghz 802.11b wireless technology. If your computer is equipped with a wireless reception device such as a PCMCIA card with antenna, you can connect to ORION. Several laptops now come with a built-in wireless device, which allows an easier Internet access.

Some ORION-access zones will offer the possibility to log on via an Ethernet network wire. Get information on the premises. If it is available, you can take advantage of the ORION service by plugging your network card directly into the network connection.

What are the origin and the main characteristics of the various wireless technologies?

Bluetooth Bluetooth, launched by Ericsson in 1994, was mainly designed to allow data exchanges between digital equipments (PDAs, telephones, cameras, laptops, etc.). It offers medium throughput (1 Mbits/s in theory) in a limited range (10 to 30 metres in practice).

Wi-Fi, also known under its technical name “IEEE 802.11b”, is now marketed by WECA (Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance). It offers a throughput of 11 Mbits per second, in a range of 50 to 300 metres. There are already developments on the agenda: 802.11g offers 54 Mbps on the 2,4 Ghz frequency band; so does 802.11a, but on the 5 Ghz frequency band.

HomeRF HomeRF, initially supported by players such as Compaq, HP, IBM, Intel and Microsoft, was mainly designed for domestic use. Its theoretical performances are similar to that of Wi-Fi (11 Mbits/s bandwidth). Moreover, a HomeRF network can also support DECT, a digital voice transmission technology for wireless networks.

Are all the available technologies related to the same applications? Not really. In fact, there are at least two different settings:

The Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN), made up of connections between equipment being a few metres apart (PCs, PDAs, peripheral units, etc.).

The Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN), equivalent to a local network range, and installed in businesses, at home or in public places.

Any terminal (PCs, PDAs) inside the WLAN coverage area can log onto it.

Bluetooth, of which the range cannot go beyond 50 metres, is strictly meant for WPAN. However, Wi-Fi and HomeRF can broadcast up to 300 metres, which makes them useful for local networks.

HomeRF—in serious competition with Wi-Fi in the United States—lost the support of two major sponsors, Intel and Microsoft. Therefore, this standard seems to be running out of steam.

The Bluetooth promoters promised lots of things very quickly. Too quickly? One would be tempted to think so: affordable products delay their arrival on the market and performances (especially throughput) seem low considering the needs of some equipments (digital cameras for example). However, the next version is expected to offer a throughput 10 times as large.

Wi-Fi (802.11b) is the first wireless network technology to reach critical mass. A 50% drop in the price of 802.11b components is considered for 2003 and by 2005, 90% of laptops should be equipped with a Wi-Fi adaptor. However, such predictions mostly apply to the United States.

Wireless networks prevalent standard has a strange name, made up of two numbers and one letter: 802.11b. It is not quite easy to understand the difference between 802.11a, 802.11b and the other family members. They all standout by taking some credit, especially in terms of throughput and security. Here is what we can expect from the derivates of 802.11.

It all began with the 802.11b standard, which enables stations connected to a wireless network to communicate at 11 Mbits per second in theory—with very few exceptions. Nowadays, 802.11b exclusively dominates the market. The frequency of 802.11b communications is set to 2.4 Ghz.

Throughput, theoritical, 11 Mbits/s or absolute 6Mbits/s are not enough for everybody: a 11 Mo document takes over 14 seconds to be transferred at this speed. Wireless network card manufacturers reacted by creating the 802.11a, upgrading the 802.11 performances at 54 Mbits/s theoretical, or 30 Kbits/s absolute. A 11 Mo document is now transferred in only 5 seconds, which is more reasonable. The operating frequency of this technology is set to 5 Ghz.

The 802.11a being a little expensive, it is to our advantage to wait for the arrival of 802.11b’s big brother before investing in high througput. That big brother, the 802.11g, will disrupt the situation. It should have the same theoretical througput as the 802.11a (54 Mbits/s), but good news, it will be compatible. It will be possible to communicate from 802.11 g access points to 802.11 b access points, because they both operate on a 2.4 Ghz operating frequency.

Intel, known for its processors, inaugurated its arrival on the mobility segment with the marketing of a wireless technology offer. It is called Centrino and based on a series of hardware components designed to equip PC laptops with 802.11-compatible connection functions.

Oricom Internet inc.
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Vanier (Québec) G1M 1E7
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