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How Does Wireless Work?

A wireless LAN is a collection of two or more devices connected via open air for the purpose of sharing data. A wireless network can be put together in many ways. 802.11 wireless local area networks (WLANs) typically communicate between stations and access points (APs) using radio waves such that line-of-sight communication (an unobstructed path) between the access point and the wireless station is not required. The most widely accepted and common standard for wireless networking is the IEEE 802.11b protocol. Other standards such as Bluetooth also exist, but 802.11b is enjoying the most commercial success.

New technology that is being developed for wireless access uses the new 802.11a wireless standard. 802.11a is faster than 802.11b, which has data-transfer rates of 54Mbps. Intel, along with Proxim and Enterasys Networks, plans to release products based on 802.11a. Companies such as Cisco Systems and Agere Systems (3Com and Symbol) dominate the market with 802.11b technology, but that should change over the next year as 802.11a technology makes it to the market place. The two wireless standards are not compatible, but they both have security flaws in common.


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