Wireless LAN Q&A
Q. What do I need to set up a wireless local area network?
A. A wireless LAN basically consists of: the network backbone; end-user devices such as data collection
units, handheld computers and laptops; wireless LAN access points; network interface cards; and
software that will help you manage the network. The company from which you purchase these products
should do a "site survey," or on-site testing, to determine the optimal number, placement and
configuration of access points for the required radio-frequency coverage in your facility. During this
process, specifications are developed for the required network layout and cabling, as well as for the
necessary bridges, routers and hubs.
Intermec employs a nationwide team of site engineering systems consultants committed to the design and
implementation of real-time wireless network infrastructures. Not only are Intermec systems consultants
experienced and qualified in the management and installation of complete network solutions, they can
help you create a wireless communication system that will increase your company’s productivity and help
you maximize the return on your technology investment.
Q. How much does it cost for a mid-size company to install a WLAN system?
A. That can vary widely depending on your site and the type of wireless technology you select. Intermec
representatives and systems consultants work closely with you to create a system that gets you the
wireless communication coverage you need within the technology budget you set.
Q. How can I be sure that all the components of my network, wired and wireless, will work together?
A. Start by verifying that your equipment is certified as interoperable by the Wireless Ethernet
Compatibility Alliance (WECA). WECA is a non-profit organization of leading wireless equipment and
software providers formed in 1999 to certify the interoperability of 802.11b High Rate products and
promote that standard for the enterprise, small business and the home.
WECA members are allowed to participate in alliance affairs and activities and can submit products to the
WECA certification lab for interoperability testing and certification. However, membership in WECA
alone is no determination of passing interoperability testing.
Only after its products have successfully completed all phases of interoperability testing is a company
permitted to use the Wi-Fi™ interoperability certification and logo for a specific product. The Wi-Fi logo
is a registered trademark of WECA and may not be used unless WECA Board Authorization is received.
The Wi-Fi name designates that a member company's product has passed Wi-Fi testing, is of IEEE 802.11
High Rate quality and is certified as interoperable with a wide variety of wireless systems.
All Wi-Fi certified products, such as Intermec 2100, 2101 and 2102 access points, support a data
transmission rate of 11 Mbps. By combining Wi-Fi certified devices with non-certified devices that use
Direct Sequence radio technology, a wireless system can continue to deliver data transmission rates of 11
Mbps. Additional information about WECA and Wi-Fi certification can be found at http://www.wi-
Intermec was among the first companies to receive Wi-Fi certification for wireless LAN interoperability.
The company now offers the largest and most diverse product family of Wi-Fi certified access points and
end devices on the market today.
Q. What is Intermec doing to guarantee the security of wireless communications?
A. As active members in the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), Intermec
is committed to helping the wireless industry establish security standards and supports
technologies that protect data while providing the productivity of wireless computing to mobile
Intermec’s MobileLAN™ firmware, used on all of Intermec’s WLAN access points, is
compliant with the IEEE 802.1x standard, providing WEP 128 dynamic key rotation to encrypt
data transmissions, and EAP/TLS and EAP/TTLS authentication standards, providing a high
level of security for wireless LANs running on any platform.
MobileLAN builds standards-based security capabilities into all Intermec access points and
network interface cards (NICs). Scalable to work from the smallest of systems on up to large
enterprise-wide environments, MobileLAN secure, although proprietary, is completely
interoperable with Windows® 2000 RADIUS servers and Windows XP, as well as products
outside of these Microsoft platforms.
MobileLAN security measures are based on the emerging 802.11i and current 802.1x security
standards and are available on Intermec's full line of Wi-Fi™ certified 802.11b and soon to be
available 802.11a products. Unlike competing systems that require the purchase and installation
of a separate, external authentication server, MobileLAN’s system is an integrated security
solution and is interoperable with any security server product. It supports RADIUS, RADIUS-
EAP and RADIUS-EAP-TLS, affording customers the freedom to select access points and
network interface cards from a wide variety of manufacturers.
Q. What is the difference between the 802.11, 802.11a and 802.11b wireless standards? What are the
emerging standards that will follow these?
A. 802.11 refers to a family of specifications developed by the IEEE for wireless LAN technology.
802.11 specifies an over-the-air interface between a wireless client and a base station or between two
wireless clients. The original 802.11 specification provides 1 or 2 Mbps transmission in the unlicensed
2.4GHz band using either a frequency hopping modulation (FHSS) technique or direct sequence spread
spectrum (DSSS), also known as CDMA. There are several specifications in the 802.11 family:
• 802.11a - An extension to the IEEE 802.11 standard that applies to wireless LANs and provides
up to 54 Mbps in the 5GHz band. For the North American users, equipment available today
operates between 5.15 and 5.35GHz. This bandwidth supports eight separate, non-overlapping
200 MHz channels. These channels allow users to install up to eight access points set to different
channels without interference, making access point channel assignment much easier and
significantly increasing the level of throughput the wireless LAN can deliver within a given area.
Future equipment will open four more channels for operation between 5.725 and 5.825GHz.
International use of this standard is still in transition. International users should investigate
specific restrictions on a country by country basis.
• 802.11b (also referred to as 802.11 High Rate or Wi-Fi) - An extension to 802.11 that provides 11
Mbps transmission (with a fallback to 5.5, 2 and 1 Mbps) in the 2.4 GHz band. 802.11b uses only
• 802.11g - An extension to 802.11b that provides 20+ Mbps in the 2.4 GHz band. The 802.11g
standard is in development, with a final standard likely available by the end of 2002. 802.11g is
an extension to 802.11b, the basis of the majority of wireless LANs in use today. 802.11g will
broaden 802.11b's data rates to 54 Mbps within the 2.4 GHz band. Because of backward
compatibility, an 802.11b radio card will interface directly with an 802.11g access point (and vice
versa) at 11 Mbps or lower, depending on range.
• 802.1x - An open-standards-based protocol for authenticating network clients (or ports) on a user-
ID basis. 802.1x is used by wireless LANs that adhere to the 802.11 standard. It relies on the
Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) to pass messages to any of a variety of authentication
servers such as RADIUS or Kerberos. IEEE 802.1X provides automated user identification,
centralized authentication, key management, and provisioning of LAN connectivity, and provides
support for roaming access in public areas.
Q. Do 802.11a and 802.11b work together?
A. 802.11a is not compatible with 802.11b or 802.11g networks, much like the difference between AM
and FM radio. The signals do not interfere with each other, but an AM receiver cannot hear a FM signal.
In other words, a user equipped with an 802.11b or 802.11g radio card will not be able to interface
directly to an 802.11a access point.
Q. How can my company keep on top of all the new, emerging standards in wireless networking?
A. Intermec does this for you by actively participating in the IEEE, the industry group that governs the
development and adoption of new networking standards. Intermec is committed to helping guide the
development of wireless networking standards.
Q. Can I add more people or devices to my wireless LAN?
A. A wireless network can be as simple or as complex as the needs of your application dictate. By adding
access points to extend coverage, a wireless network can grow to support an almost unlimited number of
clients over large areas.
Q. Are wireless LANs safe? Are the radio waves emitted by WLAN adapters and access points harmful
A. No physical harm has ever been attributed to the radio waves generated by wireless LANs. Wireless
networking equipment operates with a low power output, much less than that of cell phones. WLAN radio
waves fade as they travel, exposing people in the immediate area to only a minute, harmless amount of