80211 Network Deployment

Deploying a wireless LAN is a considerable undertaking. Significant planning is required before you can even touch the hardware. Deploying a wireless network is not simply a matter of identifying user locations and connecting them to the backbone. Wireless LANs provide mobility through roaming capabilities, but this feature comes with a price. Wireless LANs are much more susceptible to eavesdropping and unauthorized access. Working to mitigate the security problems while offering high levels of service makes large wireless LAN deployments topologically more complex, especially because solving security problems means that a great deal of integration work may be required to get all the different pieces of the solution working in concert.

Wireless networks require far more deployment planning because of the nature of the radio link. Every building has its own personality with respect to radio transmissions, and unexpected interference can pop up nearly everywhere because of microwave ovens, electrical conduits, or severe multipath interference. As a result, each wireless LAN deployment is unique in many respects, and careful planning and a meticulous site survey are required before removing any equipment from the box.

Beyond considerations due to the physical environment, wireless networks often extend an existing wired infrastructure. The wired infrastructure may be quite complex to begin with, especially if it spans several buildings in a campus setting. Wireless networks depend on having a solid, stable, well-designed wired network in place. If the existing network is not stable, chances are the wireless extension is doomed to instability as well.

This chapter is about deployment considerations for wireless LANs, written from a technical perspective. How do the features of wireless LANs influence network topology? Besides the 802.11 equipment, what do you need to deploy a network? How should the logical network be constructed for maximum mobility? What do you need to look for in a site survey to make a deployment successful?

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