Through a series of experiments and measurements made at various locations of the AUT's WY office building, we gained an insight into the performance of Wi-Fi links in an office environment. This project involves both literature review and practical investigation regarding the IEEE 802.11b protocol known as Wi-Fi. A number of conclusions can be drawn from the findings of this study.
The use of electromagnetic waves as the medium instead of cables presents many technical challenges. To begin with, the available radio band is limited, and most ranges are licensed by governments across the world. This restriction forces various wireless devices to crowd into the same unlicensed bands. Also problems inherent in radio communication, such as noise, interference, and security issues, also affect wireless networks. The implication is that, despite its growing importance in recent years, the wireless network is not going to replace the wired network. It is most likely that both wired and wireless networks will coexist in the future.
The experiments reveal that data transfer rate through the wireless medium is much lower than the wired network. The wireless connection is also fragile, which necessitates that the whole transmission process be repeated whenever the connection drops during file transfer session. Because of these limitations, wireless networks at present serve mainly as a connectivity solution rather than as a performance solution. This may change in the future, however, as new wireless technologies supporting quality of service (QoS) are also being developed.
For Wi-Fi networks, it is found that the ad hoc mode provides better throughput in a low-populated network. The same network operating in infrastructure mode provides only about half the throughput of the ad hoc network. It is very likely that the AP uses a store-and-forward algorithm in delivering the data packets, which results in the drastic performance drop. The AP, however, is indispensable when the stations are out of range of each other. The technical difficulties encountered during the experiment suggest that Wi-Fi technology is not yet mature. This is indicated by the complexity of the setting-up procedure and the incompatibility that is common between Wi-Fi devices.
As it grows, wireless technology will provide research opportunities in several areas. Future research relevant to the scope of this project will mainly involve bandwidth increase and optimization, which are aimed at throughput improvement. At present the IEEE 802.11b system has many limitations since it provides services on "best effort" basis. The development of new wireless standards providing QoS is the most effective way of achieving satisfactory network performance (Prasad & Prasad, 2002).
In anticipation of the increased available bandwidth, various network-based business and multimedia applications are also being developed. Prasad and Prasad discuss applications such as teleconferencing, telesurveillance, and video-on-demand operating on wireless network backbones. The required bandwidths for delivering the data in various presentation formats are also provided in their discussion.
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