Author: Yogi Schulz

Adoption of wireless communication is growing by leaps and bounds.  We’re all seeing more laptops and PDA’s with little antennas sprouting out the side.  Intel is raising awareness of the benefits of wireless communication through heavy promotion of its Centrino set of components.

What’s the attraction behind this trend?  We all spend part of our day away from our home or office.  For some of that time we want to be as connected to e-mail and the Web as we if we were sitting at our PC.  Wireless communication enables that connection.

The major ways to stay connected are through the 1X or GSM/GPRS cellular telephone networks or through a network technology called Wi-Fi that’s becoming more widely available.  We’ll explore both approaches.

Wi-Fi network

Wi-Fi is the abbreviation for “wireless fidelity”.  Wi-Fi is the popular term for a wireless local area network or WLAN.  Wi-Fi can be used instead of the common wired LAN that most PC’s are attached to.  “Wi-Fi is a convenient solution when installation of LAN wiring is a big problem in a home or a business”, says Bill Bentley, an information technology consultant.

Wi-Fi access points are commonly called HotSpots because their range is limited to about 100 meters at a data transmission speed of about 20,000 kbps.  That speed is one third of the effective speed of a typical wired LAN.

Private HotSpotsBusinesses are installing private HotSpots for corporate applications, e-mail and Web access for employees who move around a lot in a warehouse or a manufacturing facility.  Mike Finch, the Executive VP at HotButton Solutions, finds that wireless is particularly effective in shipping, receiving, goods issue and time entry applications.  The installation cost for a private HotSpot is $150.00 to $200.00 per PC or about the same as for a wired LAN connection.  The monthly costs are negligible.

Some businesses are concerned about security breaches because anyone with a laptop, parked in the executive parking lot, can easily access the corporate network via the HotSpot if no security precautions are implemented.  As shocking as it may seem, many HotSpots, do not have the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption, which prevents unauthorized access, turned on.  I think a lot of people should pull up their socks.

Public HotSpotsPublic HotSpots are being installed in airports, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and hotels.  Starbucks and McDonald’s have both jumped on the Wi-Fi bandwagon by installing HotSpots inside their establishments.  You can surf to their Web sites for more details.  Businesses are attracted to providing HotSpots in the hopes that we will stay longer and spend more.  Expect longer line-ups and fewer available seats.

At a public HotSpot, the data transmission speed tends to be limited not by the wireless speed but by the 1,800 kbps speed of the typical ADSL connection to the Internet backbone.  The HotSpot installation cost for a merchant is $250.00 to $350.00 plus the monthly cost of $55.00 for the ADSL connection.  For the surfer, FatPort, a Calgary Wi-Fi service provider, is offering unlimited data transmission for $9.95 per day or $34.95 per month.

The number of HotSpots in North America already exceeds 10,000.  Industry analysts differ widely in their estimated growth rate but all agree that it will be significant.  Bell Canada is currently conducting Wi-Fi pilots at Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges at various airports including Calgary International Airport.  Telus and others are conducting a Wi-Fi pilot in downtown Calgary.  Go for more details.

The limitations of public HotSpots relate mostly to the, well, spotty coverage.  Many years will elapse before major urban areas are well covered.  Due to the short range of HotSpots, rural areas can forget about it.  The other limitation is that Wi-Fi has its finicky operational moments.  “Wired connections continue to be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi”, according to Ken Wallewein, a Calgary-based computing infrastructure consultant.

Cellular telephone network

For wireless communication, the alternatives to Wi-Fi are the 1X cellular telephone networks, operated by Telus or Bell, and the GSM/GPRS cellular telephone network, operated by Rogers AT&T Wireless.  These networks offer an effective speed of about 50 – 70 kbps.  {That speed compares favorably to most modems that provide about 40 – 42 kbps.}  The 1X or the GSM/GPRS speed is a huge jump in throughput compared to the previous generation of cellular service.  The faster speed makes wireless Web surfing or e-mail communication feasible for the first time.  The start-up costs range from a few hundred for a wireless PC Card to a few thousand for a wireless-capable laptop.  Expect to pay about $100.00 per month in data transmission charges.

The limitations of the cellular telephone networks are the connection cost that tends to be proportional to monthly usage and the slower speed compared to Wi-Fi.  However, the cost and speed issues are outweighed by the hugely wider coverage that cellular offers in comparison to Wi-Fi.


A Wi-Fi network is the preferred wireless choice within business premises.  The cellular telephone networks are superior when wireless access outside of business premises is a must.


Telecommunication Technology Speed Comparison


Connection Type

Theoretical Maximum Throughput

kilobits per second (kbps)



kilobits per second (kbps)

Analog cellular 9.6 7 – 8
1X cellular 144 50 – 70
GSM/GPRS cellular 170 40 – 70
Satellite 400 250 – 300
Wi-Fi 802.11g 54,000 18,000 – 22,000
Modem 56 40 – 42


2,000 1,500 2,200
ADSL Downstream – 2,500

Upstream – 640

Downstream 1,800

Upstream – 400

Ethernet 100,000 55,000 65,000
ATM 25,000 155,000 22,000 140,000

T-Mobile service plan descriptionAt T-Mobile, a US cellular and Wi-Fi provider, the cost for a service plan varies from $14.00 for a single DayPass to $42.00 per month with a minimum 12 month commitment.  Under all service plans, the customer is entitled to unlimited data transmission at all service locations throughout the United States.


Mike Finch Executive VP HotButton

Wi-Fi is more about marketing than technology.

802.11 has been around for many years; emerged to standardize build on a variety of proprietary radio transmission technologies.

802.11b effectively 20 mbps 50 to 200 feet away from access point at this speed

802.11a effectively 2 mbps

Metal racks; thick concrete walls interfere with reception

Overlapping access points help with reception

Effective applications: Shipping, receiving, goods issues, time entry into ERP

Hotel: Wi-Fi can be an improvement over high-speed communication; I can take my laptop with me.

Bill Bentley Partner Corvelle

Broadcasting in the clear; has not implemented WEP; sees low risk.

Reliable; problems are usually a Shaw problem; has not tried to change channels.

No noticeable problems when moving around

Convenient solution to solve wiring installation problem.

Ken Wallewein

2 hours to install router and 1 PC

Problem: Lose connections; system tray channel change to re-connect

Linksys router/card – experience

Wired faster and more reliable

Wiring problems should be a driver

Make sure you buy firewall/router combo

Default is WEP off; requires common password among PCs and router.

Low security can be cracked.

Malcolm McDonald Marketing Manager, FatPort


Sorry for the extreme delay in responding hope I’m not too late.

To answer you question regarding the economics of setting up a location, it really depends on the location and the equipment necessary to service it. A café, for example, can get our service for as little as $49 a month, for 12 months. They then own the equipment, and we’ll only charge them our marketing/support fees. For 99, we’ll handle the DSL or Cable Internet access as well. If they want to purchase everything outright, it costs $650 for the equipment plus marketing/support costs.

With a hotel property, costs are wildly different. A Îwhole hotel’ installation, which includes common areas and guest rooms, starts at about $5000, for a smaller hotel. We can typically do it for between 10-20% the cost of a wired solution.

The internet connection, usually DSL or Cable doesn’t cost nearly as much as the T1 lines that our competitors to the South are using in the Starbucks installations and that’s a key difference. We’ll be breaking even on our installations considerably sooner moreover, as we’re sharing the revenue with each location they too will be seeing a profit sooner.

802.11x Specification Comparison


Release Sequence


Effective Throughput

megabits per second

Theoretical Throughput

megabits per second

Transmission Method

Spectrum Band

GHz band

802.11a 2 shorter 18 to 22 ?? OFDM

orthogonal frequency division multiplexing

802.11b 1 Outdoors:

100 300 m


35 100 m


direct sequence spread spectrum

802.11g 3 longer 18 to 22 54 OFDM

orthogonal frequency division multiplexing



Telus Mobility

Shawn Kelly 219-5074

Communications Manager Telus Mobility

Telus HotSpot trials underway at Spruce Meadows and downtown Calgary.

Bell Mobility Brings High-Speed Wireless to Canada

February 13, 2002, By Brian McDonough, Wireless NewsFactor


GPRS presents new features of the mobile Internet

GPRS maximum data transmission speed is 171,2 Kbps that exceeds by more than 3 times the speed of wire communications, and almost by 12 times GSM networks’ data transmission speed (9,6 Kbps). As of today the speed of up to 33 Kbps is available.

CableWhat Affects The Speed Of Cable Modems?


Wi-Fi Canada

Bell Canada launches public wireless Internet hotspot pilot

Calgary Wireless & Telecom Cluster

Wi-Fi trial in downtown Calgary

The 802.11 Report

Hotspot News

Intel Centrino


Early 802.11g Entries Deliver the Speed But Require Some Maintenance

March 25, 2003 By Craig Ellison, PC Magazine,3973,940234,00.asp

802.11a: Making Space for Speed

January 8, 2001 By Joel Conover

Cisco WLAN products attack access point problems

6/2/2003 5:00:00 PM – But so have Wavelink, ReefEdge and Bluesocket, analyst says

by Greg Meckbach

Bell offers wireless Web to first-class train travellers

7/9/2003 5:00:00 PM – Wi-Fi hot spots to be available on Toronto-Montreal VIA Rail trips

by Greg Meckbach

Wi-Fi bundle aims to allay ISP concerns over DSL costs

7/25/2003 10:05:07 AM – Wireless firm sees profit potential in high-speed hot spot business

by Howard Solomon

Intel teams with Linksys for wireless interoperability

7/21/2003 5:00:00 PM – Joint engineering to ease user experience for small businesses

by Shane Schick

Other References

Residential Broadband Internet Chart

Desktop ATM versus Fast Ethernet

Wireless security: Harder than you think

Adding encryption to wireless networking isn’t always simple

By Wayne Rash, August 01, 2003, InfoWorld