This is a kit for implementing a wireless network for laptop users consisting of a transceiver or ‘access point’ and two PCMCIA wireless network cards. It’s useful for places where cabling may not be possible. The medium of transmission is radio waves and it claims connectivity over 300 feet at a maximum baud rate of 11 Mbps. What’s more, with multiple access points installed, a wireless client can move transparently across locations and still remain connected, much like a cellular network’s roaming facility, but of course within the office premises.
The kit comes with two quick-start manuals for the access point and PCMCIA cards. Comprehensive documentation explaining the product, its components, usage and configuration are given in PDF format on an accompanying CD. The CD also has software for site survey and testing the link’s signal strength, quality, and key management software for encryption.
The site survey and link test applications provide a graphical feedback for quick analysis.
The access point is small and lightweight and can be kept on a table or even mounted on a wall. It has a serial and network port for managing and connecting to the network respectively. It can either be assigned a static IP address or accept an IP from a DHCP server on your network, making it easy to configure. Once you know its IP address, subsequent configurations can be done through telnet or web browser.
The access point also runs a DHCP server, which assigns IP addresses to the wireless clients. Wireless data traffic can be encrypted to prevent malicious notebook users from sniffing data. Access control to the wireless network is also possible by specifying the MAC address of each wireless PCMCIA card. Apart from that you can monitor network statistics, connected wireless clients, data transfers and other parameters. The access point can also be configured to work with a router, name server, FTP server and time-server on your network.
Setting up the network was a breeze, and we checked its connectivity by taking a wireless notebook around our office building. We continuously pinged the access point and also looked at the connection’s rating using the ‘Link test’ program that comes with the wireless kit. Overall, the connection was steady, with poor connections or disconnects occurring only if there were major obstructions in between.
To check data transfers, we transferred about 616 MB of data across a wireless notebook and a desktop machine wired to the local network and from one notebook to another (total wireless data transfer). The former took 30 mins and 26 secs while the latter took 27 mins and 52 secs. We got this data transfer rate when the link was rated as ‘excellent’. But when we moved away from the access point the data transfer took more time due to reduction in signal strength as also indicated by the link test program.
While the product performance is very good, its price is quite high. What’s more discouraging are the stringent rules and regulations of the WPC (Wireless Planning and Coordination) Wing of DoT. You have to obtain a license from WPC—an additional estimated cost of about Rs18,000 for the first link (one access point and a client) and Rs 4,500 per additional client.
Shekhar Govindarajan at PCQ Labs