What are the advantages and disadvantages of a Wireless LAN?

Wireless LANs have advantages and disadvantages when compared with wired LANs. A wireless LAN will make it simple to add or move workstations, and to install access points to provide connectivity in areas where it is difficult to lay cable. Temporary or semi-permanent buildings that are in range of an access point can be wirelessly connected to a LAN to give these buildings connectivity. Where computer labs are used in schools, the computers (laptops) could be put on a mobile cart and wheeled from classroom to classroom, providing they are in range of access points. Wired network points would be needed for each of the access points.

Advantages of WLAN:

  • It is easier to add or move workstations
  • It is easier to provide connectivity in areas where it is difficult to lay cable
  • Installation can be fast and easy and can eliminate the need to pull cable through walls and ceilings
  • Access to the network can be from anywhere in the school within range of an access point
  • Portable or semi-permanent buildings can be connected using a wireless LAN
  • Where laptops are used, the ‘computer suite’ can be moved from classroom to classroom on mobile carts
  • While the initial investment required for wireless LAN hardware can be similar to the cost of wired LAN hardware, installation expenses can be significantly lower
  • Where a school is located on more than one site (such as on two sides of a road), it is possible with directional antennae, to avoid digging trenches under roads to connect the sites
  • In historic buildings where traditional cabling would compromise the fa├žade, a wireless LAN can avoid drilling holes in walls
  • Long-term cost benefits can be found in dynamic environments requiring frequent moves and changes
  • They allows the possibility of individual pupil allocation of wireless devices that move around the school with the pupil.

Disadvantages of WLAN:

  • As the number of computers using the network increases, the data transfer rate to each computer will decrease accordingly
  • As standards change, it may be necessary to replace wireless cards and/or access points
  • Lower wireless bandwidth means some applications such as video streaming will be more effective on a wired LAN
  • Security is more difficult to guarantee, and requires configuration
  • Devices will only operate at a limited distance from an access point, with the distance determined by the standard used and buildings and other obstacles between the access point and the user
  • A wired LAN is most likely to be required to provide a backbone to the wireless LAN; a wireless LAN should be a supplement to a wired LAN and not a complete solution
  • Long-term cost benefits are harder to achieve in static environments that require few moves and changes
  • It is easier to make a wired network ‘future proof’ for high data transfer.


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