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WLAN grows in the Indian corporate psyche

The Indian corporate is gradually waking up to the obvious cost, deployment, management and other benefits of wireless LANs in the enterprise.

Come the new millennium and vendors are ready to renew their efforts to push wireless networking technologies in the Indian market. Reason: the market seems more conducive to deploying such offerings. Over the last few months there has been an obvious sense of openness regarding wireless networking technology among the IT managers of the big corporates in the country.

With 802.11b standard gaining ground in the industry, wireless networking is becoming an accepted norm for networking. It has become faster and costs have gone down effectively. Today with the 802.11b standard, users can use the 2.4 Ghz ISM radio band to get a throughput of 11Mbps over air. This is convincing many managers today to go for this technology. More and more top-level executives are being given WLAN connectivity so that they can access information from anywhere without bothering for physical plugging. It can provide LAN users access to real time information anywhere in their organization. The flexibility of anywhere linking is being promoted as a new approach to increasing productivity and service opportunities.

Another factor that most vendors are stressing on is the security aspect of wireless LANs. The 802.11b standard includes a security technique that uses encryption algorithm that is difficult to break in. Prem K Menon, Regional Business Director, Ericsson Enterprise Systems, which recently launched its WLAN products in the country, says, "Today WLAN can be more secure than the wired LAN as this combines both the security aspect of the wired LAN as well as the security provided by the standards within the radio frequency."

Going by the international market trends, WLANs are fast being deployed in health care, retail, manufacturing etc. They are obviously experiencing the benefits that accrue from flexibility of using any kind of hand held terminals, notebooks and desktops to transmit real-time information to centralized hosts for processing, thus increasing efficiency and productivity.

With various WLAN products available from Lucent, 3Com, Cisco, Ericsson and others, more and more IT managers are opening up to the idea of implementing wireless LAN within the organization especially because despite the increase in space requirement, cables cannot be stretched. Talking about the state of implementation of WLANs within the country, Vivek Mahajan, Director, Infotec Network Systems, New Delhi, informs, "We are helping at least three to four customers deploy WLANs. As a matter of fact, most of them are trying out pilots for WLANs right now."

In fact vendors such as Cisco, which has introduced its AiroNet solutions for WLANs is also currently working out the mechanics for a pilot project within its own organization. Adds S V Ramana, Country South East Manager, Cisco, India, "Once we set up WLAN within our premise, it will act as a proof of concept for our customers. The wireless access solutions that we are offering are viable for enterprises, small and medium businesses in the country."

Though the enterprises have accepted the technology, complement to their existing networks. Says Pankaj Sinha, Manager, IT, Maurya Sheraton and Towers, New Delhi, "We would look at it as complementing or extending the existing infrastructure."

S R Balasubramanian, GM-Information Systems, Hero Honda Motors Ltd., "WLAN system can be fast and easy a In case a company wants to extend its network without ripping the walls of its office premises apart, wireless offers a great alternative. "

In fact, Ranbaxy Laboratories is seriously chalking out plans to deploy a full fledged WLAN as the IT Manager, Vijay Sethi has realized the cost effectiveness of a WLAN when expanding the premise or the network. Says Ramana , "The initial cost of deploying WLAN can be more than wired LANs but having a fixed infrastructure could be a non recoverable investment, while the organization can redeploy the WLAN."

Today, WLAN has become popular as installation is very simple and bandwidth offered is nearly on par with the ones available on the wired networks. IT managers are actually going past the initial cost and looking at WLANs. They are also realizing that managing a WLAN within the organization is not more difficult. "Troubleshooting WLANs can be easier as maximum trouble can come from interference between the access-points within the building or between the access device and the access-point. But IT managers feel that they need to monitor this more than a wired LAN," says Ramana, points out.

Despite newness and apprehension about adopting, both vendors and IT managers convey that WLAN is a technology option that is flexible, reliable, secure and cost effective in the long run. As the awareness increases and demand starts growing, the Indian market can see a lot more WLAN products and solutions and real time deployments in the coming months. NM

Priyanka Bhattacharya, priyanka_b@email.com

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