It’s well known that the proprietary extensions employed by some vendors to increase the speed/range of their wireless Ethernet (IEEE 802.11) equipment can cause issues (and sometimes refuse to work with one another at all); however there is something else to consider when working with older wireless kit – the network will automatically slow down to match the slowest device. Added to the fact that wireless networks already share bandwidth (WiFi is not switched), even a fast network could well have dropped to the lowest common denominator and may be operating at 11Mbps (or slower) because of a single 802.11b adapter.
When I upgraded my wireless network to 54Mbps 802.11g, I left my wife’s PC untouched because I didn’t want to inadvertently affect her business. When I finally upgraded her PC this evening I removed the legacy Compaq WL110 card and saw an instant improvement in file transfer speeds across the wireless link from our office to my server!
With high-speed 802.11n (draft) equipment coming onstream, it’s important to remember that upgrading the network is not enough and for the full benefits to be achieved will be necessary to upgrade every connected device too – including all those laptops with built-in wireless capabilities – potentially a very costly exercise.