Wireless Local Area Network is the full form of WLAN. As the name suggests, WLAN does not use wires or cables to connect to the network. Instead, WLAN uses radio signals, spread spectrum or infrared transmission method for internet connectivity. It provides high speed wireless access to the Internet. Integrated WLAN is often used to connect between WLAN and other technologies, such as Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) or Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) or WAN networks.
Integrated WLAN is generally set up with routers or access points that act as a medium to connect two computers together. The router can handle both wired and wireless connections. Any number of computers can be connected to the network using the wireless connectivity. Integrated WLAN provides the flexibility to move around within a broad coverage area and still be connected. Integrated WLAN is easy to install and user-friendly; hence gained immense popularity.
The types of Integrated Wireless LANs can be broadly classified into 3 categories:
Peer-to-Peer: This is an ad-hoc network. In P2P or peer to peer network, wireless devices communicate with each other directly. The wireless devices within the specific range can communicate directly without the base points or the central access points. Two computers generally use this type of method to connect to one another and form a network.
Bridge: Different types of networks can be connected using this technology. Let us consider the example of a wireless Ethernet bridge. In this type, various devices can be connected to a wired Ethernet network using wireless network.
Wireless Distribution System: It allows us to build a completely wireless structure. Access points attached to the wired LAN allow wireless connectivity.
Integrated WLAN enables mobile IP phones, VOIP (voice over) phones and GSM phones to connect to the wireless network. Computers with pre-installed wireless drivers can connect to the internet using the wireless technology. Computing devices without pre-installed wireless drivers can connect using wired connection. MP3 players, video game consoles, internet TV’s, personal digital assistants, Ipads and digital books utilize Integrated WLAN connectivity. If the range of the wireless network is not sufficient, it can be increased by using a router with better area coverage.
Wide Area Network Technologies (WAN) like GSM/GPRS and 3G are gaining popularity because of their roaming flexibility and availability at competitive rates compared to Integrated WLAN. Integrated WANs provide wide-area coverage to mobile data users. Integrated WAN provides better coverage and mobility that is not possible with WLANs. WLAN/WAN integration enables users to get access to the wireless data services seamlessly. Users have the flexibility to switch back to wide area networks on the move or in areas with no WLAN coverage. Enterprise users often benefit from such integration. There are two types of integrations:
Loose Integration: In this type, users of a particular mobile network can access only the operator controlled WLANs. A seamless handover of network between the WLAN and WAN is not possible and hence this integration is termed as “loose”.
Tight Integration: Here the seamless changeover of WLAN to WAN and vice versa is tightly done. This is mostly based on mobile IP implementation.