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The Internet is increasingly a multimedia experience. Graphics, video, and audio abound on the pages of the World Wide Web. Business communications are following the same trend. For example, email frequently includes rich multimedia attachments. In order to participate fully, wireless networks require the same high data rates as their fixed counterparts. The higher data rates are obtainable with broadband wireless technology.

Broadband wireless service shares the same advantages of all wireless services: convenience and reduced cost. Operators can deploy the service faster than a fixed service and without the cost of a cable plant. The service is also mobile and can be deployed almost anywhere.

There are many initiatives developing broadband wireless standards around many different applications. The standards cover everything from the wireless LAN to the small wireless home network. Data rates vary from 2 Mbps to well over 100 Mbps. Many of these technologies are available now and many more will become available in the next several years.

Wireless LANs (WLANs) provide network services where it's difficult or too expensive to deploy a fixed infrastructure. The primary WLAN standards are IEEE 802.11b and Europe's HiperLAN. The IEEE initiative provides for data rates as high as 11 Mbps. The European standard defines a maximum rate of 24 Mbps and a future revision will operate up to 54 Mbps.

A potential problem with 802.11b is compatibility with Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a wireless networking specification that defines wireless communications between devices such as laptops, PDAs, and mobile phones. Bluetooth and 802.11b use the same frequency band. The technologies would most likely interfere with each other if deployed in the same device.

The HomeRF initiative is developing standards to define wireless communications between products such as home computers and peripherals. HomeRF currently operates up to 2 Mbps, but a new revision will operate near 10 Mbps.

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