Wireless access sheds more wires

The Access/One wireless node, made up of four modules, is about as tall as a Palm OS device.

Strix Systems Inc. has a wireless way to expand wired networks.

The Access/One Network sets up a wireless LAN of meshed nodes that communicate with each other by the IEEE 802.11a standard. But, unlike the usual wireless installation that physically connects each access point to the wired network, only one node in each Access/One configuration needs an Ethernet cable.

Crosstalk potential

'Theoretically, its ability to scale is unlimited,' said Robert Jordan, marketing vice president at Strix, of Westlake Village, Calif.

'In practice, I think in blocks of eight nodes' because of the potential for crosstalk and radio interference. 'I'd want to connect back to the wired LAN at least once for every eight nodes, probably two or three times, for redundancy,' he said.

Because of the modular construction, the nodes can support a variety of protocols, including all flavors of the 802.11 standards and Bluetooth.

Each node automatically discovers its neighbors and configures itself to communicate with them. The node continuously queries neighbors in background, assessing throughput and latency to determine the best path back to the LAN, in effect acting as a wireless router.

A node consists of at least four 3.5- by 5- by 0.5-inch modules:
  • A base module with 110-volt AC power and zero, one or four Ethernet ports

  • A network connect module that communicates with other nodes via 802.11a

  • A client connect module to communicate with mobile clients via 802.11a, b or g or Bluetooth

  • A dual-antenna module with two 802.11a antennas or one 802.11a and one 802.11b/g antenna.

An Ethernet port module connects to the LAN server, and a four-port module can connect a workgroup to the LAN.

Base modules with Ethernet connections get their power from the Ethernet and do not need an electrical source.

Access/One follows the Wired Equivalent Privacy and WiFi Protected Access protocols. Wireless uplinks are protected by Advanced Encryption Standard encryption.

Users authenticate themselves to the server via Remote Authentication Dial-in User Service.
Client and network connect modules have to keep track of other clients and network conditions and also tune themselves, while using no more than 2 percent of bandwidth.

Access/One Network cost varies with configuration, but a typical node costs $850 to $1,300.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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