Will Wi-Fi kill wired Ethernet at the LAN edge?

The line is blurring between wireless LAN and Ethernet switch gear

Currently, with only 3,000 APs deployed, wired Ethernet is still the dominant access technology on campus, with an estimated 40,000 Ethernet ports deployed, Corbin says.

"It's hard to gauge right now," whether WLAN access will ever overtake wired access, Corbin says. "Probably 90 percent of students at Ohio State come to campus with a cell phone, and most see the value of mobility. My gut feeling is that as the wireless network propagates, more and more students will understand quickly that they can access the network anywhere, and that there's real value in carrying around a wireless PDA or laptop."

However, with faculty and staff working in offices, wired Ethernet will probably remain a dominant access technology in the near future, Corbin adds. A majority of such employees work on fixed PCs connected via RJ-45 Ethernet ports.

"We're really looking at wireless as not a replacement, but as an overlay to the wired network," Corbin says.

The flipside to the wireless trend at OSU is Blue Cross of Idaho, U.S., where a majority of employees work on desktop PCs plugged into good old RJ-45 Ethernet ports. A single common area, used for training and meetings, offers WLAN access. Otherwise, WLANs are not permitted.

"We wouldn't shy away from wireless if we identified a real business need for it," said Jan Marshall, manager of technical and network services for the healthcare organization, in an earlier interview. "We just haven't seen one on the campus." Marshall estimates he can secure and operate a mostly wired Ethernet network at a much lower cost than a WLAN infrastructure.

This thinking falls in line with most businesses, according to a recent Gartner survey, where 60 percent of IT professionals felt that current WLAN security was not adequate.

Incidentally, WLANs are even banned at the Massachusetts, U.S. headquarters of Network World, where all employees plug into a wired network.

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