LAN, WAN, PAN
LAN, WAN, PAN Perhaps the thorniest patch of any plan to provide handheld devices with mobile access to corporate resources exists in the wireless transport technologies themselves.While WLAN (wireless LAN) products based on 802.11b come in a variety of CompactFlash and peripheral sled configurations for mobile devices, they tend to sap the power of these small devices. In return, WLAN options deliver high-speed data access but at levels that tend to be overkill for mobile devices.In eWeek Labs tests of Xircom Inc.s WLAN module for Palm m500-series handhelds, for example, the Palm OS Web browser we were using did more to limit speed than did our wireless network connection. Whats more, WLAN adapters are useless when out of range of an access point. For an on-the-road solution, companies face a murky mess of poky and incompatible wireless networks. New 2.5G and future 3G networks offer the most promise for effective wireless data communications. Currently in deployment by U.S. carriers such as Voice-Stream Wireless Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc., GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and 1xRTT (the first phase of the 3G Code Division Multiple Access technology) offer speeds similar to those across a 56K-bps modem and work with wireless handsets and PC Cards from vendors such as Sierra Wireless Inc. As higher-speed handsets begin to proliferate in the market, PAN (personal area network) gear based on the Bluetooth standard will be a convenient means of linking handheld computers and wireless handsets to access the Internet. Palm and Toshiba America Inc. have teamed up to produce a Bluetooth adapter housed in a tiny Secure Digital card, and a spate of peripheral sleds and expansion cards have become available as well. When paired with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, these products, along with devices with integrated Bluetooth, such as the Compaq Computer Corp. iPaq H3870, will help render the laptop-free road trip a considerably more palatable proposition. For the time being, Research In Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry devices and Palms i705 perform acceptably for lightweight messaging, and Cellular Digital Packet Data networks offer always-on, albeit rather slow, connectivity.