Nortel has created a new strategy for all-wireless offices it dubs the "Unwired Enterprise," which focuses on OFDM/MIMO coverage, wireless integration and universal mobility across other wireless networks.
Jake Power, Nortel's director of marketing for converged data networks, said that the upcoming 802.11n standard represents a fundamental change in capacity and growth.
"When 802.11n is ratified next year we will, theoretically, have access to up to 600 Mbps of bandwidth. This is a huge increase over what we have now."
At 600 Mbps, Wi-Fi would have the capability of delivery HDTV short distances. In reality, however, 802.11n will likely not deliver to that level.
"With 802.11n we have 540 Mbps in theory, but in practice this will be closer to 200," says Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research.
From Nortel's perspective, 802.11n is part of a push for the "Hyperconnected" enterprise, one in which pervasive broadband is enabled by simplified wireless integration with data infrastructures, and where there is a common management system.
"Once you get into the hundreds of megs in terms of scale," says Power, "you are then looking at customers that are considering going completely wireless."
It also offers the promise of mobility across other wireless networks. Power noted that Nortel has demonstrated seamless hand-off from Wi-Fi to WiMAX, from building to car, with the same signal transferred at the press off a button.
"T-Mobile is already doing something like this with voice off of cellular networks in the U.S.," says Tauschek. "You can roam from carrier to a wireless LAN. The call can go through an older TDM system, or a VOIP PBX."
Not surprisingly, the carriers are reluctant to push dual-mode handsets where users can leave their networks to pick up free VOIP off a WLAN. However, they may not have a choice.
"All you need is an appliance at the enterprise level that controls the roaming between the enterprise network and the carrier network," says Tauschek. "With dual mode handsets there will be seamless mobile to mobile convergence in the next few years."
And 802.11n will be a big part of that story, specifically at the enterprise level. "This network will deliver huge performance improvements in a broader range," says Power.