Wireless LAN, or WLAN, is the fastest growing field in mobile communications. In the next few years, the majority of notebook computers and an increasing number of PCs, PDAs, cellphones, and other business enterprise products will be equipped with wireless technology. In recent years, IEEE 802.11b-based wireless networking has been an enormous success ? its growth being fuelled by affordable Internet access at home and in the office. However, there is continued demand for higher capacity networks, with improved range and throughput. IEEE 802.11a and IEEE 802.11g technologies are well placed to meet these demands by providing higher data rates than 802.11b, with peak data rates up to 54 Mb/s compared to 11 Mb/s of 802.11b. The evolution of the standards has led to increased complexity of WLAN devices. These complex designs will require a more sophisticated and thorough manufacturing test methodology if performance expectations are to be met and the growth in dual band or multi-format devices is to continue in the marketplace.

This application note begins with a brief introduction to IEEE 802.11 technologies, followed by a description of the golden radio-based test system and its main limitations for WLAN manufacture. An overview of a system using an integrated test set follows, explaining the main differences and advantages over a golden radio-based approach.