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RF WLAN vs Optical WLAN-Difference between RF WLAN and Optical WLAN(Wireless LAN)

This page compares RF WLAN vs Optical WLAN(Wireless LAN) types and mentions basic difference between RF WLAN and Optical WLAN(Wireless LAN).

Following table mentions comparison between RF and optical WLAN types.

Feature RF WLAN Optical WLAN
Operation It operates using RF frequency. It operates using infrared or optical waves.
Spectrum Licensing requirement Licensing is not required for use in indoor applications while it is required for outdoor applications in RF WLAN type. It does not require licensing as the bands used in optical WLAN are unlicensed.
Coverage Distance It is large and depends on transmit power. It is limited.
Data rate Higher on the order of Mbps. It depends on IEEE standard being used in the WLAN devices i.e. Access Point and Stations. Higher on the order of Gbps.
Channel effect The RF waves transmitted as communication medium between transmitter and receiver gets affected due to channel and other RF sources. The Optical waves are less affected compare to RF waves due to signal fading and other multipath channels.
Security Less secure as RF waves can penetrate walls and can travel for larger distances in RF WLAN type. More secure as optical waves can not penetrate walls, moreover system operates in point to point mode. There is a change of eavesdropping when optical WLAN is operating in diffused mode.
Mobility Supported using handover concept. Difficult to achieve this due to point to point mode of communication between transmitter and receiver.
RF carrier frequency Low High
Cost RF equipments are higher in cost. Optical equipments are lower in cost.
Network Topology There are various network topologies such as star, mesh exists. Directed and diffused modes exist. Diffused mode permits operation in some angle of deviation.
External interference Affected by other nearby RF transmissions. Affected by other light sources only, but as it is LOS system, does not much affected unless there is other nearby optical WLAN system present.
Health hazard Hazardous to human being provided more power is transmitted. It does not have effect to eyes. It affects the eyes.

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