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Training for the wireless world

Catch the wave now and you’ll be ahead of the pack when the wireless tsunami hits.

Want to catch a billion-dollar wave? The market for wireless devices, especially for Internet-ready and multifunction wireless devices is only at the start of its growth curve. With the right training, you can be in one of the first cars in a multi-billion–dollar thrill ride.

Cahners In-Stat/MDR, a high-tech market research firm, predicts that a big increase in business subscribers will push the market for wireless services from $4 billion at the end of 2001 to $16 billion by the end of 2006. The company estimates that the number of business users will grow from roughly 7 million now to almost 40 million within five years.

There will also be a rise in the number of people and the amount of revenue derived from consumer use of wireless devices, but the consumer side won’t be as fast or as dramatic. More companies than individuals are willing to pay for wireless devices like PDAs that let you check the company Web site or your e-mail on the run. Handheld devices like PDAs may replace laptop computers for many mobile professionals.

So for all you techies who like a wild ride and always wanted to get in on the start of something big, getting into wireless related to business services should quickly give you the thrill of a lifetime. What you’ll need, though, to get people to pay attention to you is the right training and certification.

If you already have training or certification in wired networking, you will be able to use what you have learned in your switch to the wireless world. In fact, that gives you a distinct advantage. Even if your training or certification is old, you’re still ahead. If you’re tired of the kind of work you do with wired networks, consider casting off the wires and switching to wireless.

Comprehensive and vendor-neutral

Let’s start by talking about vendor-neutral training and certification that doesn’t tie you to any particular handheld device or mobile operating system. Vendor-neutral training is useful in any segment of IT, but particularly so in the world of computing without wires–at least until technology options shake themselves out some more. You don’t want to spend all your time and resources learning a technology that turns out not to be a winner.

A few months ago the Wireless LAN Association gave its official nod of endorsement to Planet3 Wireless Inc., the creators of the Certified Wireless Network Program and certification program. Thus, the Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) portion of the CWNP became the first educational program endorsed by the association through its new Educational Endorsement Program. To learn more about the association, or the Endorsement Program, visit the group’s Web site.

The folks who founded Planet3 Wireless had the explicit objective of creating a vendor-neutral wireless training program. The CWNP consists of four tracks: CWNA, CWSE (Security Expert), CWNI (Integrator), and CWNE (Engineer). The program is so new that only the CWNA exam is available as I write this. Planet3 plans to have at least the Security Expert exam ready by this summer.

As you can guess from the names of the tracks, each focuses on a different aspect of the creation and care of wireless networks. The Administrator track is designed to bring IT professionals up to speed on what it takes to install, configure, and troubleshoot wireless networks. For people already working with wireless systems, the training is designed to fill any knowledge gaps they might have.

Planet3 says the CWNA training and certification is most appropriate for system and network administrators, engineers, analysts, and technical consultants. Technical-support engineers, implementation engineers, and network architects would also benefit. You have to pass the CWNA certification test in order to take any of the other three certification tracks.

The Security Expert track covers areas that will become crucial for any company doing wireless development, including how to counter hacking techniques and other intrusions. Anyone whose job involves network security should be interested in this kind of training because more and more wired networks will have wireless components.

The Integrator track helps you learn how to integrate various wireless technologies and design and implement wireless networks. It also covers the ins and outs of allowing wireless and wired networks to communicate. The Engineer track is designed for senior engineers who want to study all aspects of wireless networks, including administration, design, and maintenance.

Planet3 exams are multiple-choice, with the exception of the Engineer track. That one also includes a hands-on, full-day lab exam. The lab exam consists of multiple manufacturers’ equipment, including troubleshooting and interoperability scenarios. To pass, you have to score at least 80 percent on the lab exam.

Because the CWNP certification is so new, only a few schools are offering instructor-based training for the program–and only for the CWNA. However, you can train for the various tracks on your own with printed training materials from Planet3. To learn more about the CWNP and the individual tracks, visit the official CWNE Web site. You can learn more about Planet3 on the Web.

To learn more about the wireless market, read the summary of the Cahners report. You can also find information about the wireless market by visiting the Wireless Lan.com site.

Vendor-specific options

As you might imagine, other programs can help you learn about wireless technology. They don’t all offer certification programs, but they can be useful. Here is a list of some of the programs:

The University of Calgary offers a Web-based wireless-training course that it codeveloped with Ossidian Technologies. Ossidian offers 25 online courses on various aspects of wireless technology. IBM offers a three-day workshop for software architects, developers, and programmers on its software programs for wireless communication. Wireless InfoTech Education Services offers several training programs related to wireless. Cisco offers mobile products technical training. Sun offers training on Java’s wireless software toolkit. Ericsson offers a four-day, Web-based training program called the Bluetooth Academy. It is an introduction to using Bluetooth wireless technology.

As the wireless market grows, the major computing training vendors and other training outlets will start to offer programs in wireless training. You might even see a few homegrown certification programs crop up in the next few years. These kinds of programs can be worth the money, but check them out carefully before making an investment.

Riding the wave

No matter where you sit in the IT world, if you’re into making computers talk to each other, you’re a good candidate for a career in wireless technology. Whether or not you’re already into networks (the wired kind), wireless networks offer a lot of room to grow career-wise because the technology is at the start of its growth curve. If you already have a wired networking certification and are finding the job market crowded, consider adding wireless to your wireless résumé.

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