What wireless NIC should I Deploy?!?

Unanswered Question
Mar 12th, 2009

I know this is going to be somewhat biased, but I have the unique opportunity to choose a wireless NIC for our company.

It's like this... We have been rolling out many different types of laptops from Dell over the last couple of years and each one has a different built in wireless NIC. We have not had good success from Intel for obvious reasons, we have had great success from external Cisco cards, and good success from Atheros internal chipsets.

What I want to know is what are you using and what works the best. We want to pick one and move forward with only one type of card in the future for all of our laptops.

Thanks in advance for your input.

I have this problem too.
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da.beaver Thu, 03/12/2009 - 11:55

Let me also say that we are trying to stay away from external cards just because they are so easy to steal and lose. We would like for it to be an internal chipset if possible.

Thanks again.

jeff.kish Thu, 03/12/2009 - 15:02

I have seen great success from Intel and Atheros. Atheros is tried and true, and Intel is placing a lot of R&D into 802.11n, even going so far as to partner with Cisco to ensure full compatibility between APs and clients.

Internal adapters are often not as strong as external adapters, but sometimes they have internal antennas that boost their signal. Regardless of the chip/card you go with, find out what the transmit power is and whether there's an antenna. Then set your APs to broadcast at no more than what your clients are capable of.

Leo Laohoo Thu, 03/12/2009 - 16:21

The link below doesn't necessarily answer your questions directly and won't tell you what Wireless NIC cards are "compatible" but it will tell you which PC/Laptop manufacturers have taken painful lengths to get their products certified by Cisco as "compliant".

Cisco Compatible Extensions Client Devices


Hope this works.

da.beaver Mon, 03/16/2009 - 07:33

Thanks for the input. The Cisco compatibility matrix really helps out. I know that we really need to do more testing, but we are going to make some decisions soon.

Thanks again.


Leo Laohoo Mon, 03/16/2009 - 15:28

Since you're organization predominantly uses Dell, click on one of the models and it will give you more information of the WLAN NIC.

ses0 Tue, 03/17/2009 - 13:01

David did you happen to work at TPI in Johnson City at one time?

Scott Fella Wed, 03/18/2009 - 05:15

From my experience, standardizing on a laptop model or a couple models is the best thing to do. No matter what internal card you use (since most of them will be new) as long as you can standardize on a few, troubleshooting will be much easier. I have clients that standardize on Intel, Broadcomm and Atheros and have no issues once you verify configuration and drivers on both the client and on the wlan. The only issues I see nowaday is when clients still have old devices out there that they haven't migrated out.

da.beaver Wed, 03/18/2009 - 05:43

I think your right. It's so hard to get and stay with one model just because Dell may decide to do away with the model we have 500 of. Then we choose another model and the wireless NIC is a different model. Now we have two NIC's to learn to manage, find updates for, configure, troubleshoot, etc.

We also have issues with some laptops due to having several folks share the same laptop, so we use Windows Zero Config to get the profile we create to work across each users login. With the Intel Utility, we can't do that, and Windows is not the way to manage the wireless profiles. It just doesn't work well in my own opinion.

I know Cisco has a client that will allow the profile to work across multiple logins, is there anything else out there that doesn't cost to deploy?

I knew a guy that said he knew how to get the Intel clients to do it, but I can't get in touch with him.

Scott Fella Wed, 03/18/2009 - 19:46

If you use windows zero, you can push profiles down via GPO, which alot of my clients do. IF you use Interl ProSet or Access Connections, then you can export and import the settings, but that can take forever. Again.... you want to make sure you stick with a single wireless utility or else that can make your life worse.

da.beaver Thu, 03/19/2009 - 06:03

And I think thats what I'm really looking for. What is the single wireless utility that I can use? It needs to be able to handle multiple logins and not cost an arm and a leg. More importantly, it needs to be stable and reliable. I may be asking the impossible here...

da.beaver Wed, 03/18/2009 - 06:01

No, I've never worked in Johnson City, however I've been through there a couple of times.

Darren Ramsey Wed, 03/18/2009 - 11:02


Based on the Cisco and Intel wireless partnership, the Intel card is a pretty safe bet.


Also if you look at the AssureWave testing methodology, there seems to be a strong Intel representation.


We are using the Intel 4965.

asafayan Thu, 05/07/2009 - 10:52

dvr0 -

What is the scale of your WLAN environment? We have 20 WLCs and 1750 APs. Our environment supports 1000 7921s and 1000s of other WLAN clients.

We have always had horrible Intel roaming characteristics going back 4 years ago with the 29xx adapters. The 39xx adapters didn't resolve the problem. The 49xx adapters are a little better but still don't roam as well Atheros adapters. I don't have experience with the 59xx adapters.

With Intel adapters, you're always getting notice of "roaming" issues and suggestions that you upgrade your proset drivers. I'm sure they are fine in less dense environments - but for the money, Atheros adapters are rock solid in high density LWAAP environments.

Darren Ramsey Thu, 05/07/2009 - 11:14

You are around 2-3x the size of our environment, and we have 7921 and Vocera, so yes the AP deployment is dense. We still have Dell 1470, 1490 and Intel 2915 in production. Like you mentioned, the older Intel drivers were bad, but I've heard no complaints with the 2915 running with our current controller code I have not used any Atheros other than the CB21AG, which is very solid.


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