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The ongoing wireless LAN standardization and R&D activities worldwide, which target bit rates higher than 100 Mb/s, combined with the successful deployment of WLANs in numerous hotspots justify the fact that WLAN technology will play a key role in wireless data transmission. Cellular network operators have recognized this fact, and strive to exploit WLAN technology and integrate this technology into their cellular data networks. For this reason, there is currently a strong need for interworking mechanisms between WLANs and cellular data networks. We focus on these interworking mechanisms, which effectively combine WLANs and cellular data networks into integrated wireless data environments capable of ubiquitous data services and very high data rates in hotspot locations. We discuss the general aspects of integrated WLANs and cellular data networks, and we examine the generic interworking architectures that have been proposed in the technical literature. In addition, we review the current standardization activities in the area of WLAN-cellular data network integration. Moreover, we propose and explain two different interworking architectures, which feature different coupling mechanisms. Finally, we compare the proposed interworking architectures, and discuss their advantages and drawbacks.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2002