Futzing the Protocol
5:30 PM -- If you’ve not been following this, a recent article in Network Computing is raising a question as to whether Meru Networks Inc. is altering a field in the 802.11 header, the result giving them a performance advantage at the expense of other nearby WiFi networks. As I write this, there is no resolution to this issue. Is it really an issue? Is it just a bug? Is it a violation of 802.11 in some way? Hmmm.
While most of the people I’ve spoken with are adamant that Meru has violated both the 802.11 standard and the WiFi spec (I doubt the latter, but I’m checking), I’m going to reserve judgment for the moment, and we should most certainly give Meru the benefit of the doubt until all of this is resolved. It’s certainly possible that a given enterprise, for example, might operate a Meru-only environment, and this problem, if it is one, would never really show up. There’s certainly no violation of FCC or other regulatory rules. But there’s a more important issue afoot here.
If one really wants to boost one’s access to the airwaves, why not just use 802.11e, AKA WMM? Just set your priority to high for everything, and, voila, really great throughput until everyone else does the same thing. So, one of the key benefits of .11, playing nicely with other WLANs, is also a source of potential trouble down the road.
I personally find it hard to believe that any vendor would be so dumb as to intentionally fudge the protocol, since it’s so easy to prove this should it be the case. But stay tuned -- there will be more on this issue shortly. In the meantime, monitor those airwaves.
— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung