The Vegas trade show will be home to five (count 'em, five) wireless LAN networks, as well as any number of standalone hotspots installed on the show floor by vendors who want to offer wireless access to attendees who drop by their booths.
Four of the networks at the show will support the 802.11b standard, which offers maximum data transfer speeds of 11 Mbit/s over a 2.4GHz radio link. Industry watchers have always warned that as 802.11b networks proliferate, people using the services could be subject to interference and poor quality of service. This is because the 2.4GHz band is public, unlicensed spectrum, which is also used by Bluetooth wireless devices and cordless phones, and is even affected by emissions from microwave ovens.
Attendees at the Interop show will be able to find out first-hand just how much 2.4GHz radio traffic can happily coexist in one place before the quality of service starts to degrade.
Here's a rundown of the 802.11b networks at the show:
- Smart City Networks, a company that usually installs wired networks in convention centers, will announce its entry into the public wireless LAN access market at the show. Smart City has set up a permanent 802.11b network at the Las Vegas convention center, which will be available to the public – for a fee.
- The Interop organizers are using a "Mobius" wireless LAN system donated by Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) to set up a temporary network of some 200 laptops to register people arriving at the show (see Symbol's Cisco Killer? for more information on this proto-switching product).
- The WiFi Alliance will be providing a free 802.11b network for journalists to use in the media center.
- An as-yet-unnamed provider will supply 802.11b access to exhibitors and speakers taking a break in the conference club room.
Wylie reckons that the "thick concrete walls" of the conference club and media center should help to prevent interference issues between those two nearby networks.
However, Geoff Horne, the senior network engineer in charge of NetWorld+Interop's eNet, is taking no chances. Horne is using a system provided by Aruba Networks Inc. to run a private network for his engineers at the show (see Aruba Provides WLAN at N+I), and the network will use only 802.11a equipment, which runs over the 5GHz band instead of the 2.4GHz, to avoid any potential problems.
"I'm not taking responsibility for anyone else's network," Horne says. "It's not like I wouldn't like to – but it is just not possible."
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung