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The Dwindling Wireline Gap

Cutting Loose
Cutting Loose
Cutting Loose
10/31/2006

I'm coming to you today from Mobile Business Expo, the enterprise-focused mobility conference happening in Chicago. I'll be here all week, reporting on how enterprises are adopting wireless technologies from Bluetooth to WiFi to GSM/UMTS, and how the providers and vendors are approaching these new markets.

The session agenda gives a good picture of how pervasive and powerful these networks have become in the last year or two. They include "Wireless LAN and Mobile Device Management," "Mobile Applications Strategies: CRM, ERP, and Field Force Automation," "The Business End of Wireless Mobility: Wireless Policy and Telecom Expense Management," and "Wireless MANs and Campus Networks: Cellular, Mesh, and WiMax."

It's safe to say that, as little as 18 months ago, most IT managers would barely have heard of those technologies and topics, much less find them compelling enough to pay money and travel to Chicago to learn about them.

This morning's session at Mobile Business Expo, hosted by Craig Mathias, principal at the Farpoint Group and an Unstrung columnist, is a big-picture look at wireless broadband access. Half an hour in (hey, we're live here!), Mathias' main point is that, 111 years after Marconi invented the first working radio, the technological innovation around radio-frequency networks has never been more rapid and more far-reaching.

Of course, claims for the capacity and reliability of mobile networks -- the only parameters enterprise IT managers care about -- continue to be exaggerated. As Mathias puts it, "The advertised throughput is the speed the marketing department guarantees the network will never exceed."

That being said, what might be called the wireline gap -- the difference in performance, cost, and security of fiber-optic, cable, T1s, DSL, etc. versus wireless networks -- is dwindling rapidly to the point where it will essentially be zero in the very near future. As many IT pros already know, vendor promises about wireline performance have no stronger connection to real-world conditions today than those relating to wireless networks.

The advent of incredibly smart radio antennas, as in MIMO (Multiple-Input, Multiple Output) systems -- will actually reverse this gap. (Based on the IEEE 802.11n standard, MIMO will not replace existing 802.11b/g-based wireless LANs until 2009 at the earliest.)

Advanced network architectures, particularly mesh networks, which Mathias calls "The most important architectural innovation in wireless networks today," are already having the same effect of reducing or eliminating the wireline gap.

Where's all this leading, and more importantly, what are the most important decisions facing IT departments today? I hope to have some clearer answers by the end of the week. Meanwhile, I hope you'll stay tuned to the news stories that come out of Mobile Business Expo. (It's like attending the show without paying for admission or traveling!). And if you have specific questions that can be answered by the show's presenters, feel free to post them on the Unstrung message boards or email me directly at [email protected].

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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frnkblk
frnkblk
12/5/2012 | 3:36:19 AM
re: The Dwindling Wireline Gap
"That being said, what might be called the wireline gap -- the difference in performance, cost, and security of fiber-optic, cable, T1s, DSL, etc. versus wireless networks -- is dwindling rapidly to the point where it will essentially be zero in the very near future. As many IT pros already know, vendor promises about wireline performance have no stronger connection to real-world conditions today than those relating to wireless networks."

Sorry, I don't buy it. Yes, MIMO, smart antennas, and higher orders of modulation will increase throughput and performance, but fiber will continue it's march up from 1 to 10 to 40 or 100 Gbps. I don't see wireless catching up, ever.

Yes, it's true that residential subscribers don't need 1 Gbps today, but how can mesh-based wireless solutions, many offering service plans of 1 Mbps today with plans for multi-megabit in the future, hope to catch up with fiber-based PON solutions that deliver 30 to over 100 Mbps today, depending on the technology and number of subscribers.

In regards to the business environment, many use T1s today and so wireless is viable substitute, but the Metro and Carrier Ethernet market is not ramping up without reason. I see many more companies moving from T1s to Ethernet than towards wireless. Any Ethernet solution is going to start at multi-megabit rates today; with copper solutions from Aktino adding a few pairs adds several Mbps of throughput, and with fiber, it's a a matter of replacing the transceivers to go from 10 to 100 to 1000 Mbps.

Wireless is best used when mobility is desired, but if a cable can be run in the ground it's usually offers higher throughput and is more cost-effective than wireless technologies.

If the claim is that consumers only need the performance and throughput that wireless technologies like WiMAX of HSDPA can offer today, I also remember another story about how 640 KB of RAM was enough for any future computer.

Regards,

Frank
IPobserver
IPobserver
12/5/2012 | 3:36:18 AM
re: The Dwindling Wireline Gap
I donGÇÖt buy it either.

IGÇÖm a fan of wireless for sure. But youGÇÖre in dreamland if you think it will ever be as reliable and fast as wire.
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