WLAN: Future Imperfect?
Groovy gadgets? Hip hardware? Or perhaps all the slick services they will enable?
Unstrung was like you once, my friend, but not any more. Now, when we think of the future of wireless LAN, we think of gridlock, and tooth-grinding, ass-clenching fr-fr-frus-tration. For -- to paraphrase a famous Canuck -- Unstrung has seen the future of wireless, and baby, it is murder.
Here’s how it goes.
The show floor at Interop is a perfect illustration of what using WiFi could be like in a few years time, if network footprints keep growing. Multiple networks means mass confusion for mere computing devices, including your correspondent’s laptop, which can’t maintain a stable connection in the hall given so many potential hotspots to link with.
People at the Atheros Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: ATHR) booth tell us that there are eleven (11) 802.11g (54 Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) networks and thirty five -- count ‘em -- 802.11a (54 Mbit/s over 5Ghz) networks in the vicinity of its booth. This has had a noticeable impact on the 2.4Ghz consumer devices the firm is demonstrating -- video displays are fuzzy and distorted, and downloads aren’t loading down.
All of which leads Unstrung to believe that in the future, if you don’t have a device that can read its RF environment and move among channels to avoid congested airwaves, you might as well forget about using it in crowded public areas. There’s already going to be too much stuff trying to share too little bandwidth.
Of course, companies like AutoCell Laboratories Inc. offer software that automatically manages connectivity in this manner. But, if the evidence of Interop is worth anything, there aren’t many computing devices out there in the real world using such software yet. Most of the companies that Unstrung spoke to were busy tinkering with the channels on their infrastructure kit to maintain some kind of radio performance.
How possible will this be on newer, smaller devices like dualmode cellular-WiFi phones? We just don’t know yet. But we do know that it's something that the average user is unlikely to want to have to mess with.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung