What's next for wireless?

Summary:special report The frequency is changing from wired working to a wireless world. Can this new wave of technology help you gain the cutting edge?


Close range
Real-ity estate
The third generation

The first order of business will be ensuring that all of the new technologies use the same standards. That's where the Wi-Fi Alliance comes in. Recently the Alliance stated that it would not tolerate manufacturers launching equipment which was not formally certified.

The Wi-Fi Alliance is ensuring that the upcoming 802.11n standard -- which is planned to offer connection speeds of up to 135Mbps -- is adhered to in order to avoid the potential for customer confusion. They stated that they will revoke the certification of any product if it is proven to "adversely impact the interoperability of other Wi-Fi certified products."

The Wi-Fi Alliance is made up of wireless vendors, which could be why it steered away from directly criticising the past behavior of some members. It did, though, quote the concerns of a wireless analyst.

During the pre-standard technology for 802.11g a few vendors took advantage of unsuspecting buyers by releasing products that did not meet the standards.

"Left unchecked, the industry is unfortunately poised to repeat itself with 802.11n," says Ken Dulaney of Gartner.

The new standards are not expected to be set until 2006 and it is still unclear which of the competing technologies will be used in the final version. What is clear however is that the Alliance believes that irresponsible manufacturers attempting to make a quick buck could jeopardise the widespread adoption of Wi-Fi.

Nortel's Danny Ng says that the future world of wireless is an area of phenomenal excitement. "Wi-Fi is a fairly mature technology but now we are able to manage individual users and take the technology into areas where it couldn't go before such as outdoor and into hostile areas."

One of the next steps for Wi-Fi is to ensure that the service is more secure and dependable. The 802.11i standard uses a separate co-processor to handle data encryption, which means for example that current adoptees will have to uprgrade their systems to garner the benefits of increased security.

Maxed out
Danny Ng believes that WiMAX will be the next big thing to hit the marketplace and that it's ability to give wireless broadband access across cities, rather than smaller "hotspot" areas, will make it even easier for staff to work anywhere and everywhere.

WiMAX technology supports speeds as high as 70Mbps and a range of up to 30 miles, making it ideal for large corporate campuses and rural areas where cable and DSL broadband service aren't widely available.

The WiMAX Forum, which has more than a hundred members including Dell, Intel, Siemens, and British Telecom, is working to facilitate the deployment of broadband wireless networks based on the IEEE 802.16 standard by helping to ensure the compatibility and interoperability of broadband wireless access equipment. The organisation is a non-profit association formed in 2003 by equipment and component suppliers to promote the adoption of IEEE 802.16-compliant equipment.

"There is just so much potential and promise with it. It's an excellent technology and once the standard has compliant products it will aid so many businesses. One of the reasons we are seeing the push for wireless is the restrictions of cabling. Take Korea, for example, they are close to saturation point with their ADSL lines and the government is pushing wireless broadband. They continue to be a great example as to how the standard can be deployed and utilised," says Ng.

Topics: Networking

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