Dell could bring down your (or your neighbors) wireless network

Dell could bring down your (or your neighbors) wireless network

Summary: Rumors are circulating that Dell could launch notebooks that have built-in support for the draft 802.11n WiFi standard during Q3 this year. This could see draft 802.11n getting a huge boost in popularity and both businesses and consumers buying and installing 11n compatible routers and other hardware in order to leverage the greater bandwidth and range offered by the draft standard.This is a bad thing. A very bad.

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TOPICS: Dell
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Rumors are circulating that Dell could launch notebooks that have built-in support There are a number of issues with a big PC vendor like Dell pushing a draft standard into the market at such as early stagefor the draft 802.11n WiFi standard during Q3 this year.  This could see draft 802.11n getting a huge boost in popularity and both businesses and consumers buying and installing 11n compatible routers and other hardware in order to leverage the greater bandwidth and range offered by the draft standard.

This is a bad thing.  A very bad. 

There are a number of issues with a big PC vendor like Dell pushing a draft standard into the market at such as early stage.  This single action may be all that many other  businesses and consumers need to tempt them down the draft 11n route too, not realizing that they could be digging themselves (and the rest of us) into a deep hole.

I've already written quite a bit about the draft 802.11n standard (look here, here, here or here if you're interested), and not much of it is positive.  But that's to be expected as 802.11n is a standard that's currently in draft form and far from being ready for public consumption.  Despite this, a number of hardware vendors have, in my opinion, been rather foolhardy and deciding to put out gear that makes use of this draft standard. 

Big mistake.  While the 802.11n standard promises a number of improvements over 802.11g, independent tests show pretty conclusively that current 802.11n equipment have a number of very serious issues that make them unsuitable for public consumption:

  • High prices
  • Poor driver support
  • Firmware issues
  • No guaranteed upgrade path to final 802.11n standard
  • Poor performance
  • Poor interoperability (both between draft 11n gear from different vendors and 802.11b/g equipment)
  • Draft 11n gear can jam existing WiFi networks

If you're interested in learning more about the state of current draft 802.11n equipment, I suggest that you read the two part article at Tom's Networking (Part 1 | Part 2).

Being able to inadvertently jam other WiFi networks is a very serious issue indeed.  Let's now imagine that a scenario where someone decides to go out and take the plunge and set up a WiFi network based on 802.11n gear.  They somehow wave a magic wand over the gear and get it set up so that it's working and delivering performance that's equal to or better than 802.11g.  There's now another issue looming over the network - the possibility that this 11n network is interfering with neighboring 11b/g networks.

A network is a sacred thing and reliability is paramount.  Adding gear that can cause headaches is a move that's to be avoided.  But adding gear that could interfere with somebody else's network is a serious sin.  Setting up one of these draft 11n "jammers" could have a detrimental effect on any other wireless networks that fall within its radius.

This is why I seriously hope that Dell don't bring out notebooks that have support for draft 11n.  Doing so could open the upgrade floodgates and could see draft 11n gear getting a major foothold in the marketplace, with serious implications for WiFi users everywhere (George Ou takes a deeper look at the implications of using draft 11n gear).

Given that these are just rumors at present, there may be no substance to them and Dell may not be planning to add draft 11n support to their notebooks.  But if they do, I'm going to be very interested in how they market draft 11n.  Making wild promises that the hardware won’t be able to deliver (especially if it has to deal with third-party gear) is going to upset customers.  Trying to support it is going to be really difficult, and dealing with future compatibility issues could be a long-term problem for Dell. 

I'm giving draft 11n gear a wide berth.

Topic: Dell

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9 comments
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  • It's about profit. That drives inferior products to market,

    with the worst of the lot managing, oddly, to become universal.

    Wireless networking is not ready.

    The internet was not ready.

    Windows NEVER was and the patched nature of it (patched with second rate threading too) only means it's going to fall apart. Linux isn't perfect either, but it had much more common sense put into it from the ground up and thus is more bulletproof to start with. MS is just MegaSloppy.

    Besides, in an unregulated capitalistic where planned obsolescence is mandatory so your customers will have to upgrade, you [i]have[/i] to make the products second-rate. This is not a pro-communism thread. It's about getting good money for what one pays for. We demand our employees never slip up ever and turnover is not just inevitable, it's constant. How come we keep buying products made by companies that demand being poorly made? Indeed, only Microsoft would dare market Windows 2000 with big ads trashing Windows 95, its own predecessor? Arrogant, brazen, and downright crude - and most people would have seen such a ploy as... well, that's obviously not true! The people still wanted Microsoft, and Windows 2000 was only better in certain ways. So Microsoft need never worry. Which is worse: A crass company, or a consumer base that just doesn't care in the end?
    HypnoToad
    • Stick to the topic...

      The topic, as I recall, is Dell & wireless 11n draft, not patching OSes. Do everyone a favor, stay on topic & bash Windows elsewhere.
      rmazzeo
  • Doesn't the FCC license...

    ..require you to take down your network if it interfers with some one elses?
    kenneth.kelley@...
    • Doesn't the FCC license...

      Part 15 devices like 802.11a,b,g,n networks, microwaves, cordless phones, etc. are unlicensed devices and are not protected from any interference whether it be from other part 15 devices or a licensed user of the frequencies. As part 15 devices they must accept all interference from licensed users of the frequency as well as not cause interference to a licensed user. If your Wifi is interfering with a licensed user of the frequency the FCC can force you to shut it down, but if the neighbors microwave wipes out your WiFi you are on your own.
      myersjc
  • Planned obsolescence

    Whatta matter you? You against planned obsolescence? Frankly, I'm surprised at you. After all, forcing everyone to upgrade to 11n gives another year for you to draw a paycheck.
    sduraybito
    • I have nothing against planned obsolescence ...

      :-)
      What I don't like is gear being sold under the guise of being future proof when it clearly isn't!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • I seriously doubt the effect

    The Bottom line is the Dell is still Dell. Nuff Said.
    However to expect about a million +, people to simply dump their laptops notebooks or whatever just because DELL has got Wi Fi built in is ludicrous in the extreme.
    If that's what they think is going to happen then they are Dreaming in color, big time.
    The only they would sell these new toys is if a person had reached the point where the Laptop was not longer any good and they were FORCED to go out and buy another. Then they might be induced to try DELL.
    Anything Else is hype and dreaming.
    But remember, their own would have to be shot first or the firm would never allow it and as an individual I would never fall for it. Not to mention that when you are Wi Fi you are opening the door to every Tom Dick and Harry to make use of your system?. It's still a wide open world out there, Dell notwhistanding.
    Nobody is that stupid, especially based on the word of the biggest toy maker.
    IF people fall for this, then the will have nothing to cry about, when it hit's the fan, and it will, count on it.
    Regards
    Aaron
    Aaron A Baker
  • Big money

    Dell as well as many other companies have lots of money to be able to push their agendas. It's not about what the public wants or needs it's about what the companies want you to buy.
    drjenkins45@...
  • 802.11n is much better

    It may be a preliminary version, but I bought a Lynksis WRT54GX router labeled as pre-n and the reach of my home WiFi network improved a lot. I can now get a clear signal through (or around)brick walls.
    It may be pre-n, but it was well worth the higher price.
    ja.zambrano58@...