802.11 Planet Spring 2003
June 25-27, 2003
At this, the third 802.11 Planet we have attended, there are major changes taking place. The number of exhibitors is up to nearly 100. There is considerable diversity of product on the show floor. In the past the demand in the market has been largely from consumers and road warriors but now the enterprise is getting serious. Yet, the hot spot market remains chaos with no clear business models. As Jupiter Research said on the first day: The Facilities Providers drive the market because they control access, be it in the hotel or airport. Further, it is clear that the current specifications need additional work to reflect the realities of the technology and market. For example, it was stated that a new IEEE working group under 802.11 was formed to support hand-off. In addition, high speed hand-offs are also being supported in the security working group of 802.11i. Other signs of market development are that $3.7b was spent in equipment last year. Intel has created within Intel Capital an investment fund of $150m for wireless.
Jawad Khaki, Corporate Vice President, Windows Networking and Communications Technologies gave the first keynote. This was significant in what was and was not said. Microsoft used the occasion to disclose a number of items and its view of the role of networking. Some impressive demonstrations were given, especially in the transport of 2 streams of HD over an 802.11a network. Given that this was seen as a corporate position statement the presentation merits some discussion.
Jawad described the Dream Network as
It was especially important that Jawad stated that the
This was taken as an implicit recognition that lacking are applications that drive consumers to broadband. Along these lines, it was cited that internal data at Microsoft showed that its internal wireless network saved ½ to 1 ½ hours per day. Jawad joked that he hoped that this time was used as a gain for Microsoft and not to improve life.
One of the most important parts of the presentation was the Wireless Technology Roadmap, which was broken into Today, Next and Future. The next chart was a response to the question “What is Microsoft doing about this?” From this the following disclosures were made:
During his talk, Jawad Khaki stressed the need to confirm and support standards. Yet, the presentation was silent in this area, other than Wi-Fi. Curiously absent was any mention of:
where Microsoft is not a player. In contrast, Intel is active in two, but apparently not 802.20. Yet, Microsoft has typically been late to the table in wireless standards efforts such as its membership in the Bluetooth SIG. Jawad is correct, Microsoft should play a strong role in standards.
Nomadix Chief Technology Officer and SVP, Joel Short gave the keynote on the second day. He used it to characterize the state of the industry in nomadic computing. Some of the points raised included:
Joel ended this presentation with the call for all to participate in industry alliances, to implement best practices and deployment guidelines, and advance the technology with:
Jupiter Research on the Home Market for Wireless
Joseph Laszio, Senior Analyst, Jupiter Research, spoke for a whole session on Extending Wi-Fi’s role in the Networked Home. Most simply correlated to what we have heard many times before. Some of the market statistics were interesting and these will be included in the presentation. Take aways include:
Proxim -- Intelligence Everwhere
Proxim argues that as wireless becomes pervasive in the enterprise that there should only be one wireless network. “Wire only once for wireless.” The wireless network will be for both data and voice, thus, dual mode phones will exist for both VoWLAN and cellular. This then makes seamless wireless coverage in the enterprise essential.
Proxim sees the future wireless LAN as being a very dynamic environment where the WLAN is actively managed in terms of load balancing, priorities, handoffs and AP linkups. Further, in these high demand environments the use of all available spectrum is mandatory – a + b + g + new spectrum. This is what they call intelligent mobility. The bottom line is that these WLAN networks will be intelligent, actively managed and that the handoffs should be intelligent and seamless.
A critical element in the requirement for this level of management, that does not exist in switched Ethernet, is that wireless is a shared medium whose precious commodity is spectrum. As the demand for bandwidth and mobility increase there is a corresponding requirement for intelligence to lessen the impacts of the resource scarcity.
Left unsaid is the role of the radios in this environment and it appears only a matter of time when the antennas and radios are managed elements in the network and will share the intelligence requirements.
Focus on Antennas
The IEEE has recently begun a group on high data rate wireless, 802.11n - High Throughput Study Group. During the panel entitled "Better WLANs through Better Antennas," Jack Winters of Motia stated that 216Mb/s would be possible with a 4 antenna MIMO configuration. As was learned at this panel discussion, the antenna has become the focal point for improved performance in 802.11. Zeewaves is proposing that the antenna contain the network security with a chip that resides there. ethertronics, the antenna design company that did the reference design for the Intel centrino implementation, stated that this design for notebooks was one of the most difficult they have done, especially given that the target price is 50¢.
In the antennas panel, Jack Winters described Motia's work on Smart Antennas. There are two ways in which these antennas can be implemented. One is a switched Multibeam Antenna, and the other is an Adaptive Antenna Array. Both track the wireless environment to maximize the effective gain and decrease the impact of interfering signals. In multipath environments, there is a diversity gain of these antennas, which raises the reliability of the network. The smart antennas can be applied to the access point as a low cost implementation, but the larger gain comes when a MIMO configuration is created on both the AP and clients.
It is Motia’s position that two antennas can be added to either or an AP and client and still be standards compliant, for a slight cost increase. When added to the AP it provides greater range and higher capacity. When added to the client it provides greater range and interference immunity. When both are used, i.e., it is a MIMO configuration, the gains are additive. However, MIMO is not a part of the 802.11 standard and currently not specifically included in the charter for 802.11n--but may be implied within the channel definition. It is Motia’s position that they will only provide antennas to their OEM partners which are standards compliant. The smart antennas for today’s 802.11 compliant systems will go be available for sale from Motia in 6 – 12 months.
With the WRC approval today of the additional 250MHz of spectrum from 5.470 – 5.725GHz and 5.250 – 5.350Hz it is expected that the FCC will follow its already released NPRM to release this spectrum for WiFi usage. There is one problem – since this spectrum is already in use by the military it will likely be mandated for use only on a non-interference basis. Thus, radios will have to first determine if the band is in use before transmitting using a technique called dynamic frequency selection (DFS).
Here are more details on DFS as announced by NTIA:
802.11 Planet was another excellent venue to step back and see the big picture. This is our 3rd Planet event and we can now see important long term trends. Many of the sessions and speakers developed their vision.
Wi-Fi and wireless networking is getting complicated, in the enterprise, and in the home. We have believed that there is likely to be a divergence between the WLAN requirements for the home and the enterprise, with the home WLAN being much easier. The Proxim presentation left us wondering. Consider the following:
Thus, we are left wondering is the home all that simple?