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Customer Survey Results: How RF Interference Impacts the Wireless Network

Let’s talk about air quality. And I don’t mean smog. How clean is your Wi-Fi network from Radio Frequency (RF) interference?

Over 600 Cisco customers recently participated in our on-line survey about RF interference and Wi-Fi network usage. Industry representation ran the gamut from agriculture, to education, to arts, to manufacturing, to retail, to healthcare, and many others. Two of the most important findings were:

  • 78% of companies now consider all or part of their wireless network to be mission critical.
  • 54% of companies indicated that RF interference causes wireless network performance problems (and another 18% don’t know if RF interference is impacting their Wi-Fi network).

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A Decade of Happy Living with Wi-Fi and the Unlicensed Band

In the last 10 years, Wi-Fi has become an expected and even beloved part of our lives.  And arguably the most fundamental enabler that has allowed Wi-Fi to achieve this success is that it operates in the unlicensed band.  This means that anyone can set up a network, without having to purchase spectrum.

At the same time, it’s worth remembering that the use of an unlicensed band is still an evolving paradigm.  The following quote from the FCC Technical Advisory Committee dating all the way back to 2000 made the point fairly well:

 “We are about to have an unplanned real-time experiment on the consequences of uncoordinated spectral sharing … using incompatible etiquette rules”   -- Federal Communications Commission, Technical Advisory Committee Meeting Report 12/00

Essentially, the government chose not to dictate how the unlicensed band should be used (other than some restrictions on maximum power output and signal spreading).  In essence, they provided the resource, and left it to the industry to make it work.

So, it begs the question — ten years later, how do we seem to be doing? 

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Borderless Access means Mobility: new wireless solutions from Cisco

Within organizations of all stripes, we’re seeing fundamental transformations in how people connect on the network. Many have come to expect constant connectivity regardless of their location or device. Smartphones and other mobile devices that support sophisticated applications are becoming the norm. Video communications play an increasingly important role in our everyday use of the Internet, necessitating an enhancement of both wired and wireless networks to meet the challenge. 

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Wi-Fi and IP Video, Like “Peanut Butter and Chocolate”

It’s hard to miss the fact that Wi-Fi and IP Video are two mega-trends that are enjoying a fast ride up the steep side of the technology adoption curve.   In fact, you could make an argument they are in fact the two fastest growing technology trends of 2010.

This year alone, hundreds of millions of new Wi-Fi chipsets will ship inside devices, including not only the traditional laptops, but huge numbers of smart-phones, TVs, DVD players, game systems, appliances, automobiles – pick any electronic gizmo, and chances are it has Wi-Fi or soon will.   By the year 2012, the number is estimated to grow to 1 billion new Wi-Fi devices per year.   The world loves Wi-Fi because it fills the dual needs for connectedness plus mobility, and because it just works.

The growth of IP Video has been equally impressive.    Free Internet sites like YouTube and Hulu now constitute a significant amount of time people spend watching video.   And paid services like NetFlix and TiVo are offering over-the-top video services to compete with Cable providers.     A study by Cisco showed that in the relatively near future 90% of all the traffic over the Internet will be video.    The world loves IP Video because it gives users control over what they watch, when they watch it, and where they watch it.

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Apple iPad, in the enterprise?

Apple’s announcement today of a new 802.11n connected mobile device, the iPad, is sparking the imagination of many.  From application developers, to the media industry I am sure there are plenty of folks out there already drafting strategy plans about the different ways they can leverage what is expected to be a successful new platform. 

Moments earlier, IDC announced that it expects Apple to “ship 4 million iPad units worldwide in 2010”.  End even though by all accounts the iPad seems to be a consumer device I can’t help but wonder how many of these 4 million devices are going to enter the enterprise.  And when they enter the enterprise how are they going to impact your wireless network?

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