RF and the Highway System

October 15, 2006 - 0 Comments

Over the past few months there have been 2 distinct technical threads in the wireless industry regarding RF. There are those who claim all RF problems will be solved in the standards bodies, a rote exercise for chip and system manufacturers building wireless products. There are others -including myself –who believe the real RF challenges are still in front of us and still remain to be solved. At the Bard of New England, Robert Frost suggested, oh Mobility Blog faithful, there is your role:”a jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”The explosion of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth mobile (and stationary devices) attaching to RF networks continues to explode, particularly increasing issues in the unlicensed 2.4Ghz band. ABI Research predicts that the 40 million+ devices that ship with Wi-Fi today will explode to 250 million in the next 5 years. This means computers, smart phones, infusion pumps, sensors, game consoles, etc. That’s a lot of beaconing going on. That’s a lot of devices sharing a limited set of frequencies. The 160,000 miles of roadways in the U.S. are critical to the nation’s economy and security much as our precious spectrum is. Hence I believe increasingly these frequencies will face the same challenges of our nation’s highway system, which for the most part was the brainchild of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt but really took off under President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/50interstate.cfmThink about all of these 802.11 devices like cars. In 1950, there were less than 50 million vehicles on the road. Today, there are over 250 million passenger vehicles in service on America’s roads. Frequencies are a lot like roads. They are not easily added (there are other uses for the land, even with the power of eminent domain) and crowded during rush hours. Even if we could more frequencies, it is not the answer.Just as smart traffic management systems including car pooling, public transportation and intelligent routing will play a key role in keeping the flow of vehicles on the road flowing — lest we constrain our children to a future of endless gridlock — smart RF management systems are required if we are going to realize the future pervasive wireless networks. An excellent view on this is provided by our own Bob Friday and Cognio’s Neil Diener in a short video http://tools.cisco.com/cmn/jsp/index.jsp?id=54768&redir=YES&userid=(none)Jury, you choose.

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