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The RF Superhighway

July 6, 2007 - 2 Comments

In 1970, my uncle moved his branch of the clan out to Southern California, fleeing the dreaded Northeast winters, congestion and a dwindling set of personal opportunities (during a tough economic time). My father visited his brother in the sun-kissed paradise of a new suburb, watching my uncle brag: “look at all this land; look at these new roads and open space. This is paradise.”Forty years later, southern California, while still beautiful, has some of the worst commutes and densities of any metropolitan regions in the U.S. And, with the take off of Enterprise Wi-Fi and the continuing explosion of consumer wireless technologies (including, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and others), will the worldwide wireless market look like SoCal during rush hour or something less congested?As we move into the mainstream era of WLAN in the Enterprise, the RF Management capabilities we pioneered during the WLAN era, couple with good analog engineering, including RF antenna design, RF interference detection and remediation, and the relationship between clients and access points will actually increase in importance rather than decrease. If someone tells you all the RF problems are licked, then:1. Hide your wallet2. Be prepared to live with a bad airspaceWhile we cannot expect an expanded set of users to become more RF knowledgeable (i.e., IT administrators, end users, guests), we do need to plan for systems that are.Gentle readers, please weigh in with your thoughts here. Over the next few blogs, myself and fellow bloggers wille be weighing in here

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  1. Continuing with your analogy, network engineers engaged in wireless have become the EPA of IT. Ensuring emissions from all RF devices, be it corporate owned or otherwise are in spec.

  2. I like Alan’s Los Angeles analogy here. The LA freeway systems, built in the 50s, were designed to handles an area with a population of 1.5 million. Not the 4 million that reside there today. The increase in Wi-Fi device population will dwarf this kind of growth rate.Almost without fail, every customer I meet with all expect both the quantity and diversity of Wi-Fi devices to sharply increase over the next 2-3 years. Many believe by a factor of 10X. PDAs, medical devices, RFID tags, printers .. the list goes on. Oh, and of course, those popular new IPhones…. And whether sponsored by IT departments or brought in from the home, these devices will reside in the workplace, in a big way. So then the question is .. to borrow a phrase from an old Cisco ad campaign … are you (and your network) ready? Various industry analysts have estimated that 10% or so of all business facilities today have Wi-Fi coverage. And the networks that have been deployed are serving a rather consistent population of users an devices. Get ready for that to sharply change over the next 2-3 years. Look for the Enterprise Wi-Fi market to continue growing, at an accelerated rate. Already, we’ve seen the market move from a 15% growth rate in 2005 to 30% in 2006. And that’s on a $1 billion base. With the Wi-Fi client trend skyrocketing upwards, I truly believe we are only in the early stages of business Wi-Fi adoption.So this is where I think Alan has it right, and where another industry vendor CEO got it wrong when he claimed that Wi-Fi is if not dead, rather uninteresting.”” If Enterprise Wi-Fi systems cannot scale, be managed holistically along with the entire enterprise network, and offer new innovations in areas of proactive RF management, then the needs of this wave of new Wi-Fi devices will simply not be met. There’s plenty of headroom here for innovation, and it has to happen. For a Enterprise Wi-Fi vendor to meet these requirements, it takes a combination of best-in-class RF expertise and a broad array of technologies to integrate wireless networking into broader solutions. It will be interesting to see over the next few years which players will be up to the challenge…”