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It seems like Wi-Fi has been with us for a long time without a major source of pain being sorted out. The lack of continuity contributes to a user experience that can be frustrating.
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The responsibility for bringing Wi-Fi up to speed falls on the shoulders of the CEO of the Wi-Fi Alliance, Edgar Figueroa. This is the man who helped to make voice over IP calls over wireless networks, which was no mean feat given that this called for penetrating firewalls without compromising the security of the network. So, we have high hopes for him. If anyone can make Wi-Fi great, it’s the man who gave wireless networking its voice.
The problem is one of loyalty. This is a quality practically unheard of in the IT industry, so it’s little wonder nobody can deal with it. It seems that when a device gets onto a Wi-Fi network, it becomes too attached to the first access point it connects with. Having become besotted with the access point, the device is unable to let it go, even when its owner is moving further and further away and the signal is fading. Figueroa’s organisation is developing algorithms to overcome this problem. These mathematical formulae must create a system that helps a device to overcome its obsession with the access point and learn to let go. In doing so, they will help the device to initiate more heatlhy relationships with a variety of Wi-Fi signalling units and, as a consequence of this more diverse approach, improve the user experience.
There are other ways in which the stupidity of Wi-Fi must be tackled. It’s bad enough that Wi-Fi cannot achieve handover, in the way that 4G networks can as devices move across from one call to another. But Wi-Fi cannot even space out its users equally across its two bands, so that one half of users could be assigned to 2.4Ghz and the other to 5GHZ. “That’s dumb,” says Figueroa, “it needs to be done more intelligently.”
The good news is that the Wi-Fi Alliance has over 800 members who can contribute towards a solution. Originally there were only five members. Wi-Fi now carries half the world’s internet traffic, according to Figueroa. “If its capacity could be used more intelligenty it has massive potential,” he says. Comcast in the US is now using its wi-fi networks to function as a telco. But it needs to be a lot easier to adopt. “The provisioning has to happen dynamically without the ues knowing anything about the technology,” says Figueroa.
The new Vantage programme from the Wi-Fi Alliance aims to make it easier for mobile operators to adopt Wi-Fi and upgrade it into their networking infrastructure. New advances in device provisioning techniques could solve the age old problem of disrtibuted denial of service attacks too. The limits of Wi-Fi need to be pushed in order to help us cope with the challenges of capacity - not to mention the IoT - that lie ahead. To this end, The Wi-Fi Alliance commissioned The Spectrum Needs’ study, which concluded that the industry will need to find an extra 500 Mhz of additional spectrum by 2020. A claim which warrants further investigation surely.
Spoiler warning. If you read The Spectrum Needs you may actually feel like you’ve slipped through the space time continuum. It might be better to contact Figueroa directly. He’s very approachable and easy to follow, which can't always be said of Wi-Fi.