I am still not as enthusiastic about WiFi as some people, primarily for two reasons. First off, I still believe that power is a limiting factor. WiFi adapters are voraciously power hungry and can drain a battery before you can say ‘find a plug point’. I keep picturing a whole heap of executives at somewhere like an airport hotspot scrambling on hands and knees for a limited number of power sockets like something out of the Keystone Cops.
In the second place, each WiFi point needs a backhaul – a broadband connection like ADSL, cable or whatever, which will suffer from all the usual contention and bandwidth constraints. This means that the more popular WiFi hotspots become, the more potential there is for the service to degrade significantly. Not a great concept.
This is why I’m very interested in the work the folks at Flarion Technologies are doing to bring broadband type speeds to the conventional GSM phone system. Unlike 3G their flash-OFDM system simply requires service operators to plug in a special RadioRouter box at major cell tower centres, after which they can supply users equipped with a Flarion PC Card adapter or modem lag free wireless rates of between 1.5 and 3 Mbps.
What’s more, you can connect from anywhere there’s a GSM network – in a car, bus or even a train at up to 200 mph. Try doing that with a WiFi hotspot! And because it’s IP over radio wireless, there are almost no contention issues or user limits.
I spent a long time chatting with the company at the GSM conference in Cannes recently, and came away very impressed. The company is presently engaged in wrapping up deals with technology licensees like IBM, Cisco, Philips, and HP as well as service providers and with any luck we’ll start to see these high speed networks arrive within 18 months or so. Some technology whitepapers here.
Yet another reason to dump those 3G provider shares sharpish maybe.