I'll let McIntyre have his say in full, with my followup comments at the end.
The bottom line is that WiFi was never designed or intended to be used in any public location, unless you add some proprietary client software. (There are the two words to stop any wide spread adoption of a technology - proprietary and client.) Lucent did field trial a public version call "PubLAN" that used a proprietary client that did all the VPN/EAP per session; per client encryption we are trying to get to today. And it was tested on the Sprint and WorldCom networks in 2000. WiFi was designed for the office and for locations were added cabling was too expensive or simply not an option. (One of the first WiFi locations that used WiFi was a Catholic Monastery in northern Italy in 1991.)
So what is the solution for the portable wireless data nomad that is hooked on portable high-speed Internet? The answer lies in another set of questions - "How many different WiFi or wireless data operators are there out there and who has the most locations for you to use while traveling?" What is important about this question is that the numbers do not matter. What matters is the more operators you have, the fewer locations are available for easy and consistent QoS access where you travel.
Now we are down to the price.
For those that are "early adopters" and the technogeeks, WiFi is a cool way to stay connected. (I know, I am one.) For the rest of the population, my money is now on the cellular guys. They will now begin to capitalize on the WiFi rush as people find out that they can get the critical email and downloads with a cellular data service in many, many more places than they can get a WiFi connection. And it is a lot more secure. And the price is coming down.
I now pay Verizon Wireless $45 a month for unlimited bandwidth. I used my service while driving from Savannah to Atlanta on Easter Sunday to check out the Masters scores in real-time, as well as get a jump on the Monday avalanche of email. Had a 230 kbps connection, with a real through put of 50 Kbps while on the road! Then last night, my super high speed 3Mbps Comcast cable Internet service died. From 8 PM until after 1 AM, no connection. That is Internet prime time around this house for email slaves to chip away at business of the day. My wife and I resorted to the Verizon Wireless 1X service and got all our mail and Internet work done by sharing my 1X service. It was twice as fast as any dial-up and as Verizon launches EVDO, the next generation, the speed will jump 3-5 times. (I shouldn't promote it so I will have more bandwidth for
Hello cellular data, bye-bye WiFi.
Stroh followup comments:
I have no disagreement with McIntyre that Wi-Fi was never intented/envisioned/designed... or even well-suited for the uses it is being put to. That said... the intentions of the original designers of a particular technolgy often wind up being largely irrelevant (I doubt Henry Ford envisioned a drive-through Starbucks :-) As the IDT story posted later today will make clear, ready or not, "better technology and/or services be damned", Wi-Fi is being pressed into numerous roles that weren't originally envisioned for it. Wi-Fi doesn't have to be a perfect fit for those roles... just better than the available alternatives and accessible to those who wish to do and try innovative things.
I also don't have any fundamental disagreement with McIntyre that "serious" road warriors to whom time is, not just money, but "tens of dollars per minute", hunting for a Wireless HotSpot isn't cost effective or desireable, not to mention wrestling with a myriad of authentication and payment schemes. But... will you have to "go hunting?" Will you have to "wrestle" much longer? I posit that neither of those issues will be the case much longer. The more Wireless HotSpots come online, the more incentive there is to come to an agreement and get everyone in on the revenue... yes, even the "free" Wireless HotSpots by offering an overlay "you pay, you get Priority and Quality Of Service".
Even if Verizon and other wireless telephony providers do eventually offer unlimited use 300-500 Kbps services for $45/month (I rate this as unlikely), that still won't dent the growing market for Wireless HotSpots. The market for Wi-Fi access isn't just "road warriors"... it's, well, everything... Nintendo Gameboys... Apple iPods... Palm PDAs... cars... VOIP services like Vonage... none of which are likely to be connected to the Internet via Verizon Wireless BroadbandAccess, but rather via a Wi-Fi chip that will be a standard feature of those units and you can make use of it, or not. Wi-Fi is now inexpensive, unobtrusive (small form factor of the chips) and power-efficient that it's reasonable to build it in even though the customer may not actually use that feature... at first.
We'll see far more Wi-Fi services deployed because its technology is now firmly in the hands of the innovators who can take the technology and create innovative, useful, and increasingly lucrative services with it. That's a stark contrast with Verizon and company whose energies are directed towards capturing more revenue from ring tones and downloadable games than in providing reasonably-priced, reasonable-performance ubiquitous Wireless Internet Access.
McIntyre's point about sharing the Verizon Wireless connection with the rest of the family is prescient. I've observed the same type of usage when I get together with a my crowd of fellow Amateur Radio Operators. One of us brings his Verizon Wireless wireless modem which gets plugged into a small Linux box and Wi-Fi access point and the Internet access is thus shared out to as many as a dozen users that connect to the Linux router via Wi-Fi. This is easily portable to, for example, making every public transit bus its own Wireless HotSpot.
All this said... if McIntyre will put me in touch with his secret contact at Verizon Wireless for the "$45/month deal" (a quick check at Verizon Wireless' BroadbandAccess service with my Seattle-area zip code says $79/month)... I might go for it too. Then again that $45 is more than a month's worth of Jerzy's great coffee, free Wi-Fi Internet Access included.
Update 4/25/2004 - McIntyre replied with the particulars: "The $45/mon deal I have with Verizon Wireless is 'for PDA or SmartPhone device users on selected calling plans.' I have sent a copy of the plan brochure in a separate email. I got the deal when I purchased the
Samsung i600. On the whole, I agree with all your comments for WiFi in a private network."
Copyright (c) 2004 by Steve Stroh (except for Bob McIntyre text). This article originally appeared on Corante / Broadband Wireless Internet Access.
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