New superfast WiFi system clobbers older WiFi

The whole Internet wireless system marketplace has become increasingly complex and confusing. This short article from the Register points to several other articles that discuss the new MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) wireless gear. MIMO systems, which use multiple antennas at each end, promise speeds as high as 100 megabits per second, so in theory they could replace fiber as a first mile option for services like IP television.

But physics, poor design, and market share strategies make it likely that these new wireless systems will never be a complete substitute for a fiber connection. I am technology neutral--I believe we will have and will want both fiber and wireless connections. Communities need to plan for both. But this article should give pause to anyone who thinks that you can just stick up a few wireless antennas and believe you have solved all your community's broadband problems.

The new systems created serious interference with older WiFi systems, rendering them almost useless. Certain kinds of encryption, when turned on, cut throughput of the systems by 30%. Vendors are also fighting over who is implementing "true MIMO," suggesting that a compatibiility nightmare is looming, where one vendor's "MIMO" equipment won't work with "MIMO" equipment made by another vendor.

It is also yet another example of why you cannot just take the word of a vendor when considering broadband options. Vendors want to sell you what they have, not what you may need. It is particularly risky to accept vendor offers to provide "free" broadband system design (Disclaimer: Design Nine provides broadband planning services).

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