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Lee Badman
Lee Badman
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What's Ahead For WiFi: 6 Key Challenges

As the 802.11 WiFi standard marks its 25th anniversary, enterprise WLAN managers face some potential issues with the rise of IoT, feature complexity, and spectrum uncertainty.
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With the 802.11 WiFi standard celebrating its 25th birthday this month, it's interesting to look back at how wireless networking has advanced over the years. If you’re of a certain age, you might remember the original heyday of wireless networking, when toting a laptop was  pretty progressive and data rates of even 2Mbps were considered impressive. Just the act of accessing the network with no patch cable was exotic, and “the wireless” used to be an accessory to the faster Ethernet network. Needless to say, time has flown.

From the original 802.11 standard, the industry's moved through 802.11b, a/g, n, and now we’re deep into 11ac. We expect data rates in the hundreds of Mbps, and WiFi has become the de facto standard for client access far and wide. Along with the evolution of technology, WiFi also spawned new terminology  like wardriving, rogue APs, and pineapples, and the expectation that we should be able to hit the Internet from almost anywhere with a range of devices that none of us could imagine just a few years ago.

We’ve collectively transitioned from an era where WiFi was cool and new to one where we take it largely for granted. Autonomous access points that thought for themselves have given way to thin, controller-based APs and cloud management. Today, it takes more skill to translate complicated requirements into functional WLAN, and client access is now bundled along with a slew of features that used to happen elsewhere on the network.

WiFi has always been about what comes next, both out of the antennas and under the hood. Looking forward,  wireless networking has a promising future. WiFi will continue to advance with increasing data rates and antenna counts. At the same time, it’s not all roses for enterprise WLAN architects and managers. WiFi client capabilities are glaringly fragmented between consumer and enterprise devices, and there’s much uncertainty about the sanctity of the spectrum that WiFi relies on.

Let's look at the challenges ahead for WiFi in the enterprise.

(Image: kurtcan/iStockphoto)

 

Lee is a Wireless Network Architect for a large private university. He has also tought classes on networking, wireless network administration, and wireless security. Lee's technical background includes 10 years in the US Air Force as an Electronic Warfare systems technician ... View Full Bio

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zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 10:32:31 PM
Re: What's Ahead For Wifi
Nice article, Lee. It's no wonder that most of these challenges are interconnected. Why do we need faster standards and more spectrum? Well, because we have new features that eat up all that bandwidth and an explosion of new devices coming from IoT and related trends! The presence of politics certainly slows things down on a front where the innovators themselves are not inclined to. We see something similar when it comes to privacy laws; gov't is two steps behind regulating the shady tracking practices businesses are already using. it's scary to think we might have to wait that long for our WiFi tech to catch up.
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
9/28/2015 | 12:01:58 PM
Re: What's in Cost
You keep a good comment on board @Brian, i am not sure about smartphone numbers, but i can bet, it would be pretty impressive and high. I am excited to see this new storm of data to flow.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2015 | 8:30:52 PM
Re: What's in Cost
Enabling communication on railway terminals will provide a lot of benefits for both the passengers and employees of the railway (a railway that employees 1.4 million individuals). It would be nice if trains could provide WiFi while traveling through the countryside, a few trains in South Asia enables this service through satellite internet. If the economics of satellite internet on trains works out then, the entire rail network of South Asia could be connected.

I wonder if there are any estimates on the number of smartphones that are in service in South Asia.
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
9/27/2015 | 9:57:41 AM
Re: What's in Cost
I recently found new update wherein our Indian Govt has planned to implement Wi-Fi at 500 railway stations with Google's help, and importantly govt want to ensure that free Wi-Fi is not only there in airport lounges, but also on our railway platforms. Teaming up with Google, they will cover 500 railway stations in a short time.
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
9/24/2015 | 7:41:54 PM
Re: What's in Cost
This is one of the key note you mention, yes advertising is something which can lead to overall GDP growth and specially when we are living in era of e-commerce where everything and anything is available online.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
9/24/2015 | 3:21:15 PM
Re: What's in Cost
@dan_conde, agreed. Data in exchange of data seems like a fair trade.

The app industry has been working on a number of monetization models over the years. For example, a mobile video game can function with a dual monetization i.e. payment based and ad based. The important aspect is to enable consumer choice and market forces will take care of the rest.
MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
9/24/2015 | 11:37:11 AM
Re: What's in Cost
I agree Dan. All that legal verbage is ridiculous on regular screen, let alone a smartphone screen.
dan_conde
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dan_conde,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2015 | 10:42:47 AM
Re: What's in Cost
i know that someone has to pay for WiFI costs, but I sure find advertising or "click to acknowledge this legal agreement" very cumbersome to use.  On top of that, I see "Click to use" Wifi entry pages, which may have ads.

Many of these legal pages are designed for big screens and are hard to deal with on a smartphone screen to find teh button to click.

Since they are mining your location, viewing habits, etc. I was hoping that would be sufficient to in the exchange of "free wifi access" in exchange for user info.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
9/23/2015 | 7:23:00 PM
Re: What's in Cost
Advertising is an interesting area. Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between GDP growth and investment in advertising. It increases competition in the economy and fulfills the basic function of a market by bringing producers and consumers closer. However, it needs to be implemented in the right fashion.
aditshar1
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aditshar1,
User Rank: Ninja
9/22/2015 | 12:03:46 PM
Re: What's in Cost
As a consumer Free internet with Free ads is not a good a combination, but in sake of free we might need to face them, at the end of the day wifi provider has to get yield cost from somewhere or the other.

Seeking to concern Marcia has mentioned, we still need wait and watch if this model is viable enough.
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