|Issue:||Latin America 2004|
|Topic:||A wireless revolution|
|Organisation:||Intel, Latin America|
Ricardo Carreón is Intel’s Regional Director for Latin America. When Mr Carreón first joined Intel he was first responsible for the company’s lines of business. Mr Carreón was then appointed Marketing Manager for Latin America, General Manager for Mexico and, most recently, General Manager for the Latin America Region. Ricardo Carreón began his professional career with Digital Equipment Mexico, where he served as Market Development Manager. Mr Carreón later served as Novell Mexico’s General Manager and as Marketing Director of Maxcom Telecomunicaciones.
Wireless is transforming the way we communicate, access data, do business and seek entertainment. Notebooks, hand-held computers, phones, entertainment devices and even kitchen appliances, are linked wirelessly to the Internet or to each other. WiFi at home, office or public hotspots, and WiMAX for longer-range communications, allow people to connect to each other, to information, to education, research, work and commerce. By leapfrogging limitations of time and location, wireless can enable a brighter future for people in emerging countries.
Wireless technology has forever changed the way in which PCs, PDAs, and other similar devices access the Internet at high speeds. This is what is happening now – the ‘anytime, anywhere’ promise is not the future, it is today. Years ago we used to think that the Internet was a niche tool, the privilege of students in a few prestigious universities and employees of large corporations. Now, millions of users everywhere in the world can access the Internet from their offices, their own homes or even from a public cyber cafe thanks to services such as cable, dial up and broadband. However, the wireless revolution is opening many possibilities and is progressing at even faster speeds than the connections it offers. No wires. No restrictions. With wireless technology no matter where you are, at work, home, on the road or in your favourite spot you can get an uninterrupted connection to the Internet. Today, that Internet connection gets you access to news and information, music, videos, games, and friends. In the future, it may connect you with electronic devices in your home or in public places, as well as with rich services, such as on demand movies, throughout the planet. The world is becoming increasingly wireless. Analysts at IDC predict that by 2005, there will be 700 million mobile handsets and over 80 million WLANs (wireless local area networks) in use worldwide. There will also be, by then, nearly 13 million wireless home networks in place in the United States. Wireless everywhere Today we have notebooks, hand-held computers, phone and entertainment devices that can connect to wireless networks. Each device does one job. In the future, even small devices will have high-quality screens, speech recognition and enough computing power to do things like high-speed gaming or delivering DVD quality video on demand. Wireless networking is useful in the home today, because you can take your notebook from room to room or outside and still connect to the Internet or to devices such as printers. You can buy a wireless Access Point to connect all of your computers, printers, and scanners among themselves and to the Internet. Each of these devices either needs to have built-in wireless capability (such as a notebook with wireless technology), or you can buy a wireless adapter. Now, a PC is becoming a home media centre, organising your TV and movie programming, music, digital photos, games and the like. High-quality, flat-screen monitors display digital photos like paintings and play music from your home PC. In the future, wireless networking in your home will tie together your computers with your personal entertainment devices – such as your TV and stereo – and maybe even your kitchen appliances. All the wireless devices may talk to each other to help make your life easier. A wireless computing device in the refrigerator may check tiny radio tags on products and send a note to your PC that you need to buy milk. The PC may synch information with your PDA automatically when you walk in or out the door, so milk automatically appears on your shopping list. In the next few years, there will be more and more public and private wireless hotspots available, so you will be able to connect to the Internet wherever you happen to be. In future, you’ll have access to more services as you travel, and some of those services will be tailored to where you are, to your work, your habits and to your personal preferences. Today you can read e-mail from an airport or restaurant. Within a few years, a new wireless standard called WiMax will make it possible to watch movies over the Internet from a moving train. Today, phones and computers are separate; soon, though, voice over the Internet (‘Voice over IP’ or VoIP) will allow you seamlessly to use your PC as a voice communications device. Wireless Communications Standards 802.11 The major standards body, the IEEE, has defined unlicensed wireless communications schemes; these wireless standards are part of the IEEE’s 802 series. The best known of these wireless standards today is the 802.11 series, commonly called Wi-Fi, which specifies WLAN (wireless local area networks) transmission of the type used at airport hot spots. These radio systems allow communications within a relatively small area, typically within about 100m of a central access point (AP). A typical use of 802.11 today would be to place APs strategically around an office, each connected to the wired Internet, and thus allow any PCs or other data terminals in the area to get access to the network. These APs may be deployed privately and secured so that only, for example, employees of a business can use them. They may be deployed publicly in a common place such as an airport or train station where any users may use them (either for free or for a service charge). Any wireless data communications standard primarily consists of two layers. The first layer is a protocol that defines how the radio stations using a channel know when it is their turn to transmit, how the data are packaged with addressing information and the starts and stops in the signal. This layer is called the Media Access Control layer or MAC. The second layer is a definition of how the radio signal is modulated to encode information on it. This is called the physical layer or PHY. 802.11 actually is a family of standards of which the main ones are designated 802.11b, 802.11a and 802.11g. These differ primarily in their definition of what PHY is used, although each operates using a 20MHz wide channel. The 802.11b PHY was designed to allow devices to share spectrum efficiently and to improve on earlier transmission schemes that had inferior performance in the presence of radio interference, or noise, and reflected, or multi-path, signals. Another version of this standard, 802.11a, is designed to operate in the same band and is now beginning to appear in the market. This version of the standard differs from 802.11b by using more advanced PHY techniques to permit higher – 54Mbps – maximum data rates. The more recent 802.11g standard applies similar advanced PHY techniques in the 2.4GHz band to achieve operation up to 54Mbps. Looking past 802.11a and 802.11g, work continues at the IEEE on even more advanced PHY techniques continually to improve the robustness and speed of WLAN systems. We are seeing 802.11 capabilities built into more consumer devices now that these systems have become more widely available and increasingly useful. For example, many PCs use mobile technology and are equipped to access 802.11 networks. We are also beginning to see PDAs and even phones that use 802.11 to communicate. While 802.11 standards are designed technically for short-range operations, some users have created non-standard equipment that is capable of longer-range operation of up to several kilometers. The required modifications include special antennas, boosted power output and changes to detailed aspects of the data encoding to allow for the longer time taken by signals that need to travel such distances. A better and standardised solution to longer-range data communications can be found in a parallel standard – 802.16 – recently developed by the IEEE. 802.16 Similar to 802.11, 802.16 is actually a family of standards, some completed and some still in progress. This family also has its associated industry group, WiMAX. The original 802.16 standard defines a MAC suitable for an access system based at a central base station and serving many users scattered over a relatively large area whose radius can be many kilometers. Another member of this standards family, 802.16a is optimised to operate in frequencies between 2 and 11GHz. It also permits more flexible channel width choices, including channels as narrow as 1.75MHz that allows it to be used where there is only limited radio spectrum availability. This version is attracting considerable commercial attention now because this range covers a number of attractive bands found around the world. WiMAX, or 802.16, is fast emerging as a wide-area, wireless, broadband technology. WiMAX shows great promise as a ‘last mile’ solution, as a way to bring high-speed Internet access to homes and businesses. While the more familiar Wi-Fi (802.11) handles local areas, such as in offices, homes or hotspots, WiMAX covers wider metropolitan or rural areas. It can provide data rates up to 75 megabits per second (Mbps) per base station with typical cell sizes of 2 to 10 kilometers. This is enough bandwidth to support (through a single base station) simultaneously more than 60 businesses with T1/E1-type connectivity and hundreds of homes with DSL-type connectivity. The next wave of personal productivity is going to be all about mobility – being able to get access anywhere. People tend to use their notebooks 30 percent more once they have wireless access. Results from three independent studies showed that notebook users averaged around eight hours of additional productivity per week when they had wireless networking capability. During the next five to 10 years, industry after industry will turn to wireless to boost productivity. WiMAX will be instrumental in bringing broadband wireless to homes and offices, providing the backhaul – the connection to the main network – for Wi-Fi hotspots, and, as well, connecting users to the Internet in places not covered by 802.11. Both WiFi and WiMAX will play extremely relevant roles in emerging markets. In most emerging markets, building out a wired infrastructure can be very expensive, given the lack of adequate infrastructure, remote population centres and challenging geographical features. With WiMax, many people in emerging nations will be able to receive affordable, high quality broadband service right in their homes. The possibilities – after that – are pretty much unlimited: people can connect to each other and to information and education, research, work and commerce can all leapfrog the limitations of time and location. The Wireless infrastructure will enable a brighter future for people in emerging countries.