Can Wi-Fi ‘unwire’ the PC user?

CIOL Bureau
New Update

BANGALORE: "Just like the wheel and the radio - it has the potential to drastically change our lives", said Avatar Saini, Director, South Asia, Intel, speaking at the MAIT National Conference on Wi-Fi.


The MAIT conference underlined that the Karnataka government is firmly with WLAN initiatives. "Wi-Fi is not slower than wired access, as many people believe it to be. We believe it will improve productivity. We will co-operate with the industry in deregulation issues, frequency distribution and all related issues" , said D.B. Inamdar, Karnataka Minister for IT and Tourism.

Wireless LANs can provide all the functionality of wired LANs but without the physical constraints of the wire. Will it be successful in "unwiring" the wired world? Undoubtedly, there are many issues to be sorted out. Security is a major concern. "Of course, the security vulnerabilities that exist in conventional LAN exist. In addition, there are a few problems with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) itself", said Gyana Pattnaik, Head — India Development Center, Proxim Wireless Communications.

Also, the number of "hotspots" is critical to Wi-Fi’s success. Mc Donald went Wi-Fi, so did StarBucks. There are hotspots all over the world but they are numbered. In India, there is the Taj group of hotels and the IIIT, Bangalore. More companies (like TCS and Infosys) have decided to go the WLAN way.


But, for connectivity beyond the workplace — say, in airports - you need more hotspots. How do you get more hotspots in India and around the world? Companies like Intel believe that if they can convince workaholics to buy Centrino laptops and unwire their homes and workplaces, there's a good chance they'll become Wi-Fi evangelists and the number of hotspots will shoot up.

"As for Wi-Fi implementations, there are two schools of thought. Conventional sense, which believes that Wi-Fi will co-exist with wired access, prescribes a cellular base and hotspots that based on 802.11 protocol. The more radical school of thought, prescribes the base based on the 802.11 protocol and the cellular network as a subset. The second type does not have much support but it’s possible, there are a few such affordable, fast and reliable setups that Intel is also supporting", says Joydeep Bose, Director of Strategy, Corporate Technology group, Intel India.

Wi-Fi evangelists believe that if PCs were the first stage of the digital revolution and the Internet the second, Wi-Fi is the third stage. A lot of people around the world now carry laptops equipped for Wi-Fi access. Only to find that there aren’t too many places to connect.

Most wireless networks have (wisely?) remained private, and investors and cellular companies are taking a "wait-and-watch" stand. So, how long will it be before the Net "truly" follows you wherever you go?