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If I Were King Of The Wireless Jungle

Given the number of players involved across all of today’s wireless and networking spaces, it is pretty amazing that our mobile connectivity is as good as it is. Regardless of what 802.11 standard you connect with, or what carrier facilitates your mobile data, the wireless world of today is generally impressive. But it could be better. If Wireless World were mine to run, here’s what I’d change. (Cue the day dream sound effects and wavy fading video.)

The first thing I’d likely alter will undoubtedly make those in the network administrator demographic happy. If you’re familiar with the Wi-Fi Alliance, you know that this group’s interoperability and compatibility certification program is perhaps the seminal factor in modern Wi-Fi’s success. But it doesn’t go far enough in my world.

I would charge the Alliance with creating an ‘Enterprise-Ready’ certification initiative. For a wireless device of any type to achieve this rating, it would need to operate in the 5 GHz band, support enterprise-grade 802.1x and encryption, and be a proven reliable performer on business wireless networks (even when coming out of sleep). Any product limited to a single broadcast domain would be deported to Consumer Wireless Only Land. How many problems did we just solve?

I’d also outlaw the manufacture of single-band WLAN adapters for laptops, netbooks, and most tablets. I’d wage war on those that are bogging down high-end wireless networks with their cheap and cheesy 2.4 GHz radios, and mandate that any device that can accommodate a 5 GHz chip simply must. Furthermore, any device with a dual-band radio in it would have to provide a simple UI-accessible means for disabling 2.4 GHz on demand. Truly the stuff of happy dreams.

Staying on the client side of wireless, my tenure as Grand Ruler of Wirelessland would also include the revamping of ideas behind helpdesk-oriented behaviors. I’d educate the masses that simply tweeting “the wireless network sucks here” does not magically open a helpdesk ticket and provide support staff with the information they need to solve problems. And all of my helpdesk staff would be trained psychologists/technologists/psychics/world-class orators. We’d be as good at interpersonal communications as we are at network communications, and that would make the world a sunnier place.

On the hardware side, I’d ban expensive controllers. An edict would decree that regardless of LWAPP, CAPWAP, or Chilliwack protocols used to give a wireless system its sizzle, all APs from any vendor must interoperate with all APs from another vendor. And single-gang, flush-mount access points would be a mandated part of any product set. The notion of standards-based networking would pervade the wireless architecture, not just be transmitted out the antennas while everything downstream is built on proprietary voodoo. In my fantasy world, those wanting to provide wireless system hardware would approach it from the customer perspective or they wouldn’t get past the gate guards.

Finally, I’d reform the marketing departments of both the WLAN and mobile carrier worlds. Competing paid lab-tests that each declare the manufacturer who funds the study to be El Supremo Performer? Done. The perky gal that doesn’t quite understand Webster’s definition of “unlimited” as she hawks her carrier’s data plans? Fired. (Although she has good verbal skills, perhaps we can use her at the helpdesk.) And all claims that include a truth-stretching multiplier or percentage (we’re 12X better! Our AP gives 200% more of something you can’t really verify!) will land the originator a stint in the antenna mines. Charging another $100 to change the color on twenty cents worth of plastic or two dollars worth of aluminum and calling it an option would be history. Lots of possibilities here…

Yes indeed, I have a dream.