Great Wi-Fi Starts With Proper Design- A Revolution Wi-Fi Re-Blog

If you are interested in wireless networking and don’t yet have Andrew von Nagey’s Revolution Wi-Fi  in your blog roll, well shame on you. This excellent resource is updated frequently, and rarely will you read it and not come away feeling educated.

Andrew’s latest includes a free gift for the design-minded, and can teach you much about what you should be thinking if you are in the WLAN game from the support and design perspectives.

Give it a read, and follow Andrew on Twitter at @revolutionwifi. You’ll be glad you did.

Faster Wireless Isn’t Always Better Wireless

There- I said it! Let the trouncing commence, as I fully realize the title of this blog borders on sacrilege for those of us that do wireless for a living. But, after you curse me and Google my image to throw tomatoes at, give me a chance to explain what I mean.

Different Frequencies, Speeds For Different Applications

We of the Wi-Fi mindset have the numbers 2.4 and 5 etched upon our psyche. We know that these numbers are followed by GHz in our version of reality, and that depending on what we do with spatial streams, output power values, and antenna designs, we’ll achieve fairly standard (to us) rate-over-range permutations that more or less make up the various possibilities for connectivity that we provide to our clients. Not exactly news, right? Let’s take a quick look at some other frequencies, applications, and data rates that you might not be aware of, before I get to the point of this blog: 

  • Frequency: 76 Hz. Application: ELF Military Comms. Data Rate: a fraction of a bit per second
  • Frequency: 60 kHz. Application: Atomic Clock. Data Rate: 1 bit per second
  • Frequency: 4235kHz. Application: WeatherFax. Data Rate: 45 bits per second
  • Frequency: 144 MHz. Application: “Short-range” Amateur Radio. Data Rate: 1200 bits per second
  • Frequency: 900 MHz. Application: WLAN P-P Bridging. Data Rate: 50 Mbps+

You know the rest of the story- as we go up in frequency to the familiar 2.4 and 5 GHz ranges, we can achieve higher data rates with generally shorter distances in play. We also know that power output and antenna configs contribute to cell range capabilities, and that modulation types ultimately decide what we can do with a given channel width at a specific frequency. This is wireless 101, yes?

And us wireless types get jazzed over HIGHER speeds, not lower- this I know. But I’m here to tell you that it’s worth stepping outside of our normal for a bit and spending some time on the last bullet in the list above- 900 MHz- and what it can do for us.

What’s So Exciting About 900 MHz?

To most of us doing normal, day to day Wi-Fi, the answer is “nothing”. The lowly 900 MHz space is meaningless to the modern WLAN. But… some of us also have to do point-to-point bridging on occasion. Even here, 900 MHz is generally considered a dated technology as we put in our fast licensed and unlicensed bridges that deliver hundreds of Mbps or even Gig speeds on really neat hardware that needs line of sight to work.

Wha? What was that last part?

“… on really neat hardware that needs line of sight to work.”

So what happens if you can’t get line of site? If you didn’t know better, you might just say “I cannot do this link, for I don’t have line of sight! Everyone knows ya gotta have line of site! I can’t do this!” But not all bridge links NEED blistering throughput and “carrier-grade” expensive hardware. There is some handy gear out there available for 900 MHz bridge links that can overcome many LOS challenges you’re likely to hit, and still provide a few dozen Mbps of throughput. Depending on your creativity and skills, you can also use of couple links in parallel to double your fun. 900 MHz will go through trees, small buildings, and can feel like magic compared to the more strict LOS-dependent characteristics of the higher frequencies.

Ubiquiti gear is among the more popular in this space, and this is the sort of use case that gets people excited. They don’t need gobs of throughput, but do need to get through obstacles.

Read a few of these testimonials (there is almost a cult following of sorts to some Ubiquiti hardware) and you can get the sense why 900 MHz is popular in agricultural settings, where there is distance to cover, trees and terrain changes are a fact of life, and where moderate throughput is better than no throughput when you want to link things up. I recently learned of a farm-specific hardware line from Ayrstone that includes infrastructure and in-vehicle components in what amounts to a really fascinating product set (yes, it based on Ubiquiti, but with proprietary firmware.) Ubiquiti isn’t the only player in 900 MHz kit, but they seem to be the most visible.

Your 900 MHz Mileage May Vary (and so might your noise floor)

Out in the boonies, 900 MHz has a fighting chance as a bridge solution given the lack of people who might have competing devices. Get near a population center, and things get more worrisome for 900 MHz hardware. There are lots of cordless telephones that use 900 MHz, and in the Amateur Radio world, 900 MHz is also known as the licensed 33cm band. Here you’ll find a mix of activities from voice to data and FM to sideband, and hams usually get to use a lot more power than unlicensed network equipment. There may be pagers and other unlicensed 900 MHz gadgets afoot as well.

If you need non-LOS bridging and don’t have contention for the spectrum from nearby devices, 900 MHz might be the slower-speed solution that works when the stuff that you’d rather use wont.

The Wirednot Year-Ending Drone Blog

It’s been a busy year for drone-related articles from your’s truly. But that’s only because there’s a lot to talk about- and it’s far from over as drone technology gains a bigger foothold in the practical world. In this piece, I’ll hit on a somewhat disjointed list of drone-related points, and then review what else we’ve looked at on the subject to date here at wirednot.

  • Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVShas been in the wireless tools/security game for a long time (they pre-date many of the bigger names in this space.)  The company is takng a page out of Fluke Networks’ playbook and describing how their Yellowjacket tool can help you track down an intruding drone and it’s operator. Check out the video:

  • Amazon  is demanding that the FAA accommodate the company’s desire to test drones for package delivery, under the threat of taking their efforts overseas. I don’t like Gizmodo’s characterization of Amazon as throwing a tantrum on the issue, but they do a decent job of telling the story here. (Hint for the FAA- Amazon may be researching more than package delivery- it would suck to see this kind of innovation and research leave the US.)

  • One company that is making a go at profitable use of drone technology is Aeryon Labs, Inc. With military, public safety, and commercial applications, Aeryon is a fascinating example of how drones can be used in a number of real-life use cases. Give their site a look and you’ll find your imagination getting quite piqued as you just know that this is just the start of bigger things for similar companies in the future.

  • One of my children is soon to graduate high school, and is considering going to college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (my own alma mater). What does this have to do with drones? It just so happens that ERAU has a major in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science. And when you graduate, there are jobs out there…

It should be obvious that the drone paradigm will continue to gain in both magnitude and dimension. There will certainly be more to talk about in the coming months, but here’s my drone year in review:

Network Computing Magazine

Drones- the Next WLAN Menace
Drones Take On Cell Tower Maintenance 

Wirednot

Fluke Networks Enables Drone-Centric Tower Operations
A Bit More About Drones, Wi-Fi, and Beyond

Others of Interest

Hak5 is doing a lot with drones
Adam Conway at Aerohive Networks is also doing a lot with drones

Am I the only one in the WLAN community thinking this is just fascinating tech to follow? Please let me know of any other IT-related or otherwise significant drone happenings.

Thanks for reading!

2014 WLAN in Review- A Different Perspective

I’ve done my share of  “year in review” articles for a number of magazines over my many years of writing. It’s healthy to look to back at the major trends, concerns, and technologies that have shaped our wireless world in 2014, and to contemplate  what’s ahead as we move toward the new year. In this blog, I’ll do the first part, and share with you topics that were on my own radar over the past several months.  I’ll leave the “looking ahead” exercise to others on this go round, but it’s pretty obvious that many of the following topics will stay important to all of us.

Rather than drone on in text, I thought I’d do this one a little differently. See how many of these were important to you this year, and please let me know what I forgot. Here we go…

11ac

Cloud Managed Wi-Fi

1 ap per

5 GHz

Airline

analytics

Field Day

iot

mirror

Monitize

Pineapple

public wifi

Social Wi-FI

stadium wifi

tools

training

unified

wlan pros

Yosemite

Untitled

blogs

design

engagement platform

point to point

WLAN management

No doubt there have been other topics to fill my time with over the past year, but these are the big ones. What about you? What kept you busy in 2014 that I didn’t mention here?

Some Gimmicks Get A Lot Further Than They Should

Man oh man, people can come up with really goofy shit sometimes when it comes to technology, wild claims, and the quest for big dollars. Let me give you two examples that will make your head spin a bit, especially if you know anything about wireless networking.

Bizarre Gimmick #1: LightSquared

We don’t really need all those GPS satellites to work, do we? This article I wrote for Network Computing in 2012 tells the tale of technical lunacy that, thankfully, seems to have failed hard. But it’s important to get familiar with LightSquared because the same FCC that let it gain far more traction than common sense dictates it should have is now considering another gazillion-dollar steaming pile of foolishness- which brings us to….

Bizarre Gimmick #2: TLPS (from the fine folks at Globalstar)

Just so all you misguided idiots out there doing WLAN for a living know: 5 GHz isn’t very good for Wi-Fi. The great hope lies with channel 14 in the 2.4 GHz band.

uh, right. Gimme some of what yer tokin’ there, Globalstar.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

I thought Kerrisdale Capital did a pretty good job making the case for why TLPS is a pie-in-the-sky wet dream, and put together a number of good, reasonably accurate summaries on contemporary wireless technology, like this one.

But Globalstar and friends are sticking to the premise that Kerrisdale, wireless experts, and pretty much the entire WLAN industry is clueless. (Hello, black kettle, said the pot.)

How long can Globalstar cling to it’s weird strategy when Wi-Fi industry bigwigs of impeccable credibility like Devin Akin also publicly voice crystal-clear skepticism about TLPS?

We’ll have to see where this one goes. But in a perfect world, the FCC would get a better handle early on when it comes to differentiating viable innovationfrom make-a-few-people-wealthy gimmickry.