Mi-Fi Not Kind to Wi-Fi

Are you “that guy”? Do you take your Mi-Fi hotspot with you everywhere you go and light it up as if it were your constitutional right, regardless of your location? Do you treat your hotspot like an extension of your very being?

If so, I say to you…. “Grrrrrr.”

We live in an exciting New Age of Connectivity. The Internet- nay, entire worlds– are at our command from the palms of our hands. We are sailing the Good Ship Mobility on The BYOD Sea, and we have friendly wind. For those who need connectivity for work or play, life is good.

But isn’t everything in IT a study in paradox? Is there ever a free lunch?

BYOD and the consumerization of IT is not without collateral damage. One of the most irritating aspects of affordable, high-bandwidth portable devices is the wonderful, maddening Mi-Fi Hotspot. To rip off Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love:

It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
User meets Mi-Fi and they fall in love
But the spectrum’s haunted and the ride gets rough
And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above

The problem is that Mi-Fi devices are an addiction. Where we have no easy access to our own or decent public Wi-Fi, they are great. But users can’t keep ’em put away when they visit places where the Mi-Fi is not welcome. Worse, they leave them on (especially when your smartphone is the hotspot) and never disable them. And yes- they are rogue access points that violate most corporate wireless and network policies.

One popular Mi-Fi Hotpsot is the Novatel 2200. With a stated range of 30 feet, this little darling has the potential to be felt in multiple cells in a dense WLAN environment. As an added bonus, I frequently see Hotspot devices come up on channel 2 in the 2.4 GHz spectrum- which means your own channel 1 is toast, and your channel 6 is degraded if the environment is open enough to allow the Hotspot to share physical space with the business wireless network (you know, the same that is already fighting off the effects of microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, poorly-chosen cordless phones, wireless cameras,and a range of other devices).

Here’s a great review on another Hotspot, where the author found the range and wall-penetrating abilities of the Novatel 4510L to be surprisingly beefy. Again, great when you have no other network nearby, bad news for your wireless neighbors when you fire it up in the conference room of the company that you’re visiting rather than use their guest wireless service.

After watching the impact of these devices when a couple dozen of them pop up in a stadium packed with fans trying to use my state-of-the-art wireless system, I understand why the London Olympics tried (and why other venues continue to try) to police the use of personal Hotspots. Where a significant investment has been made to provide a carefully engineered WLAN for thousands of fans, a few personal hotspots can ruin wireless life for hundreds of fans and for venue operations that require wireless.

These popular devices certainly aren’t going away, but it would be wonderful if there were some etiquette training provided with their purchase.

And for Corn’s sake, why channel 2?

Again, grrrrr.

 

2 thoughts on “Mi-Fi Not Kind to Wi-Fi

  1. Pingback: Look Past Marriott To The Bigger Wi-Fi Issue | wirednot

  2. Pingback: Three Inconvenient Truths and Some Conspiracy Theory About the FCC’s Mi-Fi Enforcements | wirednot

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