160 MHz Wide Channels: Just the Tip of an Iceberg of WLAN Industry Dysfunction

What lies ahead in this blog isn’t so much a rant, as it is an analysis. That sounds classier, and implies critical thought rather than just someone bitching about things. With that in mind, I give you the following image, stolen from Matthew Seymour (on Twitter at @realmattseymour) and sourced from this year’s Aruba Atmosphere conference in Europe:

The topic of the slide is 802.11ax, but that is tangential to the points I want to make here. Read that first caveat- this requires the use of 160MHz channels, which is generally not possible or just not a good idea wow.

I’m not sure who actually presented this session, but I’m assuming it is a trusted voice from a trusted company- Aruba folks generally know their stuff (as evidenced by their growing customer base and industry longevity). When I saw this come across Twitter, something in my mind clicked and this simple thought bubbled up:

Why does the WLAN industry do this idiotic shit to itself?

When I say the WLAN industry, I’m including the IEEE, the Wi-Fi Alliance, and the vendors that provide the hardware and the marketing of wireless networking products. Let me state the underlying problem as clearly as I can: the IEEE creates the 802.11 standards, and since 802.11n each standard has had a nonsensical top end- you simply cannot reach the high part of the spec. Evuh. The Wi-Fi Alliance does nothing to bring any sanity to the situation, and WLAN vendors build in configuration options with high-end settings that actually do WLAN operational damage and so let us create operational situations that are…

just not a good idea

Has anyone TOLD the IEEE that no one is really impressed with the promise of high end specs that can’t actually be leveraged? That it’s all a big stupid tease? Got some bait-and-switch going on here… The entire professional WLAN community knows that 160 MHz channels are…

just not a good idea

So why do WLAN vendors present 160 as an option in the UI? Why don’t the Wi-Fi Alliance and the vendor community repaint their messaging with reality-based promises of what each new WLAN technology can do? Wi-Fi 6 will STILL be impressive- but market it as if 160 MHz channels don’t exist- and watch the Sun of Truth rise over the wireless landscape (can I get a witness?).

I’m guessing some of you are thinking “you idiot, the FCC is going to give us more spectrum and then we’ll be rockin’ 160 for sure”. To that I say- pffft. I’ll believe it when I see it- and even then the ability to toggle 160- to even see it in configs- should not be a default.

The argument might also be made that “Maybe people AT HOME can use 160 MHz channels so you should shut up about it already”. Don’t go there, girlfriend. That only amplifies my beef with the Wi-Fi Alliance members who refuse to draw a clean line between Enterprise Grade gear and Wonky Shit That Plays Well at Home But Shouldn’t Be Dragged Into The Enterprise environment.

And that loops us back to the “tip of the iceberg” thing- and a couple more examples of general industry dysfunction. We have cheap printers that come up in default 40 MHz wide channels in 2.4 GHz, which also is…

just not a good idea

And an industry-wide trend where pretty much most 5 GHz gear comes up with 80 MHz channels enabled. Which also happens to be…

just not a good idea

We’re at an odd place where all the players involved are obviously aware of all the things that are

just not a good idea

yet they MARKET bad ideas and then we have to explain to those we support why we can’t really USE those bad ideas which have been marketed to us.

We kinda need our collective wireless head examined. Thus ends my analysis. 

6 thoughts on “160 MHz Wide Channels: Just the Tip of an Iceberg of WLAN Industry Dysfunction

  1. Frank Sweetser

    And in case this isn’t wacky enough, there’s 802.11be (WiFi-7 for you marketing folks), which hopes to stretch out into the 6GHz bands. 320 MHz channel width, anyone?

    Reply
    1. John Steely

      Stop the insanity!!! I’d rather have fast and reliable service for the masses, as opposed to faster-than-you-probably-need speed for three clients within sightline and spitting distance of the AP. Even 160MHz channels for backhaul poses the risk of channel interference for any adjacent service. Just say ,”NO!”.

      Reply
  2. Matthew Seymour

    Anything that requires the technology folks to spend time explaining to management folks why they can’t have the thing sales have told them they can have….. is just not a good idea.
    The problem for those in the WiFi industry is arguably competing technology (actually I don’t think it is or ought to be) from the 5G crowd making similarly impossible claims for their next gen roll out. It’s hard to be truthful when nobody else is because that just makes you look bad. Then again, selling someone on a basis that can’t be delivered has rarely worked out well.

    Reply
  3. Jim's Wireless World

    Had this conversation yesterday with my local sales guy. We both agree that marketing from one company causes the others to respond, and then they have to one up the other, and then they can’t stand for that so they need to one up the other. It’s like I remember seeing an animated short film around this subject a while back. Totally agree with you, the IEEE needs to step in and cap this nonsense, but then the IEEE won’t be able to market itself as hip and cool…

    Reply

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