Category Archives: Podcast

A Different Kind of Wireless Bridge, From AOptix

Just as the world of wireless client access has evolved over the last decade, so has the point-to-point bridging space. Though I don’t do a tremendous amount of bridging, I have done a couple of dozen production links using a variety of licensed and unlicensed technologies. And through the last several of years, I’ve absolutely marveled at the advances in point-to-point bridge hardware as pricing in this interesting space have come way down versus what you get for your dollar.

For me, bridging is really fun in that it reminds me a lot of amateur radio- with the rooftop/tower work, the need to select the right band for the application, and the importance of proper installation if you want communications with a far-off station to work right.

Before I get into the real point of the blog (a new bridge product), let’s take a quick detour. At both of this year’s Interop sessions in the US (Vegas and NYC), Kieth Parsons did an awesome presentation on extending the LAN with point to point bridging. If you missed it, you can find Keith’s slides, and almost all of the Interop NYC sessions, here. Don’t feel lonely if you don’t have point to point bridging experience; a recent survey I did of well over 300 WLAN professionals showed than more than half don’t do anything with bridging.


If you want to start learning about bridging, Kieth’s slides will likely kindle an interest and provide value.

Warning: Cool Technology Ahead

Back to why we’re here: the AOptix Intellimax product set, and in particular the MB2000. There are a number of impressive points related to this bridge:

  • 2 Gbps of throughput to 8 km (just about 5 miles) even in the worst weather. There is NO autorating, you always get 2 Gbps
  • Need more than 8 km? Daisy-chain ’em
  • Free-space optics are coupled with RF for dual-tech signalling that AOptix calls Composite Optical RF (COR)
  • When conditions are bad for one technology, the other picks up the slack automatically. AOptix calls this Advanced Wavelength Diversity, or AWD
  • The units are made to mount easily, and align in around 20 minutes, compliments of a feature called PAT (Point, Acquire, Track)
  • Beam-steering allows for up to 6 degrees total of tower/mast twist and flex (+/- 3 degrees)

There’s a lot to digest here, and it’s impressive. The free-space optics side of the MB2000 has a 120 mW license-free (worldwide) transceiver, while the RF side’s 80 mW works in 71-76 and 81-88 GHz spectrum. This means in countries like the US and UK, it’s “lightly licensed” in that you fill out paperwork, pay the fee, and you’re good for 10 years.

I was approached by AOptix’ PR folks wanting me to cover a deployment done in Mexico where the Intellimax supposedly did very well. I’m not a huge fan of case studies unless I can write about something I’ve been involved with first-hand, yet I find the AOptix story to be compelling enough to share here. I wasn’t provided with pricing information, but given that we’re talking “carrier grade” gear, expect it not to be priced like lower-capability bridges.

You can picture this sort of bridge being suitable in 4GE backhaul, military and public safety networks, large campuses, and a range of other applications.

Please have a listen to a quick podcast I put together on the topic as well.

I’d love to hear from any readers on whether they have experience with AOptix, or have found any other bridging solutions (low or high-end) that they like- or hate.

You Can’t Always Follow WLAN Best Practices

I remember back in the day, going to Cisco wireless school and then doing CWNA and CWSP, memorizing every best practice I could find. I was determined that, by golly, my wireless networks were going to be excellent because I would not compromise and do things less than perfect. When I trained staff on doing wireless in the early days, that same message of rigid compliance with best practices was a central theme.

And then somewhere along the line, reality set in.

I soon learned that interior designers that have been “highly empowered” may not give a rip about proper AP placement, and when they say “I don’t want to see ugly antennas” they mean it. And despite being pretty outspoken myself, you learn which arguments you can’t win in these situations.

Then there’s the specific client device that comes along and needs a legacy data rate re-enabled because of who it belongs to and the politics behind it.  Yes indeed- technical wisdom may well be sacrificed for politics in certain scenarios. Put another way: even when your personal standards of craftsmanship are high, sometimes you still find yourself “livin’ in the world”, and the examples in my mind are many after years and years of doing wireless.

I’m thrilled to be part of today’s vibrant, dynamic WLAN Designers/Admin community. From email lists to vendor support communities to social media, there are many ways for those of us who choose to engage to connect and share knowledge with our peers. Nobody knows it all, but collectively there is a staggering amount of experienced wisdom to tap into. Much of that wisdom gets dispensed in narrative that references wireless best practices, and Wi-Fi is sufficiently complex that the drum can’t be beat too often or too loud when it comes to “doing it right”.

But what happens when you can’t follow best practices?

Just as important to knowing and heeding design and installation best practices is developing the talent to know how to make the best of sub-optimal situations when they present themselves. There is a lot of talent afoot out there in this regard, too, but it can be harder to find publicly discussed.  This is no doubt in part because each deviation from a best practice likely has it’s own local circumstance behind it, but also probably has an element of hesitation on the part of wireless perfectionists to concede that occasionally they have to do something they’d rather not to make a given job successful. When you have an opportunity to swap stories on less-than-perfect wireless situations, there tends to be tremendous value in finding out how others overcame challenges that required best practices to be sacrificed.

In no way do I advocate that cutting corners is OK, or that crappy wireless work is acceptable. But as much as I relish the excellent banter that tends to flow among wireless professionals, I do get a bit weary of hearing things like “you should have done this” and “never do that” fired off a little too quickly by others that have never quite lived in the reality where the variance from the norm was required. But, such is the nature of communications between people who are passionate about what they do, and I don’t know of a more passionate group than those in the Wi-Fi world I am privileged to interact with.

I’m as firm in my commitment to doing it “by the book” as anyone, but also sympathize with those who sometimes have to sacrifice the higher end of the Wi-Fi performance curve to accommodate some organizational, technical, regulatory, or political whimsy.  Our reality is that the client device space is so fragmented that we are in the hole to begin with at times, and though everybody wants Wi-Fi they don’t always understand the realities of installing it and might inadvertantly derail a good install simply because they have the authority to do so. With this in mind, I recorded a quick podcast on the topic.


What do you think? Have you ever had to drift out of the Best Practice lane when designing or installing wireless?


Apple TV Without Bonjour? Thank you, Apple!

At long last, many an Enterprise WLAN admin can breathe a bit easier when users in their environments want to use Apple TVs.

It’s natural to wince at the thought of trying to make the Bonjour protocol fit in to network environments that it was never meant for, Finally, after twelve years of Bonjour, Apple is throwing us a bone on the latest versions of Apple TV code (caution-the Mac and iOS devices connecting to the TV need to be code-updated as well).

Here’s what the Apple Insider has to say on this excellent development.

Also, here’s the first ever Wirednot podcast (about 11 min), and while I tighten up the process I didn’t want to wait to say thanks to Apple, for all of the years I’ve been complaining about this topic.

Or download MP3 file.

Thanks for listening- and wondering if anyone else is impressed by the new Apple TV connection mechanism?