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Wireless Networking Businesses Communications Hardware

The Assassination of Wi-Fi 258

justelite writes "John C. Dvorak from PC Magazine has up an article looking at the new strategy of American cell-phone-service companies. From article: 'There is mounting evidence that the cellular service companies are going to do whatever they can to kill Wi-Fi. After all, it is a huge long-term threat to them. We've seen that the route to success in America today is via public gullibility and general ignorance. And these cell-phone-service companies are no dummies.'"
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The Assassination of Wi-Fi

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  • How appropriate... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:39PM (#18231232) Homepage Journal
    I got "Nothing to see here. Move along".
  • Next week: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:42PM (#18231272)
    ... how the purveyors of bottled water would like to see kitchen sinks banned.
  • But... it's Dvorak (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IceCreamGuy ( 904648 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:43PM (#18231282) Homepage
    If pretty much anyone else said this, I might take it seriously, however, it's coming from John C. Dvorak.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:44PM (#18231292)
    The range is ridiculous or requires big antennas, there is no handover mechanism that keeps connections, not even with hiccups, the total alotted bandwidth is a joke and in a band which is used by many other applications, including TV transmitters which use the whole available band. It's a completely different product.
  • by ehack ( 115197 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:45PM (#18231296) Journal
    By definition, PEOPLE alect muicipal governments. If they want wifi they can ask for it. If they're too dumb to ask for it, they're too dumb to deserve it. Same goes for sewers and drinkable water.

  • by agntvbb ( 1071702 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:56PM (#18231402)
    ...Like GM killing the municipal trolley systems of the 50s. The idea that business can provide a "more efficient" delivery of some product is often total and complete BS.
  • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:57PM (#18231416) Homepage

    I got "Nothing to see here. Move along".

    Sounds about fair. Summary makes the article sound interesting. In reality, it says that WiFi is going to kick the mobile phone networks' asses in the near future, they might not like this, and it suggests vaguely that they might buy some politicians and run some misleading ads. That's it; there's no revealing of any great conspiracy or anything.
  • by phoenixwade ( 997892 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @07:58PM (#18231432)
    I'm not convinced that the big, evil cell phone companys are really trying to kill WiFi. Nor do I think they will. But if the author does, where are the examples. Where is the smoking gun that some cell phone company or other has petitioned a municipality to kill the free WiFi in the community? An add that only shows that Sprint is trying to sell their product?

      In all honesty, I think the author is having a slow news day and doesn't have anything else to whine (sorry, write) about. But then, I've not been a fan of his work for quite a while, and whining grates on my nerves.

  • by 1point618 ( 919730 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:00PM (#18231468)
    He himself admitted to using "dubious facts" in trying to prove his case... which is why I've tagged this article with "dubiousfacts" and read the rest of it after he said that with a grain of salt. He made huge generalizations about how people see the internet that I've never seen, and he himself is confusing the difference between the web and the internet.
  • by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:05PM (#18231524) Homepage Journal
    Municpal governments don't provide food, yet the grocery stores are full. They don't provide clothing, yet I'm wearing a shirt. And unless you're homeless and it's a cold night, they don't provide shelter. Yet here I am with a roof over my head. Food, clothing and shelter are FAR more necessary to my well being than wifi, yet the market manages to provide those necessities to me without the help of municipal government.

    For some classes of products, such as sewers and drinkable water, it may make sense to put your local conniving pocket-lining councilman in charge. But I'm far from convinced that wifi falls under that category.
  • Alrighty... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by feepness ( 543479 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:09PM (#18231568) Homepage
    We've seen that the route to success in America today is via public gullibility and general ignorance.

    How do we mark the summary as a troll?

    I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but come on.
  • by gomiam ( 587421 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:09PM (#18231570)
    Parental warning: sarcasm ahead.

    The range is ridiculous or requires big antennas,...

    Range? Do you really think there's no cell tower at less than 100m from you? In San Francisco? Let me doubt it. Never mind these pesky new protocols (WiMax, for example, even if it's a braindead specification) who allow you to connect from kilometres away. On the antenna subject, a bigger antenna doesn't equal better reception.

    ...there is no handover mechanism that keeps connections...

    ...which must explain why I can keep my connections at the Faculty I work at while I walk about checking computers. Yeah, it must be a bitch having no handover there. Not to mention that IPv6 supports roaming, too.

    ...the total alotted bandwidth is a joke...

    ...compared to the humongous bandwidth [wikipedia.org] (2Mbps for stationary systems, wow!) you get with 3G (well, you may get 3Mbps or a bit better with 3.5G).

    ... and in a band which is used by many other applications, including TV transmitters which use the whole available band.

    Transmitters that, as we all know, cover every WiFi signal in... ten meters around, since they are usually inside houses?

    It's a completely different product.

    Which explains why 3G works on top of IPv6. Yeah, it must be a completely different product: it provides the same service, uses the same technology. The only difference is the frequency range: 3G works on the 5GHz band (which requires almost line of sight to work, so there goes your complaint about range).

    Next time, please document yourself beforehand. It doesn't matter your being moderated Insightful when your post if actually off base.

  • Wow: harsh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EMB Numbers ( 934125 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:10PM (#18231574)
    When you say "if they're too dumb to ask for it, they're too dumb to deserve it. Same goes for sewers and drinkable water" I have very mixed feelings.

    Most western Europeans didn't ask for sewers and drinkable water; they had them foisted upon them at tax payer expense in the mid 19th century. That is certainly true of the first modern large scale sewer system which was built in London. "The transcript traces more than 250 years of human misery, due largely to ignorance of the hazards of poor sanitation. Citizens, physicians, politicians, inventors and police provided vivid horror stories of 'miasmas, plagues and sudden death" in the homes of London.'" http://swopnet.com/engr/londonsewers/londontext1.h tml [swopnet.com]

    Ignorance is deadly but curable. Ignorance about the importance of sewers and drinkable water may seem inconceivable to many of us, but such ignorance in rampant around the world.

    When I watch documentaries about poor ghettos in latin America, inevitably there are toddlers playing in open cesspools and teenagers standing around unemployed, uneducated, and idle. I see that and wonder why the teenagers aren't put to work digging sewers or at least keeping toddlers out of them. For the price of the cigarettes the teenagers smoke, children could be fed and sewers built and clean water supplies maintained. I always think to myself that people who prioritize cigarettes over sewers get what they deserve just like people generally get the government they deserve.

    But then I am more charitable and assume that people live in horrid conditions because of ignorance. Ignorance causes poverty and death.

    There was a documentary (I think on 20/20) about hunger in the U.S.A. A father was being interviewed and he explained that toward the end of the month, there is no bread left and the children have to go hungry for days. During the interview, the father was standing in front of his satellite dish and smoking. For the price of one pack of cigarettes, the children could have eaten basic stables like bread, potatoes, and canned vegetables for several days. For the price of the satellite dish and its likely monthly subscription, the children could have been clothed and fed.

    I couldn't help thinking that the father's priorities were a little skewed and sad.

  • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:15PM (#18231626) Homepage
    ...Like GM killing the municipal trolley systems of the 50s. The idea that business can provide a "more efficient" delivery of some product is often total and complete BS.

    You're right. Government has too much power available for business to come in and take advantage of.
  • Re:Security. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:36PM (#18231860) Homepage Journal
    That aside, the article is off-base in my opinion. WiFi seems more likely to become a boost to cellular usage - expanding networks and lowering costs for providers. (IE: They combine their cellular service to work with WiFi VOIP - when a customer is in WiFi range, calls go over cheaper VOIP - when no WiFi is available it goes cellular.)

    How do you price it? If I have a WiFi capable device loaded with VOIP software that I connect either via my own, or an open access point to someone else using a similar setup, there is no reasonable way for carriers to extort money from me. The do not control the network and they do not control my use of it. That is what scares the shit out of them. There is no way out for them except for forcing manufacturers to not add WiFi support to their devices. Which is the exact strategy the carriers by large are using. So far it has worked because manufacturers are wholly dependent on carriers to sell their phones.
  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:41PM (#18231902)
    The commonly-available "LINKSYS" Wi-Fi service won't be going away any time soon.
  • I remember well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:48PM (#18231978)
    ...same as when they killed CB radio. My response then is the same now - 300 watts of cold steel Palomar SSB amplifier.
  • Where's the beef? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:49PM (#18231980)
    So, "There is mounting evidence that the cellular service companies are going to do whatever they can to kill Wi-Fi." What evidence, where? No mention of any such evidence in the article, just some business analysis.
  • by toonerh ( 518351 ) * on Sunday March 04, 2007 @08:57PM (#18232044)
    The article's title is the "Killing of WiFi" and there not one word about how the telco's are going to do it. Jam the 2.4 GHz ISM band? Sue cities that offer free WiFi? Get the Congress to ban free WiFi?
  • Re:Security. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:20PM (#18232250)
    'prime' spectrum for experimental devices and allow those devices to use the same power as cell phone networks

    With conventional technology that will only get you a screamfest where the devices can't understand one another among the devices which are screaming at some other device (i.e. interference). Sharing a frequency over a big area, without central control, is beyond the reach of currently available consumer technology.
  • by quanticle ( 843097 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:21PM (#18232266) Homepage
    "If I do trust it's legit, do I trust the people running it to not make critical mistakes that could compromise my data?"

    I can ask the same of whatever data network the cell phone companies provide. What's their standard on encryption, authentication and other security matters?

    Question for you: If you're that concerned about security, why don't use you a VPN or a SSH tunnel?
  • I am thoroughly convinced by the existing WiFi infrastructure. Right now if I want complete coverage over the city I either have to spring for some stupid WiMax garbage with awful bandwidth and a highly centralized provider, or I have to pay umpteen million different little fees to get access in this place or that palce. Airports are the absolute worst for this BTW.

    This is not a workable situation that will lead anywhere that's good for the consumer in the long run.

    I've come to the conclusion that the natural monopoly (basically all the lines in the ground) should be owned by the municipality and it should rent it to whatever providers want to route people's traffic. And it should be rented on a house-by-house basis. Every house should get to decide who routes their traffic.

    I think something similar is appropriate for municipal WiFi. I want to pay only one fee for the stupid service, and I want it to work everywhere. The current situation will never devolve into that. Instead it will become increasingly balkanized as every provider tries harder and harder to capture ever tiny last drop of revenue that can be extracted.

  • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:28PM (#18232318)
    From what I recall, they generally sue the city and/or run smear campaigns when possible. Basically, anything goes. It's probably illegal to jam wifi directly, but what about a bunch of WAPs that don't go anywhere?
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:31PM (#18232342)
    I only wish Dvorak were right... it would mean WiFi is a viable threat to cellphone companies. I hate US cell service to the point that I don't have a cellphone. They seem diametrically opposed to the very idea of the Internet - provide a data link and the applications will follow. For some reason people who would never think of paying per email happily pay per SMS (which is email), and pay several dollars for a ringtone. And since cellphones are so useful and therefore profitable, the current companies and their crappy policies will never get out of the way for better ones.
  • by mmurphy000 ( 556983 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:31PM (#18232350)

    Citizens in many municipalities have much more competition for the goods and services you cite (food, clothing, shelter) than they do broadband Internet access. Moreover, in many municipalities, the rules that govern competition in broadband are natural (e.g., only so much fiber in available rights-of-way) or are set by larger political entities (e.g., state telecommunications regulatory commissions).

    So, when you say:

    yet the market manages to provide those necessities to me without the help of municipal government

    please understand that "the market" works best for a municipality's citizens when it is not a natural or artificial monopoly.

    In markets where there is inadequate competition, it's well within reason for a municipality to do something to provide better options for its citizens. That could be municipal broadband. That could be attaching riders to franchise agreement renewals with cable or phone providers to open up the market more (for municipalities that get to negotiate their own franchise agreements). That could be endorsing the actions of a non-profit that brings in a competitive broadband solution. Or who knows what else.

    Conversely, if there's adequate competition, a municipality shouldn't need to bother, beyond perhaps offering WiFi in public buildings, parks, etc.

  • by baldass_newbie ( 136609 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:41PM (#18232424) Homepage Journal

    There are two kinds of readers in the world. Those who hate Dvorak's writings, and those who haven't read his writings, yet.

    Amen to that. From the summary:

    We've seen that the route to success in America today is via public gullibility and general ignorance.

    Who epitomizes that better than Dvorak?
  • by Ontology42 ( 964454 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:44PM (#18232450)

    1. It's poorly written

    2. PC Magazine does not hold any status for me, hence the kilo of salt is still burning in my belly.

    Now, let's take a look at the general populace, and wifi as a whole. Cellular cards have to be bought and paid for over and above the laptop. Pretty much any laptop out today has an 802.11a/b/g chipset built into it and all versions of microsoft windows, be it XP or Vista will ask you if you want to "connect" to a public wireless network. so much so that it's considered a security risk by most companies.

    Enter 3.5G and 4G. I'm no pundit but i've been in this industry long enough to see a failing standard a mile out, yes cell networks are liscenced, expensive and slow when compared with 802.11. Bell in Canada is rolling out 802.11 AP's on thier public phones. The cost of licensing the bands for 3.5G and 4G from the FCC and the CRTC in put the implementation of these networks into the billions. Where as a good metropolitan wifi implemenation will cost you back a few million.

    It's called pervasive availability, and John needs to understand that people may be "STUPD" on a whole but he really should take his head out of his behind. if you have 3000+ laptops at any given moment and somones standing in a public area using it and they do not have a cellular card because they are "STUPID" they will proabaly notice the whole "Wifi" notice in XP when they sit in a coffee shop and start writeing, or when they are in a park outside.

    EV-DO, EDGE and all those other toys require pre-requisite knoledge, ie: the client has to go out and become aware of these technologies before they can use them, they only compete where you have somone that flys a LOT.

    My opinion shouldn't count as I am known to play with all the wireless networks I can find, and given the opportunity I'll use the 802.11. I guess i'm not stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 04, 2007 @09:56PM (#18232542)
    Dvorak is more of the lay-man informer than the god of all things technical.

    He's doing something for people, informing them, but he's just not doing anything for us - the nerds. So, this post really doesn't fit on slashdot. Since it isn't for nerds and it doesn't matter.

    Just my two cents.
  • by toygar.ozturk ( 1058208 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @10:59PM (#18233100)

    4 years ago, my professor for personal mobile communications class said wi-fi and cellular complements each other. It was his first year at school after 5-6 years of experience in one of the biggest cellular (hardware) companies. Later, he corrected himself by saying both sides are trying to kill each-other: cellular is trying to provide higher data rates (and hence WCDMA etc.) and wi-fi is trying to incorporate mobility and hand-off which are essential for voice communications (and hence WiMAX, IEEE 802.20 etc.). I believe at some point both will merge if the IP rights issues could be solved.

    Competition is always good for both end user and for engineers (and engineers to be like myself).

  • by dodongo ( 412749 ) <chucksmith@alumni.pu r d ue.edu> on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:05PM (#18233136) Homepage
    My comment was simply addressing the idea that the market provisioned great-grandparent with basic necessities. The anthropomorphization of 'the market' and the attribution of virtuous traits to it like 'benevolent' (i.e., 'benevolent hand') automatically predisposition the discourse toward giving the market the benefit of the doubt and not thinking critically about what it, and the actors within, are actually doing, how it actually affects people, etc. This is why I reacted with such stridency to the idea that the market had somehow given him clothes, housing and shelter. At the very least, the market provided him access to those because he was willing and able to pay. So let's be clear that, just like a cheap hooker, the benevolence of the market stops when the money and coke dry up.

    These things are mostly beside the point, the GP post meant that the government did not do anything specific for any of these things, and for most people they have been provided better than any government plan has ever done.

    Just as long as you recognize there are lots of people for whom 'the market' has done jack, left out in the cold, or even worse, downright exploited, in some of the most awful and unethical ways imaginable. Now, it's important to separate provisioning of necessities, which GGP was talking about, and luxuries which, for most people, net access, especially WiFi, still is one.

    Govenrment is often the worst solution, can you prove that this is not the case for Wi-Fi?

    Proof is beside the point. What you need is evidence in favor of or contradicting a falsifiable hypothesis. The hypothesis here is that municipalities are better suited to providing broadband internet access to citizens than utilities. The utilities necessarily enable wireless access, at this point, over more-or-less monopolized right-of-ways. This does not bode well for the market reaching optimal solutions.

    Furthermore, national market penetration for broadband net access altogether, let alone WiFi, is abysmally low in the US. Given that billions of dollars in subsidies have been given to telecom companies with assurances that broadband penetration would reach levels substantially higher than we have seen as a result, it does not seem that a privatized system using 'public' utilities in this particular market segment is a beneficial one.

    However, one solution for wider Wi-Fi broadband deployment may involve municipalities negotiating with backbone providers for bandwidth rates, to be distributed over the Wi-Fi grid in their cities which could be installed and maintained, again by private companies. The issue isn't necessarily that there needs to be a governmental solution, but that huge private companies are moving to protect their profits by stifling innovation. By further diversifying the internet architecture, and taking it off of the exclusive right-of-ways the federal government gave billions of dollars to have improved by private companies who screwed the pooch, those companies are actually risking real retribution.

    I'm neither saying the government nor the market are the best solution, and I think it's silly to look at the two as a dichotomy.
  • by drmerope ( 771119 ) on Sunday March 04, 2007 @11:27PM (#18233306)
    complicated pricing.

    Bingo. The real problem with cell-phone data service is the ridiculous pricing regime. 10 cents for a 160 character text message? Get real. Lets suppose for a moment that audio consumes 10kbps and its latency sensitive. One minute retails for 30 cents... 10k*60/8b... you get the picture. Data rates are out of this world, disconnected from reality. That's the real story.

  • Re:Security. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stewie241 ( 1035724 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:43AM (#18233838)
    Although there's the problem for bandwidth (think baud) of being inversely proportional to frequency (the lower the freqency the longer the range but the less Mbytes/second you get), there are some techniques to overcome this and which the cell phone companies themselves use.

    This doesn't make sense. If bandwidth was inversely proportional to frequency, then the lower the frequency the more MBytes/sec you would get. But bandwidth and frequency are actually two separate issues. The frequency refers to the carrier frequency. In case of 802.11, it is 2.4GHz or 5.8Ghz. Cell phones here in Canada use 800 and 1900 MHz (I think). But these numbers have nothing to do with bandwidth. The bandwidth is determined by how wide the channel is that is centred around that frequency. Take FM Radio for example. Stations are set 200 KHz apart, so you have say 98.3MHz, 98.5Mhz, etc... That means that each station has 200 KHz of bandwidth. Bandwidth does not vary with carrier frequency.

    If I had the 800MHz frequency and 20MHz of bandwidth, that would mean that I would actually be using the frequencies from 790MHz to 810MHz.
  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @12:51AM (#18233878) Homepage
    So any government representatives that sold off the spectrum to the highest should be taken out the back and quietly put out of our misery. Why the hell the didn't auction it upon the basis of who would provide the cheapest service to the public, oh wait, I know the answer to that, GREED.
  • me without the help of municipal government.

    Roads, Police, Electricity, Hydro, Banking protections, credit card protections. Need I go on... Try again dude.

    Are these libertarians starting to bother anyone else?
  • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Monday March 05, 2007 @04:44PM (#18241864)
    The air and water are public resources. Privatization of them is not a good thing, if you can't accept that stop reading and please shoot yourself now.

    Sewers must use common pipes for many reasons, water as well. This requires a "neutral" area of land for interconnections. Nearly all roads are a public resource (well, the land is.) Typically, the pipes run on the land the roads also do. Depending on the wisdom & corruption of your local government determines how well it is managed.

    Using the SAME LOGIC we regulate radio waves. Its a public resource and its quite limited. The FCC is doing a poor job managing OUR air waves. Cell phone companies are wasting good bandwidth with this so called "wonderful" competition. It would be better to force them to share a wide band, which would necessitate some sort of industry standard. Its not necessary to mandate specifics, but if competent at it, I see no reason why not to do so as well.

    Its under this direction of management that it begins to make sense to have local governments setup more; depending on how much accessibility you want.

    Given how bad cell phones and ISPs are today, I can't see how a somewhat corrupt government can't beat them.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan