WiFi-Gate

Speaking of not meeting the objectives. I’ve learned a few
things about setting-up and using a wireless network. The first
thing nobody tells you is if you are using 802.11b or 802.11g
(by far, the two most popular and both operating in the 2.4 GHz
band), you have a maximum of three channels to use (1, 6 or 11
in the US). These channels are not supposed interfere with each
other so you should be able to get a good connection if any one
of the three is available.

But if you live in an area with access points already using
those channels, which I do (there are four, including my own),
you will not be able to use your network at all or at the most,
intermittently. I don’t want to point fingers at anyone but
this seems to fall on the lack of planning on the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) who developed the
standards.

Surely it was obvious that three channels would not be
enough. Surely it was obvious that a way of working around this
would be needed. Surely Hawaii is not the most connected places
in the world so I’m not alone in having so many hotspots near
me. Surely the press needs to report these problems because
they are doing a great disservice to the growing number of
people who buy this hardware, only to find it doesn’t work.

Indeed, with the coming of non-compliant “turbo” modes that
bind two channels to get more bandwidth, it’s
getting even harder to get an open channel to use. Further, it
will only get worse as more and more people buy these systems
(turbo or not).

The temporary solution is to move to 802.11a. Strangely, as
the numbering systems works, 802.11a runs at a higher
frequency, 5 GHz, and has 12 independent
channels
(rather than 802.11b or g which has only
three) to work with. The problem is very few companies are
producing 802.11a compliant hardware. And those that do aren’t
exactly spending a lot of money keeping their chipsets
up-to-date (Atheros, one of the
big players in chipsets, introduced their third-generation in
May of 2003. To date, according to a search on the Atheros
site, only Sony is using it in their access points).

So, in the short run, if you live where interference is
keeping you from using your wireless LAN, switch to 802.11a. But
unless something better comes along, even 802.11a will become
crowded. At that point, I don’t know what else can be done.

Aloha!

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