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After enjoying the use of high speed Internet connectivity at the Admiral’s Club, Starbucks, or maybe the local Subway sandwich shop, it is very easy to get spoiled. The more often we find connectivity, the more we expect it at other places. Fortunately, innovation is alive and well in the WiFi space. Two recent developments portend where things are going.
Rockefeller Center announced recently that it would be increasing cell phone coverage for the tens of thousands of people who visit the center’s shops and restaurants every day. There are a number of companies such as RadioFrame Networks and InnerWireless that specialize in equipment and services for improved indoor cellular coverage. Building owners need coverage inside to improve their competitiveness with other properties and to increase tenants and visitors satisfaction by providing the wireless communications amenities they expect.
The RadioFrame System claims that it offers unsurpassed call quality and capacity with seamless 2-way service with the outdoor network. They also claim to be the first indoor wireless system to converge wireless voice and wireless 802.11b WLAN (WiFi). One RadioFrame System can cover up to 2 million square feet with 4,000 users. Customers can use their mobile phones, wireless-equipped PCs, and PDAs indoors on the same system. It is pretty clear that systems like this are going to become a competitive advantage for building owners.
Private buildings and improved cell phone coverage are the tip of the iceberg. According to ZDNet, five metropolitan areas, including New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, have cellular networks inside some or all of their rapid transit systems. Since the technology is being combined for efficiency reasons, WiFi will get dragged into every building where the cell phone coverage gets improved.
Meanwhile, outdoor WiFi is going through some new expansion too. ZDNet has reported that communications equipment maker Proxim became the latest company to sell high-powered WiFi networks that travel long distances. By creating a WiFi wireless zone of up to 12 miles long — compared to the normal 300-foot range — buyers of the new systems can setup themselves up as a wireless Internet service provider (WISP). This could be a boon for rural areas where DSL and broadband cable service will not likely be seen for a very long time. With Proxim’s new technology we can expect to see installations on mountain tops around the world — beaming Internet connectivity into the valleys below. A WSIP in Colorado has patented equipment that enables them to put WiFi on utility poles.
Existing players, numerous startups and industry giant Intel are getting very focused on WiFi. Numerous technologies are being exploited. So far we have WiFi on buildings, in buildings, on utility poles, and on mountain tops. The last mile is breaking down and with the help of WiFi we are on the way toward 1 billion people on the Internet. The next billion after that will come even faster.