WiFi vs. CB Radio

This is not the first time we’ve heard WiFi being compared to CB radios, but usually it’s used that way to describe a “fad,” something we do not think WiFi is (at all!). However, Andrew Seybold’s latest opinion piece notes some of the reasons why WiFi isn’t well-designed for wide area coverage, and points to the overcrowding of the old citizen’s band radio and suggests that WiFi is increasingly facing interference and overcrowding issues. While he does overstate the case a bit, it is a problem — and it’s one we’ve been talking about for quite some time. WiFi is a local-area technology. And, while people have done amazing things to stretch it over distances, its weaknesses become clear pretty quickly — which is why we don’t think all the hype about muni WiFi is justified. We think that city governments should be able to offer muni access (so we disagree — vehemently at times — with the crowd that is trying to block all muni broadband). However, it’s not clear why everyone is so focused on WiFi as the technology of choice. The technology limitations are an issue and alternatives that really are designed for wide areas are increasingly available. Derek adds: Interesting, too, to listen to the IT Directors of these municipalities who reply to these issues with “Well, we’ll switch to WiMAX when available to solve those problems.” But WiMAX on unlicensed has some of the same issues, and isn’t that policy a bit like throwing yourself at a dragon, and then hoping a Prince Charming will come soon and save you? Can you imagine launching a business on the hopes that some future technology, which PR people promise is coming, will someday arrive (exactly as promised) and make your business case work? Update A lot of people are criticizing Andy “Seybolt’s” (sic) comparison of WiFi and CB, but in many ways I agree. Have a look at this firmware for Linksys routers written by SVEASoft, which boosts the WiFi output 900% (as in: easily over the legal limit). Match that with directional antennae, and you can get even further over the dBi legal limits for 2.4GHz. People are jacking up the power of their WiFi, and there will be more interference to come.

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