[802SEC] Bad press Re: pre-std "g" equipment
IEEE, and by association 802, is getting tarred with the same brush from
this 802.11g fiasco.
> New wireless 11g 'standard' ends in tears
> By Guy Kewney, Newswireless.net
> Posted: 10/02/2003 at 08:43 GMT
> It is nearly a year since NewsWireless Net warned of the disasters
> looming if American wireless manufacturers went ahead with 802.11g -
> the go-faster WiFi standard. Now, we hear of incompatibility problems
> between rival 11g products - discovered in "secret" testing sessions.
> Are we really supposed to be surprised?
> You can, today, buy an 802.11g (pre-standard) device. This story was
> written on a PC connected over a Linksys WRT54G "Wireless-G"
> broadband router. It really is running at 54 megabits a second,
> giving a pretty good working approximation of 20 megabits per second
> throughput. And, the good news: it will work fine with my old WiFi
> cards on the 11b standard too, even though it slows down to 11
> megabits (5 megabits throughput) to do so.
> So why is this bad news? The answer is that since it works, in a
> one-off situation like this, people will, quite naturally, buy it.
> And then, the fun will begin; because there's no guarantee of
> compatibility with other 11 "pre-g" standards.
> It was Nick Hunn, managing director of TDK Grey Cell, who first
> pointed out that there were serious problems with the idea of rolling
> out a 50 megabit version of the normal WiFi LAN technology, back in
> May last year.
> Now, the WiFi Alliance has been forced to act as rival 50 megabit
> wireless systems have been launched on the market - without even the
> benefit of a finally agreed IEEE standard to conform to, and with no
> compatibility testing between the rivals, either.
> As predicted, the result is a monumental cockup.
> A scale of the disaster is the giveaway quote by Broadcom's Jeff
> Abramowitz, senior director of wireless LAN marketing: "Manufacturers
> understand what interoperability means to them, and they are moving
> in that direction."
> This statement says, as honestly as you could ask for from a man
> speaking under NDA, that we aren't there yet.
> Abramowitz can't say "they don't interwork" even though he may know
> for sure which ones cause the problems. He's not allowed to, because
> the tests where this bad news was established are secret. WiFi
> specialist site, Unstrung, reports: "Fueling industry anxiety is the
> fact that the results of the first interoperability trials, sponsored
> by the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab, won't be
> made public." Not only will they not be made public, but the people
> who attended them have actually been obliged to sign a non-disclosure
> agreement saying that they may not discuss them.
> There would be no need to make the results secret if they all showed
> Today, Nick Hunn responded angrily: "In my belief, 'standard' means
> something that everyone adheres to for the common good. Within the
> IEEE, former home of engineering, but now merely court jester to
> vested interest, standard seems to mean 'I'm already shipping it -
> look how big my wallet is,' or something very similar."
> Hunn believes that the 11g concept is redundant, and should never
> have been developed. "I've already said that .11g is a bastard
> concept - it should have been put down eighteen months ago, but the
> chip vendors can't take the medicine of having to throw away their
> competing development," he commented. "As regards interoperability,
> at least the standard has taken a leaf out of the Hitchhiker's Guide
> to the Galaxy and comes with the comforting phrase "These are working
> drafts. Do not build product" on the front cover."
> Our own tests here at NewsWireless Net have been hampered by samples
> which worked poorly. One vendor shipped faulty 54g equipment for
> review, and we found that not only was the signal indecipherable by
> an 802.11b adapter, but it was also jumbled when the mobile units
> moved more than 20 feet away. A replacement unit shipped two weeks
> later works correctly.
> However, from reports leaking out of the New Hampshire University
> tests, it's clear that there have indeed been 54g and rival chip sets
> which did not work correctly with 11b "legacy" network equipment.
> It isn't a trivial matter. To some, it will seem trivial, of course.
> They have PC notebooks with plug-in PC card adapters. Throw away the
> old 11b adapter, plug in the new 54g or alternative, and you're back
> online, four times faster - where's the downside, apart from the
> upgrade price?
> But to many, there is a different problem; they have notebooks or
> pocket PCs or other devices which have the WiFi wireless built in.
> Many PC makers have already started shipping dual standard PCs, with
> 11b and 11a, not 11g, built in. They will perhaps be able to plug a
> new adapter card in, but the support costs for a corporate user of
> wireless are going to be substantial.
> The other problem is that while 11b and 11g are supposed to be
> compatible, that comes at a cost. The cost is speed. As long as there
> is an old legacy 11b unit broadcasting packets, the 11g devices will
> have to switch mode to 11b, and run at a maximum of 11 megabits.
> Some fear that manufacturers will deal with this the cruel way; they
> will simply make 11g units that go diplomatically deaf when an 11b
> card walks into the room, and ignore it. Hints from the test
> laboratory suggest this has already happened.
> Back in May last year, we quoted Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds
> saying: "Think of the wireless spectrum as a three-lane highway in
> which all drivers are required to change lanes every 10 seconds - not
> so bad when the roads are empty, but a probable disaster when traffic
> mounts. The ruling makes life easier for designers of devices
> supporting multiple protocols."
> The biggest loser, here, is almost certainly the WiFi Alliance, which
> was the watchdog that ran away in the night when it saw the burglar.
> The Alliance made its reputation by insisting that only compatible
> equipment could carry the WiFi logo. It organised tests where
> compatbility was assured, and issued accreditation, and the result
> was a wireless industry where wireless adapters became commodities,
> and you could pick the cheapest.
> This didn't suit the manufacturers. They like the idea of "winning
> big" - of being the guy who sets the standard. They want to be first
> out the door, forcing everybody else to follow in their footsteps,
> and maybe, even, pay a licence fee for doing so. They hate
> commoditisation; so why they praise the standard in public, they try
> their hardest to undermine it and create their own statute in the
> If this standard is rescued, it will take time; and by the time it is
> sorted out, many dismayed buyers will find themselves with obsolete
> gear. The WiFi Alliance turned out to be helpless to intervene, and
> its credibility will be hard to re-establish.