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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Wireless World : Open Vs Proprietary Standards

Economist has come with an excellent article about how privately held information about interface standards are hampering wide adoption of open source wireless. Excerpts with slight edits and my comments added:

Telecommunications used to be a closed game, from the copper and fibre that carried the messages, to the phones themselves. Now, openness reigns in the world of wires. Networks must interconnect with those of competitors, and users can plug in their own devices as they will. One result of this openness has been a lot of innovation. Openness is coming to the wireless world, too. Cheap and powerful devices that use unlicensed and lightly regulated parts of the radio spectrum are proliferating. Though the spectrum is open, the microprocessor chips that drive the devices which use it are not. The interface information normally kept secret by manufacturers. The result could be a lot less innovation in the open wireless world than in the open wired one.

The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN),in Illinois. is trying to create a so-called meshed Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that allows broadband internet communication over a range of about 50 metres. That range could, however, be extended if the devices in an area were configured to act as “platforms” that both receive and transmit signals. Messages would then hop from one platform to another until they got to their destination. That would allow such things as neighbourhood mobile-phone companies and a plethora of radio and TV stations, and all for almost no cost. But to make such goodies work, CUWiN needs to tweak the underlying capabilities of Wi-Fi chips in special ways. When CUWIN requested the interface information from the firms that furnish the chips, however, they were often rebuffed. A few companies with low-end, older technology supplied it. But Broadcom and Atheros,the two producers of the sophisticated chips that CUWiN needs if its system is to sing properly, refused. Nor is CUWiN alone in its enforced ignorance. other groups, have similar ideas, but are similarly stymied. CUWIN feels regulators ought to enforce more openness.
Broadcom and Atheros say that making the interface information public would be illegal, because it could allow users to change the parameters of a chip in ways that violate the rules for using unlicensed spectrum However, experts feel,otherwise. Engineers are not asking for the computer code that drives the interfaces, merely for the means to talk to them. And having the interface information in the public domain should eventually result in more chips being sold.. Time to open it up.
My Take: Connectivity should be everyone's right. All equipments need to have open/ provide -on- request standards that would enable free two way communication - while sub family wise general interface standards normally evolve across all industries, legislations are definitely called for quick adoption,particularly in the telecom industry, where aweeping technological changes are happening and as an extension, scope for innovation remain very high

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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