Four wireless technologies move toward starting gate – from USA Today…
The most mature of the technologies is WiMax, a long-range service being developed by 70 companies worldwide, including AT&T, Covad and Intel. Unlike current Wi-Fi hot spots, which have a reach of about 300 feet, WiMax stations will be able to send and receive signals up to 30 miles away. This makes them ideal for the “last-mile” problem that plagues many neighborhoods that are too remote to receive Internet access via cable or DSL.
The downside to WiMax is that it is a “fixed access” system, meaning that customers must mount a dishlike antenna outside their home or office to access it. To get around this, researchers are developing an extension to WiMax called 802.16e.
The goal of 802.16e is to allow consumers to connect to the Internet while they are “moving at vehicular speeds.” In other words, you might soon be able to check your e-mail while you’re on the morning train thanks to a device that connects to your laptop.
Also under development is a high-bandwidth extension to the current Wi-Fi standard. Researchers expect 802.11n to increase the speed of Wi-Fi connections by 10 to 20 times. Although many home users won’t be able to benefit from the additional speed right away, because of limits on their cable or DSL connections, businesses are hoping the technology will allow them to forgo the burden of laying and maintaining Ethernet cabling throughout the building.
An alliance of microchip manufacturers led by Texas Instruments is developing a standard for transmitting large amounts of data short distances. Dubbed Ultrawideband, the technology is intended primarily for in-home use to connect computers, stereos and TVs to one another without wires.
“We want to eliminate that cable that goes between devices,” says Jeff Harris, director of business development for advanced wireless technologies at General Atomics. “If you go and drop a few thousand dollars on a flat-panel television, we want you to be able to put it on the best wall in your house — not just the wall that’s closest to the cable outlet.”