Call me a nerd (though never a geek), but I still find technology fascinating. Over the years I've moved from pure engineering to (gasp!) marketing and then management, but I still love to spend time tinkering with something new or being otherwise involved with the leading edge. It's always amazed me that wireless, already an elderly technology, is continually blessed with a steady stream of exciting innovations.
Case in point: Engim's second-generation multichannel WLAN chip set. If you've not looked at Engim, its specialty is in wideband radios, essentially putting three WLAN chip sets into one. The obvious advantage is that co-channel interference is much more easily managed using this approach; try operating three access points in close proximity and you'll see what I mean. Why build multiple radios into a single AP in the first place, though? Think of it this way: Any given single-channel AP (in the United States, anyway) is using only 1/27th of the available spectrum in any given location. As demand picks up, we'll need (in many cases) all of those 27 channels. Wideband signal processing is the key to success here-VoFi in particular is likely to place a serious load on Wi-Fi capacity over time. And, of course, plain old data throughput demands only grow over time.
But what's particularly interesting in Engim's wideband approach is the integration of lots of other wireless functions. I use the term "consolidation principle" to describe how capabilities that initially appear in distinct products eventually get consolidated into higher-function implementations. For example, you once had to buy a TCP/IP stack separately from the operating system; now it's standard in almost every OS. So: One or more channels of connectivity? Wireless intrusion detection? Client location and tracking? RF spectrum analysis and management? Interference mitigation? Rogue-AP detection? All of these were first realized in distinct products, and all are available today. But wouldn't it be great to get them as standard features in APs, enabled by a chip set with the power to do it all?
Engim still needs to prove its viability in the marketplace; there's no substitute for design wins. But, like meshes, MIMO and RF spectrum management, I think wideband radios are a core element for future progress in WLANs-and perhaps in other wireless systems as well.
Craig Mathias is principal of Farpoint Group (Ashland, Mass.).