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April 29, 2015

Does Wireless IP have any IP Characteristics?

My conversations these days have people talking past me a lot. They have a vision of the wireless Internet that is cloudy and does not know when Shannon’s Law applies. (For those unfamiliar, Shannon’s Law is a statement defining the theoretical maximum rate at which error-free digits can be transmitted over a bandwidth-limited channel in the presence of noise.)

The reality is that 3G, 4G, 5G and anything else we want to talk about is not going to share the bandwidth the same way that Ethernet does. Don’t get me wrong; I am impressed as to how far we have come in making wireless networks packet-friendly, but sooner or later wireless gets down to Shannon and session management.

If you want to talk about gateways as the multiplexing of IP that’s fine, but it is confined by the path that it has to the wireless network so at worst it could look like a femtocell, or at best have alternate paths and look like part of the core.

The point I am trying to make is that the Edge is always the problem in wireless, and while it blends with the glass, the characteristics don’t line up the same way. You can always add more optics to glass but spectrum is more finite.

Now here’s the real point.

Anyone who thinks that build-outs are not capital intensive is delusional.

You can bring the glass closer to the Edge, use more spectrum and slice them with time and frequency, but at the end of the day the end-points have to connect one on one. (In case you can’t tell, this is a continuation of my explanation as to why the ARMy of cellular LTE manufacturers win.)

Over the weekend, I was engaged in a conversation with someone who claimed that they shared wireless better than anyone.  As usual the cloud was drawn and then the magic thinking took over.

Even for my Super Wi-Fi dreams, I am aware that sharing spectrum is hard to do and harder to do if “keep-alives” make sessions chatty. In the old dial-up days we had programs that sent a character every five minutes to keep the connection alive. Even in today’s wireless world, games, social media and in general any app likes to use your bandwidth.

The bottom line is you can’t assume that wireless is going to be free for all these chatty sessions, so you better prepare for some real costs in supporting access to them.

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