Valley View: Simple Guide for a wireless standard

Richard Irving, a partner at venture capital firm Pond Venture Partners says multiple wireless standards will co-exist and in some places wireless will fail to deliver richardirving-pond.jpg

People have argued for years over what will be the killer standard for voice, data, and video: one all-powerful standard, always available wherever you are (even on a plane), huge bandwidth, low cost. This debate still rages in Silicon Valley, with the inevitable crop of start-ups making impossible claims. Perhaps more amazing, some sources of venture capital seem willing to believe them. Those of us with even cursory exposure to communications theory realise that behind hype-laden headlines there are always trade-offs. For example, multipath means lower bit rates when you’re moving faster through a given topology. Other rules are even more obvious: the wider the coverage area the more infrastructure you need for good coverage, and therefore the longer it takes to roll out. Bluetooth took off quickly as it is very short-haul only. WiMAX as at the other end of the scale, so it has taken longer. I feel a set of simple guidelines may be useful. These will be controversial with some, but my rule would be to consider business, timeline and technical issues together, not just what is scientifically possible. Here are some candidate rules: Robust, field-proven mobile standards like WCDMA (and later LTE) are best for voice and are only compatible with data if data rates are fairly low. Mobile video needs broadcast for long-form content – other links are only efficient for small clips. WiMAX will likely become the best medium for data payloads in the WAN. People are losing enthusiasm for broad WiFi rollouts, and Mesh WiFi is too complex. Wireless will not work for low-latency, consumer quality video around the home, so to avoid running new wires, you’ll have to use existing wires, not rely on wireless. This debate seems resolved here in the Valley, with even inventors of key WiFi technologies in agreement. So my prediction is that multiple wireless standards will co-exist, and in some places wireless will never fulfill its promise. Remembering this could save us as consumers, employees or investors from making costly mistakes.

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