Solving the Multi-Network Wireless Problem

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2003-11-10 Print this article Print

Getting 802.11b and cellular networks to play nice together is not a trivial problem, discovers Wireless Center Editor Jim Louderback. Intel's System Technology Lab is working the problem, though, as part of its Universal Communicator project.

Last week, I wrote about how VOIP, cellular and WiFi will combine to make traditional phones and POTS obsolete. But based on a discussion I had with a development manager at Intels Systems Technology Lab, there are still some thorny problems that need to be resolved. First some background. Intel has put together an internal group of scientists and researchers to help realize its vision of seamless access to information from any device, using any available network. One project theyve been working on is a "universal communicator," designed to communicate on 802.11 and GSMs data network, along with network 3D gaming, video and audio playback, and other media capabilities.
It turns out that the device itself isnt hard to build. Although Intels grand plans for a single tunable radio, built onto a CPU, is still mostly fantasy, putting multiple radios into a single device isnt hard. Instead, network and radio co-ordination present the biggest challenge. "Its a huge task," explains Intels Bryan Peebler. "Ultimately, you want to get a single reconfigurable radio," he adds, "but thats still years away."
Intels prototype universal communicator includes a GSM GPRS radio, and an 802.11b radio. Intels recent purchase of Mobilian seems to suggest that Bluetooth should be incorporated pretty quickly as well. Once you put multiple radios in a device, you then have to ensure that they dont step all over each other as they communicate. There are two different types of interference. The first, frequency interference, occurs when two radios transmit on the same frequency. Bluetooth and 802.11b, for example, both work at 2.4 GHz and can be a problem. The solution, according to Peebler, is to "time-slice between 802 and Bluetooth so they dont step on each other." The other big problem: analog interference. Thats what you get when a poorly shielded component generates so much noise that a radio transmitter/receiver cant do its own job. "In our device, weve done some interesting stuff on radio placement and shielding" to cut down on analog interference. Once youve solved the physical-interference problems, you run into network coordination issues, which are much harder to resolve. "Our premise is that it is reasonably simple to put two radios in a device. Its more difficult to make them work together to add value to the user." Next page: How users can navigate voice and data connections.

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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