4 Disruptive Wireless Tech

Economist.com: “Here are four emerging technologies that show much promise: smart antennas, mesh networks, ad hoc architectures, and ultra-wideband transmission. Smart antennas are already in use and mesh networks are starting to appear, while ad hoc architectures and ultra-wideband are still largely restricted to the laboratory. But each challenges existing ways of doing things; each, on its own, or in combination with others, could shake up the wireless world.”

This is very important for emerging markets because they need hihg-speed communications right down to the last mile, without the costs and time for lating fibre, etc. Wireless is a possible answer for them to leapfrog.

High-speed Wireless access

An article in IEEE Spectrum on Non Line of Sight Wireless Systems:

Line Of Sight (LOS) systems rely on a high-power transmitter at the base station, an unimpeded line of sight between transmitter and customer, and a highly directional outdoor antenna at the customer premises, all of which add up to a technology too expensive for the residential market.

NLOS attacks the problem with smart antennas, advanced modulation techniques, and, in some cases, a mesh architecture in which nodes–the individual routers on the customer’s premises–are connected by multiple links. The mesh architecture helps keep signal strength up by replacing single, long radio links with multiple short ones.

WiFi and Weblogs

Steve Gillmor writes:

At the intersection of two disruptive technologies lies the Bermuda Triangle of the Digital Age. Wi-Fi (802.11 wireless communications) and Weblogs (the untethered journalism of the immediate) are comingling to produce an intoxicating blend of chaos and innovation.

Its a theme Kevin Werbach had touched upon first as part of his “The Next WWW” ideas — Web Services, Weblogs and WiFi. I had explored these recently in one of my Tech Talk columns on India’s Next Decade.

Wireless Networks

A presentation made by Rob Flickenger on Building Wireless Community Networks. 802.11b networks are important in emerging markets because they use unlicenced spectrum (2.4 Ghz) and can be built in a bottom-up manner for very low-cost, bypassing the traditional connectivity solutions.

Like Linux, what may be a niche alternative in one set of markets can be a mainstream solution in another set of markets.

Cellphones: Pollution Solution

This article talks about the looming problem because of the burgeoning disposal of cellphones. The suggestion is to re-cycle the phone or sell it in developing countries.

The study by Inform said that on average a cellular telephone is kept only 18 months and in many cases thrown into a closet or drawer and finally discarded with the household garbage.

By 2005, there will be at least 200 million cell phones in use across the country and another 500 million older phones may be stockpiled in drawers, closets and elsewhere, waiting to be thrown away, the report estimates, based on expected market growth and cell phone purchases in recent years.

Travis Larson, a spokesman for CTIA, the wireless trade group, said the industry has collected more than a million used phones to date and wants to expand its recycling and “donate-a-phone” programs in which private groups collect phones and give proceeds to charity. Many of the phones taken back are resold in developing countries, he said.

I havent yet seen much of this happen in India. A new cellphone costs as less as USD 80-100 (Rs 4-5,000). But think about computers. A new computer costs as much as USD 500 (Rs 25,000). It should cost no more than a cellphone. The only way that will happen is if PCs from countries like the US can be re-cycled to the emerging markets. Shipping a PC is obviously going to be much more expensive than the cellphone. But what we are really interested in is the motherboard. Take that, add the keyboard, mouse, cabinet, network card and monitor locally, and use it as a thin client talking to a thick server, and watch computing touch the next 500 million users.