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Going Completely Wireless...

Going Completely Wireless...

I've recently moved house, never an easy process, and made less so when the place you're moving to is not so much off-the-beaten-track as off-the-untrodden-footpath. The Highlands of Scotland offer little in the way of shops and houses, let alone the modern conveniences of ADSL or cable Internet access. But as the editor of Wireless Business & Technology, it seems appropriate that I go completely wireless and cut the ADSL line, which has meant so much to me over the last 7 years.

Moving so far was perhaps a little extreme, and discovering that my new home lacks even a telephone connection was something of a shock. British Telecom has an obligation to provide service to any home in the UK, but they don't have to provide it quickly! The GSM coverage, on the other hand, is remarkably good, due to early competition between the networks on who had the most complete UK coverage. GPRS is standard for most networks now, so an Internet connection should be possible. It's not quite as easy as it sounds, but with a minimum of fiddling I've managed to get my Bluetooth-enabled laptop connected to the rest of the world. The connection is anything but fast, with speeds varying between 38Kbps at best and below 1Kbps at worst.

Being one of the few people in Scotland using GPRS has its advantages; the connection is stable and generally leans toward the top end of the speed range. It goes through the battery on my mobile pretty quickly, but luckily public electricity is one luxury we have even in the Highlands.

Of course, GPRS data does not come cheap ­ when you're paying by the byte, it's easy to rack up quite a bill. Within a week of moving, I discovered my network operator had cut me off! Working for 02 you would have thought I would be immune to such things, but it seems our bills have a limit and I've hit mine. It's fortunate that I have several mobile phones handy, otherwise you would not be reading this. So, while I'm committed to wireless, it seems that GPRS is not going to meet my needs. I'll let you know how the satellite installation and connection goes in the coming months.

Moving house has also reminded me just how many wires there are in my home, as half the boxes moved seem to contain nothing but cabling. My desktop computer alone needed two boxes just to carry its cables. But even discounting the computers, my stereo and TV seem to need just as much connectivity, and the cables are less obviously labelled.

While my office has marched relentlessly away from wires into the radio spectrum, my home is still a spaghetti-like mess of cable carrying everything from high-quality video to basic control signals, all of which would be much happier over wireless.

I know I'm not alone in wishing for less cables. There's a great deal of work going on to migrate wireless from the office into the living room. Over the next few months we'll be taking a close look at consumer wireless, both the products and the standards that are being developed to sort out this domestic nightmare. The requirements for home wireless are considerably more complicated than those of an office, but progress is being made and the time will come when your home devices can communicate without drilling holes and laying cables. Hopefully well before I have to face the prospect of moving house again.

More Stories By Bill Ray

Bill Ray, former editor-in-chief (and continuing distinguished contributor to) Wireless Business & Technology magazine, has been developing wireless applications for over 20 ears on just about every platform available. Heavily involved in Java since its release, he developed some of the first cryptography applications for Java and was a founder of JCP Computer Services, a company later sold to Sun Microsystems. At Swisscom he was responsible for the first Java-capable DTV set-top box, and currently holds the position of head of Enabling Software at 02, a UK network operator.

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