The final approval of the wireless 802.11n standard revisits the potential to significantly change the use of wireless networking during disasters. Previous wireless standards always fell significantly behind wired in data throughput to point where most users would recognize the difference and prefer a wired connection. 802.11n’s theoretical maximum throughput is 600 Megabits per second (Mbit/sec) but it is realistic to expect in the mid-100’s. This places wireless nicely comparable to 100BASE-TX wired Ethernet which runs at 100 Mbit/sec.
Both have range of about 300 feet in optimal conditions. Wired will always go the full distance if you can get the wire to reach because walls and other construction will shorten wireless distance. Obviously, there are wired equipment standards for gigabet Ethernet (1,000 Mbit/) and faster, and ways to get wired distances beyond the 300 feet limit. However from disaster response standpoint, most of this requires more expensive and complex equipment. A wireless solution that can nearly achieve wired throughput and distances is significant when deploying disaster site. True wireless mesh networking can really extend the capabilities of 802.11n. For example, the Cisco wireless products take advantage of the dual radio to do WAP to device traffic on one frequency and WAP to WAP traffic on another. A wireless controler and 10 WAPs can be pre-configured to work together, shipped in decent size case, and quickly deployed to handle many devices. These devices include: wireless computers, wireless IP and VoIP phones, wireless PDAs, and other smart devices. When the final connection from the network to the device is wireless, the setup of site during disaster becomes much quicker. A number of products have already been released compatible with the 802.11n draft standards at that time. I’m looking forward to the next generation of software upgrades and products that will be certified to the 802.11n final standards.
Be cautious though. I’ve had discussions with one vendor that had poor mesh networking product. Every hop from the primary connection would drop the bandwidth in half. They targeted wider range product that was designed to quickly cover small urban area using “breadcrumbs”. It really turned out to be bad product yet I’m sure many people have bought into through slick salesmanship and poor product testing prior to purchase.
Now if we could just tie this together with the wireless power; that would revolution setup during disaster. See TED Talks about Eric Giler at http://www.ted.com/talks/eric_giler_demos_wireless_electricity.html.