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Can 802.11 Become A Viable Last-Mile Alternative? 206

Posted by Hemos
from the making-it-for-the-last-mile dept.
NikiScevak writes "As telco's around the world move from government hands to private investors the incentive for them to create compeition at the wholesale DSL level drops dramatically. The CSIRO in Australia are investigating the use of Wireless LAN technology 802.11b as a means through which to provide alternative broadband access, achieving range of up to 7km with standard components."
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Can 802.11 Become A Viable Last-Mile Alternative?

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  • I'm being forced to do this for a client who is 400meters outside of cable and DSL range.

    Ya, 400meters. The stupid fucks couldn't use repeaters or use current technology to stretch the line. Nice to see a commercial ISP is doing it on a mass scale.
    • What kind of DSL line were you trying to have pulled in? Depending on the type, it can go as far as 9km.

      Honestly, Repeaters are not a viable option, who really wants to dig up the trunk cable, put a repeater into two spliced lines?

      I have seen some ds1/t1 loop end smartjack cards that are designed for long lenth loops, "High-Gain" I think it said. As a rough guess, they were 10 miles from a CO with their T1 line, And The phone lines in that area are notoriously bad.
      • I believe your parent post said 400 meters _out of range_, which by your suggestion would make about 9,4km...
        • Most make the mistake of wanting ADSL, which your at like a 4km limit on cable lenth with it. With SDSL, it can go 9.8Km if memory serves. Thats something like 4.something miles. Ofcorse, at 9.8Km, you only get something like 144kbps, but that is decent....
    • > The stupid fucks couldn't use repeaters or use current technology to stretch the line

      If the arguments for using different aproach came from the same pool as the previous line, I bet the customer chose wlan just to play with you ;)
  • Ugh.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by LWolenczak (10527) <julia@evilcow.org> on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:23AM (#3508896) Homepage Journal
    There are several isp's selling wireless access for the last mile in North Carolina. Overall, I wouldn't touch it. The networks are generally insecure, sniffable by anybody and their palmtop with the right hardware/software. From what I have seen and heard from people is that it works, but some days it dosen't work as well as others. *shrugs*

    Honestly, I wouldn't mind being able to drive around and have allways on access in my car or something like that, but wireless does not cut it.... Collissions, and cordless phones reek havoc with 802.11b. I use a 100mw ap at my office... when I'm on my cordless phone... my laptop says the link quality is 10-20%.... and the ap is 20 feet away...
    • Security isn't what I'd be worrying about for this sort of application -- you have to assume that packets going out over Cable modems and DSL links are going to be sniffed by everyone and their little brother anyway. Use those VPNs if you're looking for security.

      (The air gap isn't what it used to be, is it?)
      • Security isn't what I'd be worrying about for this sort of application -- you have to assume that packets going out over Cable modems and DSL links are going to be sniffed by everyone and their little brother anyway.

        How's sniffing DSL any easier than sniffing a T1?

      • Cable is trivial. A pci cable modem and some good drivers will go a long way.

        DSL loops, T1 loops. Your talking specialized hardware that costs more then the adverage car. Somebody once told me that a T-Bird (T1...T3 packet sniffer) cost 40 grand. I have no idea how much DSL coperable hardware would cost.... and even if such a thing exists. A T-bird can most likely sniff dsl anyway.
        • Somebody once told me that a T-Bird (T1...T3 packet sniffer) cost 40 grand.

          Yeah, and a PC used to cost $4G, too.

          Dallas Semiconductor makes E1/T1 framer ICs which you could interface to a Motorola 68k or something nice and fast for peanuts. It's been a while since I went through the Dallas datasheets but I'm certain that you can use them to sniff the data stream with a little extra circuitry to block any transmissions from the third (sniffer) framer. The actual data stream on the wire is very well documented and if you put something like this on a PCI card and modified some Linux WAN drivers I'm sure you could make a sniffer without too much difficulty. Hell it'd be even easier if you modified an existing supported WAN card with an internal DSU, like the LMC 1200.

          No matter how you look at it, it'll be hardware mods + software mods, unless the framer can be programmed NOT to emit anything, which I'm not sure is possible. Also DS2/3 sniffers will be a good sight more expensive I'm sure. The loop lengths on those are not very long for copper and there's a lot more critical timing.

          Now you could say that this knowledge is specialized and that the design of such a thing could be $40k -- true enough. I happen to have the knowledge and I do contract design work... :-)

    • ...as long as a large Milo tin counts as `standard equipment', that is. One end of the link is a Milo tin in Osborne Park, the other end of the link is a half-omni in Lesmurdie. Standard cards. Good old Aussie `we won't know until we try it' technology. No worries. (-:

      Mind you, there are people claiming to run DSL along barbed wire fences...

      I don't know what the line quality is. I think `working' is good enough at that distance. (-:
  • In theory, if you are going to use 802.11b on a large scale wouldn't you eventually reach a point where you would 'saturate' the frequency range alotted to this technology? Also, couldn't this cause problems with other electronic devices - if used on a large scale again?

    And, last but not least, the damm networks are (usually) insecure as hell - not by nature but by incompetent setup. I remember an article about a bunch of 'hackers' who drove around downtown london's financial distric with a laptop and a wireless card and where ablet o log onto all sorts of networks b/c of lack of security.
    • Directional antennas would help with all of these problems. Crossed beams don't interfere, and can't be sniffed from the wrong place.
      • That's very incorrect. Directional antennas won't
        help that much from interception and interference. You will still get the signal
        out of their projected beacon (which is still several degrees wide, BTW),
        but a bit lower. Radio waves don't work the same way
        light does, it's like thinking that nobody will hear
        you shouting when you go behind a building..
    • And, last but not least, the damm networks are (usually) insecure as hell - not by nature but by incompetent setup. I remember an article about a bunch of 'hackers' who drove around downtown london's financial distric with a laptop and a wireless card and where ablet o log onto all sorts of networks b/c of lack of security.

      Dude, you read an article about sniffers? Wow, can I touch you? Yes, this is a flame because I'm sick of hearing such bullshit.

      Here's ignorance taken to a new degree. I once heard a story about the whole internet being insecure, a place where all sorts of "hackers" could break into all sorts of machines. They even were able to phreak the phone system. And this new fangled email? Thanks to poor implemetaion, I'm told that the very internet itsel was shaken (routers destabilized) by a silly VB script. Can you believe it? Who would use such an insecure media? I'm sure glad no one ever persued those crazy things!

      Want security? You can start by tossing out your M$ crap. You might then consider the virtues of encryption routines, such as provided by OpenBSD and used everwhere people have sense. If you really really don't want anyone to see something, don't write it down. In the long run, it would be adventageous to get governments to extend mail fraud and tampering laws to electronic formats. Remember those things that protect your precious documents from those bold enough to rip open an envelope?

      Run along and play in traffic now.

      • Want security?
        Forget security, every company should run 802.11 WEP-disabled with no VPN and no encryption.

        This way companies are supporting the ultimate open-source. If M$ was an open-source corporation /. wouldn't bitch about them so much (as in all internal network traffic and servers open)

        Damn you *BSD and *nix people giving companies security, making them closed. Using open source code to make corporations closed. Oh man. You *nix and *BSD people are self-defeating.

    • In theory, if you are going to use 802.11b on a large scale wouldn't you eventually reach a point where you would 'saturate' the frequency range alotted to this technology?

      I would think for very crowded areas it would be better to use 802.11a - not for the higher bandwidth (Yes, sure a 50 MB/s link to the internet would be nice, of course) but because the cell size is much smaller. Of course penetration is not nearly as good, but alot less stuff runs at the 5 GHz bands than at the 2.4 GHz bands.

      Michael

  • Japan has SpeedNet (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ObviousGuy (578567)
    The power company in Japan has set up a wireless ISP that boasts broadband speeds.

    A google search would probably turn up some interesting information.
  • As someone living in the middle of nowhere in Western Australia, where I can get a 33.6kbps connection on a good day (usually its closer to 28k), it's good to see that the CSIRO are taking an interest in that sort of thing.

    But out here 1km, (or even 7 as they claim to strecth it in the article) isn't really very far, so they would need a lot of repeaters to get from place to place, making this a fairly expensive project. (Read: ain't gonna happen).
    • Repeaters are not a very good idea with 802.11b. Most likely, High-Gain antennas on both ends, and maybe signal amps would be the best bet. Or maybe long distance links between two access points, then service the local area with an additional ap or two on another channel.
      • Thing is, this has to cover distances of over 500km, so you just can't have high-gain antennas (at least not 802.11 anyhow) reach that far (as far as I'm aware). I'm no expert in this field, but I'm pretty sure if you want to cover that distance wirelessly, you'll need repeaters.

        (I'm lucky in this regard, the nearest small town is only around 30km away)
        • At 500km no, just high-gain antennas will not work.. perhaps with amps maybe, but most likely not. At that distance, you would be running into signaling problems, because both ends will be saying "hey, i'm here" every 100 ms... what if one gets off a little bit.. there goes your link.

          At that distance, I would say, do what the telco's do. Big tower, Multiplexed microwave signal.
        • Don't forget that at 500km distance, due to Earth's curvature you need to put the end points quite high above the ground; otherwise, they won't see each other beyond the horizon.
  • I'm not sure this makes sense. It works in those cases where there is no other way and the number of connected nodes is small and controlled. That's to say the least about FCC rules, which are very specific about this. To make this work for the "last mile", theoretically it would be cheaper to update the current system, especially with new VDSL systems. The problem is that it offers little return to the telcos and they don't want to invest; One way or the other.
    • I have noticed some small ILECs are willing to do whatever it takes to make their customers happy aslong as they continue to have a positive cash flow. I know of an ILEC that for like 230 a month, they basiclly pull a t1 to your house, kick your voice over the t1, and then use the rest for data. Ofcorse, they call it some bullshit, but everybody who knows their stuff knows its a t1 line. Ofcorse... there are the ILECs that buy other ILECs out, and then do nothing. I have sprint locally. The town has been polietly demanding broadband for several years (bedroom town between two decently large cities), and they are just now, three years after they said they would in a few months, to offer dsl. Sprint Sucks.
    • The point about lack of incentive on the provider's part is what worries me. What if the current 56kbps modem links up to the 1M cable links are sufficient for most people's networking needs? Then there will never be enough demand to justify upgrading the current last-mile infrastructure. Is there a cool new killer-app which would encourage many people to pay for more bandwidth? (More bandwidth here means substantially more, as in gigabits per second over fiber).
      • What if the current 56kbps modem links up to the 1M cable links are sufficient for most people's networking needs?

        Its not the speed that will drag people away from 56K modems. The speed of ADSL, Cable, 802.11b, microwave wireless, etc is nice.

        But constant connection is more important. There are uses for constant connections to the internet that do not require much bandwidth at all - eMail, control systems (eg., lighting, traffic signals), being able to serve data (like some file on your computer at home) plus the joy of always having the web available.

        I think that alot of people on 56K dialup would be more happy for a 33K permanent connection if they had a static IP address to go with it.

        A further (non speed) reason why 56 K connections will probably be replaced - lag. For any gamer, its the lag that kills even more than the lack of bandwidth. Modern modems add 100ms or so to a ping time, and fancy compression algorithms increase throughput AND lag simultaneously. Most other technologies (except satellite) don't.

        In short, 56K modems are a stopgap data over voice solution that was cheap to deploy with the existing network structure. It is in no way likely to hold out against these other technologies. Even if the fixed connection stuff doesn't take off in a country, GPRS will do (even in the third world).

        My 2c worth. Actually I've posted about 4 times this thread, must be my 8c worth.

        Michael

  • As telco's around the world move from government hands to private investors the incentive for them to create compeition at the wholesale DSL level drops dramatically.

    This is simply false. Legally enforced government monopolies have zero incentive to compete. The whole point of privatization is to increase competition (assuming it is done correctly, i.e. no market-splitting or corruption, which I believe was a major problem in the former USSR). Private investors and consumers create competition because, unlike taxpayers, they can take their money elsewhere. This type of economic illiteracy is bad enough coming from a normal poster, but even worse coming from the author of the article (who is also the submitter, coincidentally enough).

    Cheers,
    IT
    • Except when there are huge barriers to market entry (such as when laying of cables, etc, are required).
    • by Baki (72515) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:48AM (#3508946)
      Don't believe in privatization -> more competition as a dogma, since it is not always true. There are cases where privatization -> profit maximation of one monopolist.

      It all depends on the market. As for local loop: there is only one local loop, it is fully uneconomical to make a second one. Alternatives (such as wireless) are inferior, especially on a large scale. Maybe a second local loop is possible (being cable) in some areas, but still, two companies with no chance for more doesn't really give competition. There shall be (silent, because it's forbidden) agreement between two companies to share and divide the market.

      Nothing is worse than the combination of monopoly and privatization.

      Privatization with true competition is best.
      If this is not possible (true for many infrastructure markets such as railways, local loop, utilities such as water etc) then the next best alternative is to create a publicly owned non-profit organization that just manages the infrastructure.

      Private companies should compete to offer sericces over that publicly owned infrastructure.

      Old example is (publicly owned) roads where many transport companies compete to offer moving goods using trucks, using the public roads.

      New example can be publicly owned local loop that is offered to customers at cost price. Then the customer can select a provider that delivers him full internet service via this (cheap) local loop.

      • It's too bad even a publically owned non-profit organization is going to end up like the government. Very few consumers/citizens will get involved. If the organization's main goal is to maintain the infrastructure, then it will just stagnate. With no true competition, there is no motivation. If you've ever done executive or director-level charity work, you'd know that the decision making process is slow as molassas. Often incompetant people are put in places of authority whom usually just get in the way of the productive persons and cause general grief for the organization.

        Also, I'd disagree with you on the point that "two isn't enough for competition." Two is quite enough, as evidenced by the technological advances cable companies have made now that they are threatened by DirecTV. Currently I have hundreds of high-quality digital channels streaming into my household over the cable infrastructure. I'm sure we'd still be watching 40 channels of analog television if it wasn't for the competition.
        • Two is quite enough, as evidenced by the technological advances cable companies
          Notice the key word "companies" implying more than one. I suspect that there are somewhat more than two cable television providers in the USA. In Australia there are two, but in a few months one will simply be reselling services from the other.
          With no true competition, there is no motivation.
          I suspect the point the previous poster is making is that if you can only buy your service from one provider then there will be no competition. Then it comes down to a choice as to whether you make a private orginisation fat and steadily less efficient, or whether you make a government organisation that you can influence with your vote fat and steadily less efficient.
      • Actually, there is something much worse than privatizing a monopoly, keeping it public. I'd prefer I be gouged by a legitimate businessman than a government-protected one.

        And if removing legal barriers to market entry doesn't induce "competition", then that's what we call a "natural monopoly", where economies of scale exist to the point where few, large firms is the efficient market structure.

        And on another level, privitization is /always/ good because government control of industries invades our rights to do peaceful business how we see fit. Unless of course you don't /want/ to live in a free society...
    • This is simply false. Legally enforced government monopolies have zero incentive to compete. The whole point of privatization is to increase competition
      The point in this case is that it is going from a government owned monopoly to a privately owned monopoly. When the government owns it competition of a kind and innovation can be forced. When the government doesn't, the monopoly just sits there and tries to work out how much it's consumers will pay for a steadily diminising service. At least that looks like the way it is going in Australia.

      assuming it is done correctly, i.e. no market-splitting or corruption, which I believe was a major problem in the former USSR
      I understand now, perhaps privitisation in Australia is being carried out to the USSR model! We based our power industry restructure on the Californian model (I kid you not!) in 1996, and even then it was clear that there were problems with the way things were done in the Californian power industry.
      This type of economic illiteracy is bad enough coming from a normal poster, but even worse coming from the author of the article
      The situation is simply different to the US situation. Economics has almost nothing to do with the way privatisation is being done in Australia - it's all about political expediency, and it's expediant to keep the monopolies intact and just sell them to specific interested parties, not even opening things up for bidding (eg. a government run finance group that was sold for less than a years profit to a particular bank - no other bank got a chance to bid). There is little chance of outside competition coming in, in most cases they will just get driven out of business by large groups that can afford to undercut them until they go away.
    • True, legally enforced government monopolies are bad... But private monopolies are worse.
      Take a look at what happened in Germany, for example:
      The government-enforced monopoly on telecommunications was dropped, and all the hardware (including cables) was given to the ex-monopolist.
      Potential competitors must use the ex-monopolist's lines for virtually everything, and even if they have a couple of exchanges by themselves, they have to route the last line through the ex-monopolist's network, at a price mostly dictated by the ex-monopolist (and it's slightly higher than what they charge their direct customers; the EU has recently filed a suit against them because of this, but because of the "whoever has the cash owns the courts" rule which seems to be prevalent almost everywhere these days (Microsoft trial, anyone?), I don't expect much to come out of it.

      The current situation in .de is pretty much what you'd expect: The ex-monopolist pretty much owns the market, and you can switch to a competitor only if you're in a big (and therefore profitable) city.

      If you're in a rural area, your only choice is still (and will remain for quite a while) the ex-monopolist, and they're much more evil than in their government times.

      Privatization is the right thing to do only if you do it right (such as not giving the ex-monopolist an unfair advantage), which AFAIK hasn't happened anywhere.
    • This is simply false. Legally enforced government monopolies have zero incentive to compete.

      Hhhmmm... Many Americans (at least on Slashdot) seem to think that anything that is government controlled must be crappy. It may be the case that government provided services in the USA are rubbish, and that your local governments are no good, but that doesn't mean that it is the case everywhere in the world.

      Many countries in Europe have extremely efficient state controlled services. Now I know this is going to set some of you rabid freemarketeers into flame mode, but it is simply true - Europe has many examples of efficient, high quality state run services.

      Under the influence of Margret Thatcher and Ronald Regan, the UK decided to try to adopt the US model of having everything privitized. Now they have some of the worst and most expensive public transport and health services in Europe. As a result of this, the UK government has recently increased taxes (shock! horror!), with general public consent (no! it can't be true!).

      All I'm saying is this - free markets and competition does not guarantee quality and low price, and government controlled does not necessarily mean high prices and poor service. The sensible solution is to have free market competition and public funded services, and use the most appropriate one for the situation.

      • All I'm saying is this - free markets and competition does not guarantee quality and low price, and government controlled does not necessarily mean high prices and poor service. The sensible solution is to have free market competition and public funded services, and use the most appropriate one for the situation.
        You are partially correct. Privatisation can work if the economic model is set up right. Railway privatisation would have worked if when a train was late they got fined $500 per passeneger inconvenienced, on the spot fine so that shareholders would IMMEDIATELY feel the hit. If a passeneger died in a train crash or whatever they would be fined $5million per passenger immediately (guilty until proven innocent).

        If you hit the balance sheet (the only way you can hurt a company), the private model is best. If it's more abstract e.g. private contracters running airport security, then they'll just take the chance that Osama binLaden won't strike again, and if he does then screw it, the company running airline security goes bust and the CEO puts on his resume, "Head of airline security" and gets another higher paid job in 5 minutes. Nobody cares that much about the company they work for, not even the CEO. Federal workers would shut down the airport if they're not sure about something, and would go by the book. Bad for the customer, good for security.

        Federal workers go by the book very slowly, private workers just maximise shareholder benefits - and so MUST be IMMEDIATELY massively fined if they screw even 1 customer. Now go choose the most appropriate one for your needs.

    • "Private investors and consumers create competition."

      Consumers? Perhaps. Investors? Heck no. As has been shown repeatedly in recent years, your stock is far more attractive to investors if you work to stifle competition (and screw over the consumer in the process) than by trying to compete on a level playing field. Monopolies aren't a problem unless the monopoly power is abused, and a corporation is practically guaranteed to abuse monopoly power (*cough* Microsoft *cough*) in their effort to attract new investors. Investors would rather corporations force the consumer to spend more money and increase the stock dividend.

      However, it has been shown that non-corporate monopolies are workable. The US Postal Service, for instance, has a monopoly in letter delivery (and only letter delivery) in the US. Because they aren't a corporoation, they have no incentive to pad their profits to attract investors, and what money they're allowed to keep (ie. not sucked up by Congress to pay other federal debts) simply gets spent on improving services and offering new ones.

      "Private investors and consumers create competition because, unlike taxpayers, they can take their money elsewhere."

      Are you serious? Have you looked at what's happened when communications markets get privatized? Corporations, in their quest to pad their profits, have no incentive to compete in areas with a low population density. If the return in their investment isn't quick and large, they simply won't do it. So while there may be competitive markets in cities and their surrounding areas, there is no longer any service (let alone competition in trying to provide that service) once you get 10-15 miles away from the Interstate. Privatization means eliminating any markets that don't have an immediate return on their investments, so they're by definition less competitive.

      Again looking at the example of the USPS, it has been shown that quasi-government businesses with monopoly power can offer a truly universal basic level of communications service without draining a single cent from public coffers. Because they have no reliance on outside money (whether you call them "investors" or "taxpayers"), the only people they have to listen to are their customers and potential customers. I can't think of any corporation that asks for as much customer involvement in decisions about such things as pricing and service offerings as much as the USPS.

      I'm sorry, but investor-driven markets are just as anti-competitive as state-driven ones. Unless the businesses involved in the privatization are truly private (as opposed to public corporations), there will always be the drive towards a monopoly marketplace and the eventual abuse of that monopoly power.
  • Last Mile? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brooks_talley (86840) <brooks@frn[ ]om ['k.c' in gap]> on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:41AM (#3508934) Journal
    Surely you mean "Last 200 feet." At least, that's what it's like in any remotely urban area.

    -b
  • by 00_NOP (559413)
    But try this in the valleys of South Wales and you'll soon realise that copper has its advantages.
  • I'd be down for this. Where I live I've been having all sorts of cable line problems with att broadband. Not in my house, but the cable they have running to the neighborhood. So if I could get 802.11b, I'd probobly go for it.
  • This seems similar to the hawaii article that ran on /. a while ago, but the implications here are more commercial. While I can see how the non-commercial aspects of the hawii thing would work out, I'm not sure how they're going to get different groups to work together in this case. Maybe it'll just slow things down.

    http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/03/13/1940 21 0
  • by Mandelbrute (308591) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:51AM (#3508952)
    Considering that the initial installion charge to the consumer when ADSL is installed is more than the cost of a wireless card, it may be the way to go. The real cost of the hardware is immaterial to the consumer, it's the amount charged to the consumer that matters. This may be the way out of the Telstra broadband monopoly in most areas.

    The costs to the service provider may also be significantly less than using the full Telstra ADSL or ISDN service. In some areas they may only need to put an antenna on the roof of their office and pay Telstra for the connection to the backbone (instead of having to also rent wires to their customers).

    I'm amazed by the number of people in Australia who ditch their ISP due to poor quality connections, and then have the same problem with the next ISP - and don't realise that everything is coming down the same wire controlled by the same telecommunications company.

    To all those who are confused as to who Telstra is, it is the formerly government owned, half privatised telecommunications company that owns most of the communications in Australia. The remainder is owned by Optus/Singtel, a mainly Singapore government owned telecommunications company, which has a few lines, provides cable TV and broadband to a few small areas and has a mobile phone network. These half privatised companies have most of the worst aspects of both goverment (a we rule you attitude) and private enterprise (more charges for less service all of the time). The way they are heading, full privatisation will turn them into monsters that make the worst multinational mining corporations look like a charities. Therefore, anything that increases the choice here is good.

    All the other telecommunications companies mainly just rent space on those two networks.

    • Here in the U.K. broadband is only just starting to become mainstream. However prices are at a competitive level because as well as the (once government now privatised) telephone network there are many cable operators too. Like Australia they rent space from BT for phone lines - but use their own networks for broadband.
  • Too much (Score:3, Insightful)

    by isorox (205688) on Monday May 13, 2002 @03:53AM (#3508954) Homepage Journal
    Everything is on 2.4GHz, theres not much to go arround though! wireless networking, last le, bluetooth, wireless video senders, cordless phones

    Put it all together and none of it will work, except the microwave.

  • standard components...

    ...like pringles cans?

    Seriously, as a consumer, I would have serious doubts about security, but I suppose I might just be underestimating the security of my current access.
    • Seriously, as a consumer, I would have serious doubts about security, but I suppose I might just be underestimating the security of my current access.

      Probably, as there's no security per se on the internet unless you encrypt.

      Still security is still an issue- but not for you, for the ISP. They don't want somebody else leaching their bandwidth without paying.

      The ultimate solution is VPN software- that way, gateway software permitting, they can put per-user bandwidth restrictions on you. Even if you gave away your password to someone else it wouldn't help as the ISP can just traffic shape you.

      And it is better for you too. With VPN software it is encrypted across the WiFi network, so there's less chance of your neighbours hijacking your connections; atleast until it reaches your ISP anyway. (After that all bets are off).

      The only downside of VPN software is there is often a slight performance penalty, latency and (sometimes) bandwidth; but it can still to be faster than ADSL.

  • Irrational (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baki (72515) on Monday May 13, 2002 @04:03AM (#3508976)
    As others have pointed out there are numerous technical problems with wireless if used at a large scale. It is all the more irrational knowing that there is already a good last mile in place: the local loop. Mostly it has been paid for with tax money, i.e. you could say that everyone owns its own local loop.

    Thus, it is only logical to separate the local loop from the service providers. Create a non-profit (public owned) company that maintains the local loop and offers it at cost price. The telecom companies can compete to offer service over this public infrastructure.

    Just like the road system (which is mostly public in most countries). Everyone can use them for a relatively small amount of money. Imagine the situation where there would be no public roads, but the 'local transport company' alone would build and own roads and offer their transport services (trucks, taxis) in one package; since you can hardly have 3 different roads leading to your house, you would be dependant on 1 or maybe 2 transport companies if you want to use the road leading to your house.

    Would privatization solve such an absurd situation? No, since no true competition can't exist even if the transport companies would be privately owned (i.e. strive for maximum profit).

    The only solution is to have a public infrastructure, and have private companies compete using this public infrastructure.

    The polititians that essentially gave away the local loop to a privatized telecom operator (i.e. they gave away something that the public has paid for) made a huge mistake. This must be corrected.
    • It is all the more irrational knowing that there is already a good last mile in place: the local loop.

      The problem with local loop is that only one entity, profit or non-profit, can control it. If they suck, we all lose. If they are inefficient, we pay up, instead of them going out of business. If they are incompetent, my service is down and I have to put up with it, instead of going to their competitor. If they are corrupt, we can only slap them on the wrist, instead of taking away their license to operate.

      Wireless offers competition. Dial-up was wildly successful because any Joe Blow could throw together an ISP and compete. If we want to grow out of dial-up and into wide spread broadband, there has to be the same level of competition.

      As for the "numerous technical problems": details. Since when have we let something like a lack of technology get in the way when there's a buck to be made?

      That said, if there has to be a single owner of the last mile, I agree; Lets call it the monopoly that it is, regulate it like a monopoly, and stop pretending. I hate regulation, but the only thing worse than regulation is partial regulation. Do it right, or don't do it at all.

      • You could say the same of the road leading to your house. If those that build it suck, you lose.

        The solution is not to build two roads (or get a helicopter landing platform on the roof of your house) as an alternative, but just to make sure that the road-building organization does not suck.

        Note, to continue the analogy, that it must not be a state-run firm actually building the local loop; the management is in public hand, but they can subcontract the real work (e.g. digging pipelines, etc) to private companies. They can try to compete and make a profit but have no control.
        • You could say the same of the road leading to your house. If those that build it suck, you lose.

          The solution is not to build two roads (or get a helicopter landing platform on the roof of your house) as an alternative, but just to make sure that the road-building organization does not suck.


          Helicopters seem like a perfectly good solution to me - I'd much rather have a flying car than a road.
          Most people don't use helicopters now, because even calculating in the cost of the roads, cars are a lot cheaper.
          If 802.11b is cheaper than local loop, then we should concentrate on eliminating the local loop altogether, not the other way around.

          -- this is not a .sig
    • The only solution is to have a public infrastructure, and have private companies compete using this public infrastructure.

      That is exactly right.

      I recently tried to acquire Sprint DSL (8 Mbit down, 1 Mbit up) in my home ... I wanted to start running some Free Sites (freenet nodes) in my home and play around with some other server stuff that is difficult to do on my cable modem with its ever changing IP address (and I was greedy for more bandwidth).

      I've had DSL in my home before (but it was expensive and slow in comparison), so it shouldn't be a problem.

      It was.

      I do not have a landline phone, having developed a sufficient hatred of our local Telco Monopoly (Ameritech) over the years that I will now only use a cellular service (currently AT&T, but I can change to whatever service I like whenever I like, in contrast to our local monopoly). This wasn't a problem the last time I had DSL installed, but apparently that has changed as the local Telco chokehold on the local loop has tightened.

      The bottom line, if I don't buy phone service from the local telco monopoly, I cannot get Sprint DSL service. Period.

      Quoting the correspondence I had with Sprint on the matter (for anyone else who is interested):

      SPRINT:
      I'm sorry I've been trying all day to get someone to tell me why another DSL provider was able to give you service w/o a phone number, but they said we have to have a phone number to service a location. Is there any way you could get a basic phone line just to have a phone number established to have the service installed?

      ME:
      No, I can't and won't do that. (I already have copper pairs going to my unit, having had DSL here previously.) My dislike for Ameritech is sufficient to avoid doing that, even if it means sticking with a cable modem. These services typicall charge installation fees, require people to take time off work to wait around for them (and then often don't show up when they are scheduled to do so), are expensive, difficult to work with, and then sell your contact information to telemarketers as a final slap in the face. I won't do business with them, period.

      SPRINT:
      I'm sorry that I was misinformed and told you we'd be able to set up service the way you said your previous provider did. I hope in the future if you ever get a phone line at home you would still consider us for home DSL service. Again I apologize for the miscommunication.

      As you can see, despite having the copper already in my unit and having had a DSL service previously (despite never having had a landline telephone in that Unit, ever), it is apparently no longer possible to get DSL service (at least through Sprint) without buying telephone service from the local telco monopoly.

      Sprint is losing $160/month on me alone because of either the local telco monopoly or their own incredible denseness, and I'm missing out on a DSL service I would like to have had. I doubt very seriously I am alone ... almost everyone I know has dumped Ameritech in favor of one cellular phone service or another, which means all those technically savvy people ... a prime market for Sprint's DSL service if there ever was one ... are disqualified from ever being able to buy their product.

      It is past time for the government to break the local telco monopolies and nationalize the last mile of copper (local loop) exactly as you describe. Anything else is going to lead to a communications oligarchy that will stall the telco and broadband industry and likley stagnate the technology indefinitely.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There are atleast 3 ISP's doing this in India.. ut not using standard equptment, they have specially modified high-power directional antenna.

    Besides the favored method is to do Wireless to a roof-mounted antenna at a commercial (or apartment) complex and then do a 10baseT ethernet switched network inside the complex.

    So the last 0.99 mile is wireless but the last 0.01 is yet copper ;)
  • consume.net [consume.net] in the UK are pioneering this kinda thing. There's also a whole raft of other community based wireless links at Wireless Anarchy [wirelessanarchy.com].

    Al.

    HantsWireless [hantswireless.com] - Hampshire Wireless

    SurreyWireless [surreywireless.com] - Surrey Wireless
  • by t0qer (230538) on Monday May 13, 2002 @04:30AM (#3509024) Homepage Journal
    I think i'm close to the average price of a 802.11 tranciever. Back to my point, I can buy 1000 feet of cat5 for $50 dollars a box. Maybe 2.5 boxes per last mile? In quantity it would be cheaper of course.

    So i'm lookin at $125 dollars per mile VS $200 dollars per mile and i'm asking myself, ARE THEY COMPLETELY OUT OF THEIR MINDS? How hard is it to run a cat5 cable over someone's fence? Hell I share my DSL with my neighbor that way (Pesky teenager d/l on kazza screwin with my CS games)

    So point is, this is what I would classify as an overengineered idea. Too expensive, too much stuff can go wrong, no no no no. Look at what happened to metricom a.k.a. Ricochet. Same plan basically and it died because they needed something like 300,000 subscribers just to cover their equipment costs.

    At least the cable can be recycled for scrap metal. Not sure what you can do with a 802.11 basestation.

    --My Sig is a warning that it's 1:30am and I can't be held responsible for this ramble because i'm pretty flipped out.
    • The limit on a Cat 5 run is around 100 meters. A mile is 16 times that. Also, Cat 5 is meant for indoor use. You need to count the appropriate outdoor conduit in that cost, as well, which in many cases may be several times the cost of the cable itself (just like how it costs hundreds of times more to dig up the ground than the fiber to put in the hole does..which is why we have so much dark fiber. As long as they've got it dug up, they put in as much as they can afford).
    • ... we walked 5,280 feet to school! Without any shoes! In the snow! Took over 5 boxes of 1000ft Cat5 to lay a cable so we could find our way home again! And we STILL came up a football field short of the front door! But we LIKED IT!
    • Byond the factors other posters mentioned, you cannot strng cat-5 to your neighbor's because of ground problems. It is entierely possibal for your comptuer to be at 100 volts realtive to your neighbors. So long as they are unconnected you are safe, but connect them with wire and it will destroy your computers. Wireless doesn't have that problem.

      • you cannot strng cat-5 to your neighbor's because of ground problems.

        Twisted-pair ethernet uses differential signaling (a transmitted "one" bit is sent out as a positive pulse on the TX+ line and a negative pulse on the TX- line). There is no requirement for a common ground.

        It is entierely possibal for your comptuer to be at 100 volts realtive to your neighbors.

        No, because the ground on both computers is plugged into, well, the ground.

        it will destroy your computers.

        But what won't these days? [nai.com]

        • Comptuers are not pluged into the SAME ground. Many intersting things happen with grounds, None that I can explain in a /. post.

          Differential signaling isn't enough for protection. The voltage differences that can build up between houses (which might be static) can easially overwhelm the minimal protection in a standard ethernet card and wreck your computer.

          Unfortunatly the above is all things that can happen, but not nessicarly will. That is you can do it, and you might be safe for years and then suddenly boom.

  • This reminds me of the following:

    One and half years ago at least nortel, most likely the others had a last mile box in the making. To be more exact a real last mile box. For the last mile between the patch board in the street and the customer house. At least the Nortel project was a DSL/Voice/ISDN concentrator that was supposed to be deployed in the street as a replacement for those grey ugly distribution boxes most telcos use since the days of Bell. Concentrate close to the customer premises and carry over fiber or vDSL to the exchange.

    Most of these projects got cancelled during cost cutting exersies. You know the drill: it is something new, so you should not do it and stick to the areas of "core expertise".

    If they were not cancelled the question of "out of range" would have quickly stopped to exist. Same for line noise and line-to-line interference (the usual problem with DSL).

    Just comes to show that some cost cutting exercices during the dot-com burst have been outright stupid...

    Anyway, back to the 802.11 topic. Once sanity is back and some startup (or the classic switch vendors) starts putting these out the 802.11 broadband will be as dead in the water as wireless local loop. It is not something that can be used to beat the telcos at their own game. It is a great office network, hotspot filler, neighbourhood network but broadband it aint.

    • I don't know about that. My cell phone bill the same price as my regular phone bill today, and I never use my regular phone. My cell phone includes extras on the land line (voice mail, caller id, and others that I don't use). It seems that even though wireless is expensive to get going, the costs are much less than wired for moderate bandwidth. When you need large amounts of bandwidth you need wires, but most of us don't use that much, so wireless is cheaper than running wires.

      802.11 probably won't stand up to video, but it is enough for most internet users.

  • Two comments have been made in this discussion that warrant reply. The first is that 802.11 cannot be used because of signal problems. Nonsense. Those who read the article would realize that you're going to use antennae that focus the signal (i.e., use hyperbolic dishes). This lessens noise and increases signal strength. For those in the Bay Area, a great example of this can be found in The Exploratorium, where two people can sit *inside* a pair of hyperbolic dishes about 40 ft away from each other and hear each others' whispers.

    In addition, this nonsense about being afraid of wireless access to the Internet due to security is *silly*. You're connecting to the Internet. What sort of security do you expect on a normal *wire*? Want real security? Use IPsec, TLS, or ssh.

    Remember, here in America we have our own troubles with last mile access, the cost of getting into COs and all that fun. This is a good alternative in other countries where access is even more impeded.
    • In addition, this nonsense about being afraid of wireless access to the Internet due to security is *silly*. You're connecting to the Internet. What sort of security do you expect on a normal *wire*? Want real security? Use IPsec, TLS, or ssh.


      True, but right now internet access is useally not secure, but it is controlled. Your connection to your ISP is fairly save as people useally don't dig in your neighbourhood to tap in to your line.
      With wireless you don't have to tap into the lines but just use your own 802.11 card and you can tap into all the traffic around you.

      What is at stake is stuff like email passwords etc. This can be solved by using secure logon but most ISP don't offer this.
    • Those who read the article would realize that you're going to use antennae that focus the signal (i.e., use hyperbolic dishes)

      At the provider side? For a few point-to-point customers yes, but normally you have an omnirange at the provider and (more or less ugly) directionals at the customer side.

      I live in Slovakia, where there still is a monopoly for the wired local loop to the end of this year. We have no commercially available DSL yet. Of course the wireless is cheaper and everyone and his brother is using it for everything and does not give a sh*t about the regulations.

      The band already is clogged in the bigger cities. It does not matter how one company plan the network - there are many and they are not going to plan it together.

      The reach is no problem - I know of a few 20 km point-to-point links. The density is and the unregulated band is not a way. There are technologies in the regulated bands (FWA at 3.5 and 26 GHz here) that are meant to provide a high-speed local loop. WiFi as a last mile is a kludge - it will work but...

    • 802.11 in the 2.4 Ghz range can carry about 415mb max. Thats based on no interference. The problem with 2.4 GHz is that it tends to bounce around things and get phase shifted so the recivers have to do lots of tricks to pull the proper bitstream out. If you have two systems that get 10% of the bits shared, you will find that your performance drops quickly. Parabolic dishes will help but the frequncy is so overused in places, you end up with slow unstable links over large distances. As you up the frequency you find that you need more directional antennas to get thigns to work but interference gets much worse. This is why 3.5Ghz wasn't used to it could be sold off to the suckers tring to do large last mile solutions. The 5Ghz is even worse but that may make it very good for wireless lans inside buildings. The 28 to 40 Ghz stuff only goes about the same distance as optical stuff and since point to multipoint optical and optical mesh systems can now be bought that do better, I don't see that as being a long term solution to the problem.
  • Ahh the CSIRO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by awol (98751) on Monday May 13, 2002 @06:22AM (#3509168) Journal
    An amazing organisation. Depsite the vagaries of public funding it is a network of insitutions with a proud history of discovery and invention.

    The specific research in question here is to determine the feasibility of the idea and to answer (with facts rather than BS we have seen here) the question of whether the wireless technology is viable. And despite the erudite position of some of the "interesting" slashdotter's, I'll take CSIRO's results before their opinions any day :-P
  • I use a wireless net in my house because I like to be able to move around with my laptop. My experience has been this: even with just me on the net, low ping times and fast transfers are only attainable by wire. Sure, wireless is great for browsing and other misc. taks, but if you get somebody that games, don't expect it to happen. Also not good for too much past entry-level DSL. If you're a wireless ISP, cool - there's a place for that. But I'd shudder to see everybody trying to make this a standard last mile...
    • You've missed it. Lots of people can't get 'standard last mile' because they are more than 3 miles away from exchange. I mean sure, if they can get ADSL they should.

      Otherwise, ieee802.11b can give them connectivity- and may be able to give them faster throughput than ADSL can in fact.

      Anyway, my experience doesn't align with yours. My ieee802.11b gives me much better link than I get from my ADSL line. Maybe you just have crappy equipment.

      • There is an ISP in Maine (more than one I think), and they offer great 802.11b service. And I agree that 802.11b carries faster than base ADSL. Now, I go on to restate my point in reference to my local LAN. If you want to go far enough past base ADSL, you need wires. In short, your argument kind of agrees and disagrees with me at the same time... wierd...
      • Re:Why not: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by adolf (21054)
        At my previous residence, which was situated in the middle of an Ohio corn field, there was no cable TV. The telco CO was 20 miles away. 802.11b provided an excellent last-mile solution.

        Standard equipment all 'round, on my end. Cisco Aironet 350 in the garage, a white plastic Pringles can-looking antenna on the garage, and Cat5 running to the FreeBSD box inside the house.

        Real-live, actual, sustained file transfers of 300 kilobytes per second were pretty common between myself and anyone else in the world with good connectivity to att.net. VCDs flowed forth from the ether with astounding ease, while mp3 downloads became nauseating, as one begins realizing that they're downloading hundreds of times more music than they'll ever have time to sort, let alone seriously listen to.

        Hard drives, even those of several hundred gigabytes, start feeling pretty small with that sort of bandwidth.

        There was no rain fade to speak of. Storms which completely disabled a well-tuned directv system had no effect on the net connection. Having the antenna turn 90 degrees in an intense wind storm did not phase it.

        Of course, the antenna arrays on the ISP end were several hundred feet in the air, and I had a clear view of the entire tower (and the small buildings at its base), which was just over 2 miles away.

        I'm sure that there are others who were less fortunate. This ISP (comwavz) claims to be able to cover entire counties with a single tower, which (around here) means a radius of perhaps 15 or 20 miles.

        Even with the ruler-flat landscape here in the upper-left corner of Ohio, it is difficult to imagine that a wireless link of 15 miles would work very well, with only a quarter-Watt of output power with which to play. OTOH, it's also a little past last mile territory, either, so this last conjecture might be beginning to stray off-topic.

        Thus, I'll conclude: The last -2- miles work fine with 802.11. So fine, in fact, that I was happier with it than any other consumer broadband choice I've ever had the pleasure of abusing, from dual-channel ISDN to 1.5Mbps SDSL, and the spattering of ADSL and cable and satellite that rests in between, irrespective of cost.
  • SSH (Score:2, Interesting)

    I've yet to see a hardware AP that does SSH tunneling between nodes. I've yet to see any implimentation of any other encryption over a link. With the recent insecurity of the encrytion in 802.11b wouldn't it be a good idea for manufacturers to use alternate encryption in their products and still support the old encryption?
  • Just recently a local guy set up a antenna on top of a couple of water towers in a rural city about 5 miles from me. This guy has been hooking up people right and left shooting about 5 - 10 mile links with a decent 2mb throughput. I unfortunately live in a hollow which does not allow me line of site to the antenna. If I could just get someone to relay I would be hooked to it in a minute.
  • I have several months experiece with it. It ain't for everybody. My signal comes from a mountain, I have a "barbeque grill" high-gain antenna pointed at the mountain. Hard to point. Also, as pointed out already, security is lousy, but I don't care -- others might. Speed is *great*, but antenna placement and pointing is *highly* critical, and very fiddly. Both I and my ISP are looooong time RF/wireless guys, so we had no problem making it work. Your typical can't-find-his-ass-with-two-hands-and-a-flashlight ISP will *not* be able to give good service with this. For me, the solution rocks, because: my ISP is clueful about RF, I am clueful about RF, my ISP is small and friendly and personalizes solutions. By the way, I bought all the customer premises equipment outright at a cost of about $600, so it is not being rolled into some kind of hidden monthly charge -- this works for me, but may not be what everyone wants.
  • Can 802.11 Become A Viable Last-Mile Alternative?

    * Burning1 posts from the new 1.5 megabit per second syncronous 802.11b wirless internet connection he's been beta testing for his local ISP (at no cost...)

    Um... I'll get back to you in a year or so, when I've thoroughly tested this thing. ; )

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