By Ed Wenck
The job was so extensive that Joel Crane can’t really remember what the original course looked like.
“I pretty much ripped the whole thing apart,” he says. Crane – Technical Trainer at MetaGeek, a firm that creates wireless troubleshooting gear such as spectrum analyzers and packet analysis tools – is referring to one of two courses he’s revamped that focus on wireless technology. CEDIA’s Wireless Network Technologies Learning Lab (EST253) covers “all common types of Wi-Fi that are out there and some non-Wi-Fi technologies as well,” he explains. The other course he helped rebuild, the Advanced Wireless Networking Learning Lab (EST353), needed an update, but one that wasn’t quite as sweeping.
EST253 needed updating on a number of fronts: First, the constant improvements to the basic standard will soon result in a version dubbed “802.11ax,” which will likely be available over a router near you in the next year or two. “They add improvements all the time,” notes Crane, “You probably heard about 802.11ac, everybody went bananas over that – but the funny thing about Wi-Fi is that it all really goes back to the original 802.11 standard which was ratified in 1997. That’s most of the core mechanics of Wi-Fi, which has essentially remained completely unchanged since then.”
And with that look backward, Crane realized that there was some ground the old version of the course hadn’t sufficiently covered. “It’s kind of like algebra – you build on core concepts,” Crane says, and the three that need to be readdressed were half-duplex Wi-Fi, co-channel interference, and adjacent channel interference.
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“For EST253, I don’t get into ‘Here’s how you configure a wireless router’,” Crane continues. “It’s ‘OK, you’ve logged into a wireless router hundreds of times, but you don’t know what any of this stuff means. I’m going to show you what you have to do to create a well-performing network.”
Add a staggering number of connected devices and it’s easy to see why these wireless courses are annual CEDIA sellouts: “We are putting heavier and heavier demands on wireless,” Crane explains. “To the best of my understanding, that original 802.11 standard that was written back in ’97 was originally for wireless barcode scanners in warehouses. There was no concept that things like YouTube and Netflix were coming. And not only are we cramming more devices into the spectrum, those devices have to share frequency space with non-Wi-Fi devices too. Cordless phones and wireless video cameras – they all share the same frequency space, so they actually kind of have to fight over space to talk. All of this makes designing and maintaining a wireless network more difficult than ever before.”
And there’s going to be more demands on wireless technology if virtual reality explodes. “I have my doubts, but if VR takes off, there’s going to be big demand for wireless content delivered to headsets,” says Crane. “It takes massive resolution – and speed – to make VR feel convincing. That’s a lot of bandwidth.” Voice over Wi-Fi is also devouring spectrum as cell carriers try to offload some of their volume elsewhere.
And that’s why Crane, despite his wireless bona-fides, notes that we’ll ALWAYS will need cabled infrastructure. “The spectrum is a finite resource and we are running out. You can always string cables together and have a lot more through-put.”
Wireless Network Technologies Learning Lab
Sept. 6 and 7, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. both days
Presented by Joel Crane, MetaGeek
; Nathan Holmes, Access Networks
; and Jeff Briesemeister, Integration Controls Advanced Wireless Networking Learning Lab
Sept. 6 and 7, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m., both days; Sept. 8, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Presented by Joel Crane, MetaGeek and Nathan Holmes, Access Networks Register HERE for CEDIA 2017.