Bad Science, Bad Wi-Fi

So, why am I writing this blog on Wi-Fi?

I’ve been working with Wi-Fi in earnest for a good 6 years now, and I think it’s time to admit that the industry is fundamentally broken.

Wi-Fi is a very complex technology; understanding the possible interactions coordination of competing transmissions from multiple devices over the air is basically insanely tricky. As with all things, if you don’t possess enough knowledge then it’s possible for someone to explain away how it works without really knowing themselves… Using Bad Science*.

I don’t profess to understand it all in detailed operation of 802.11 based wireless comm’s myself, but I know enough to know what I don’t know… and enough to tell when something smells bad. I have now lost track of the number of times that I’ve been told complete and utter gibberish in response to queries, questions and gentle probes into how something works.

Examples include:-

… The 40MHz channel [802.11n] will serve two clients at once, effectively doubling the bandwidth…

… the Ruckus Zoneflex antenna system will use intelligent beam forming to direct the signal optimally towards each client for any unicast transmissions, thus reducing the level of interference compared with other wireless systems.

… In that case, you don’t have to use just 3 channels on 2.4…

And my favourite,

…and they are working together fine, complementing rather than interfering with each other’s signals…

Bless those signals; it’s so nice when Physics gets along with itself! All these quotations come from people who were in positions as trusted authorities, explaining to me why the Wi-Fi would be OK. They all translate to:- The Wi-Fi will be OK because of SCIENCE. And frankly, that’s just not good enough.

I think the problem is rooted in the fact that the technology is complex, yet there are very few people trained to a high enough level to appreciate these complexities (or even have a clue they exist), yet we all want to consume Wi-Fi services; and the industry is littered with the resulting poor quality installations.

So, I hope to use this blog as both a soap-box and a tool to help educate; to evangelise about Bad Wi-Fi, hopefully helping realise it’s antithesis – Weapons Grade Wi-Fi

* Bad Science is a term coined by Dr Ben Goldacre. He wrote a book. It’s great.

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