Sunday, August 23, 2009

Standardization

It is also possible to compare the two technologies with respect to the extent to which they are standardized. Broadly, it appears that the formal standards picture for 3G is perhaps more clear than for WLAN. For 3G, there is a relatively small family of internatio nally sanctioned standards, collectively referred to as WCDMA. However, there is still uncertainty as to which of these (or even if multiple ones) will be selected by service providers. In contrast, WiFi is one of the family of continuously evolving 802.11x wireless Ethernet standards, which is itself one of many WLAN technologies that are under development. Although it appears that WiFi is emerging as the market winner, there is still a substantial base of HomeRF and other open standard and proprietary technologies that are installed and continue to be sold to support WLANs. Thus, it may appear that the standards picture for WLANs is less clear than for 3G, but the market pressure to select the 802.11x family of technologies appears much less ambiguous – at least today.

Because ubiquitous WLAN access coverage would be constructed from the aggregation of many independent WLANs, there is perhaps a greater potential for the adoption of heterogeneous WLAN technologies than might be the case with 3G. With 3G, although competing service providers may adopt heterogeneous and incompatible versions of 3G, there is little risk that there will be incompatibilities within a carriers own 3G network. Of course in the context of a mesh of WLANs, reliance on IP as the basic transport layer may reduce compatibility issues at the data networking level, although these could be significant at the air interface (i.e., RF level). Unless coordinated, this could be a significant impediment to realizing scale economies and network externality benefits in a bottom- up, decentralized deployment of WiFi local access infrastructure.

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