old new smoothie?
Oblivious IEEE waves through standard for dead dream
The IEEE has formally approved 802.11r, the amendment to the Wi-Fi standard that allows devices to smoothly transition between Wi-Fi hotspots without breaking the flow of conversation.
802.11r allows a mobile device to move smoothly between hotspots, with connections never suspending for more than 50 milliseconds. Inaudible to the human ear which is presumed to be making use of such connectivity, the standard was published last month, but manufacturers are only now starting to show an interest.
It's strange to think that Wi-Fi was once considered a serious threat to mobile telephony, but there was a time when city-spanning Wi-Fi networks promised to carry phone calls for free, if only there was a decent hand-off between cells. 802.11f provides a fast enough hand-off for data services, but that can take a second or two if cryptography is being used, so 802.11r was kicked off in 2004 to provide consistent connections.
These days no one seriously expects Wi-Fi to challenge the network operators, indeed the reverse is more likely to be true, but enterprises might be convinced to deploy VoIP solutions based on Wi-Fi thanks to the new standard.
Earlier this year the Wi-Fi Alliance tried to create interest in using VoIP over Wi-Fi with their "Voice-Personal" certification, which has been largely ignored by VoIP users and manufacturers alike. Now that 802.11r has been completed, the Alliance will likely create some sort of enterprise-level certification that will mandate 802.11r conformance.
As femtocells start to provide the same functionality with less complexity, and cellular networks ramp up speeds to match the real-world performance of Wi-Fi, it's probably time for Wi-Fi to concentrate on the data services it delivers so well and leave voice traffic to the professionals. ®
I haven't yet stayed in a hotel that offers free wi-fi, not in the US, UK, NZ or Australia. No, you still have to pay ridiculous sums like $50 a night or $10/hr to get access.
@ Robert EA Harvey
The largest hotel chain in the world, Accor, (owner of such worldwide brands as Ibis, F1, Motel 6, Etap, Novotel, Mercure and many more) charges for WiFi in every single hotel in the world under its stewardship.
They do offer it for more reasonable prices than others (10EUR/24h), and have started throwing in a full multimedia package for the price but I think it disproves your theory.
However, it has been a while since I paid for WiFi in the UK. I can usually find an unsecured network, and where I can't I just give £15 to 3 for a months HSDPA access (heck of a lot cheaper than WiFi).
Let's see, the serviced offices I'm in? Free wifi for all tenants and visitors (there's a Café on the middle floor), with encrypted/authenticated VPN access to the tenant’s VLANs if required.
If I go into the city centre, I can't move for useable networks. My iPod touch has Wifi most places, thanks to a £3.99/month subscription to The Cloud (the only exceptions seem to be places where BT OpenZone or T-Mobile have muscled in first, with their exceptionally expensive Wifi-only packages). If I really have to, I can fall back to my 3G phone, but in all honesty it's rare most places I go.
Femtocells are currently even more bluesky than metropolitan WLAN. It's probably more likely to happen (although very likely restricted to the enterprise space), but it's hardly the case that people are dropping Wifi for cellular all over the shop.