Forget 3G, we've got 802

Forget third generation cellphones, the solution is already available and far cheaper, says Cisco's country manager Tim Hemingway.

Forget third generation cellphones, the solution is already available and far cheaper, says Cisco's country manager Tim Hemingway.

Hemingway says wireless protocol 802.11 can be used for cellphone-like calls without too much fuss, and it's a lot cheaper and a great deal faster.

"Particularly in Europe they've spent an awful lot of money on spectrum and the vendors can't put together a model in terms of manufacturing the end devices because they can't get the volume they need."

This vicious cycle, says Hemingway, is affecting the roll out of such technologies in New Zealand even though our spectrum auction produced only a fraction of the cost of the European auctions.

"We're just too small a market to be able to influence their manufacturing at all."

Instead, says Hemingway, we should look to unlicensed spectrum and devices that are wireless as well as mobile.

"There are already companies producing 802.11 handsets and I can see the development of a dual phone with 802 and GSM say for the broader coverage."

Already Hemingway says there are plenty of devices that offer voice and data connectivity over 802.11 connections at megabit speeds rather than the kilobit speeds seen with current cellphone technology.

"You can get handsets from companies like Symbol, wireless sleeves for the iPaq that come with headsets so you can talk and laptop cards that do the same."

Cisco would look to manufacture such devices itself, but only to seed the market and to encourage others into the space, says Hemingway.

Security has been a major concern with 802 protocols in the past but Hemingway says that shouldn't be a problem in the future.

"The encryption package has been broken, but the new protocol 802.11x is a lot stronger and Cisco has also been working on a system called LEAP as well."

Hemingway says half the problem with wireless security stems from companies implementing it but not bothering to switch any of the security features on at all.

Hemingway says he can't see the major telcos switching to an 802.11 platform because that would be seen as "simply cannibalising their existing markets", but he can see new players coming into the telco space and being able to do so in a cost effective manner.

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