Which standard is better for teleworkers: Wi-Fi or HomeRF?
Competing wireless groups battle for control of small office/home office.
By WAYNE CASWELL
Network World, 04/09/01
Although originally designed for home networks, HomeRF is the best choice for teleworkers because working from home or on the road introduces network requirements that enterprise wireless LANs still can't address. IEEE 802.11 variants, such as Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi), fail to provide toll-quality voice services and compare poorly in such aspects as power consumption, reliability and support for high-network-density environments such as apartment buildings.
Home wireless debate
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HomeRF is fast. Products hitting the market this year will have a 10M bit/sec peak data rate and sufficient range for most residential applications, even in the presence of interference from microwave ovens, cordless phones and Bluetooth devices. The data rates for the new products will back off to 5M bit/sec or slower if necessary to extend the range or to operate with older HomeRF products. By next year, HomeRF proponents expect to achieve a data rate of 20M bit/sec or faster with full backward compatibility.
Because HomeRF was originally designed for home consumers, certified HomeRF products are generally simpler, more secure, more reliable and more affordable than Wi-Fi products. For example, Proxim's Symphony-HRF products make it easy to move between offices and homes - or between wired Ethernet in the home office and wireless HomeRF on the sofa, kitchen table or patio without changing network or Internet settings.
HomeRF also enables low-cost roaming for access to wireless networks in public places such as coffee shops, libraries and shopping malls. Due to its frequency-hopping technology, HomeRF offers superior scalability in larger institutions, with support for up to 15 overlapping networks compared with three for Wi-Fi. Frequency hopping also makes HomeRF less susceptible to interference and more secure than Wi-Fi.
Although Wi-Fi has gained momentum in retail channels, most deployments have been in industry vertical applications, corporate offices and schools. HomeRF continues to dominate the home wireless network market and remains the choice of broadband carriers for their integrated services. That's because HomeRF integrates voice, data and entertainment - including cordless phones, prioritized media streaming, wireless speakers and Dolby Surround. HomeRF is included in the leading cable modems, the top TV set-top boxes and a growing number of home gateways, music and TV devices, and information appliances.
HomeRF has quality-of-service support for streaming media and is the only wireless LAN to integrate voice. And as a 2.4-GHz extension of the European digitally enhanced cordless telephony standard, HomeRF has a chance to become the worldwide standard for cordless phones.
Broadband, not enterprise IT, will define home-network standards important to teleworkers and drive the market from early adopter to mainstream.
Caswell is communications chairman for the HomeRF Working Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opposing view by Dennis Eaton, a board member of the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance.
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