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Mailbag: WLANs vs. 3G

Jun 01, 20043 mins

* Readers weigh in on issue of wireless LANs vs. 3G wireless technologies

Several readers responded with their thoughts on last week’s newsletter on wireless LAN hot spots, and I’d like to share their responses with you.

One reader says WLANs have a short-term edge that could develop into a long-term one:

“WLAN has its place and will continue to see new growth in more places. One of the reasons is the 3G technologies are considerably more expensive to deploy and maintain.  This means the end user will pay significantly more to use it – at least in the short term. This gives WLAN (Wi-Fi) more time to mature. More time for it to gain greater consumer acceptance. More time for the consumer to become dependent on its availability.”

But in the case of failed Wi-Fi venture Cometa Networks, even if the company had managed to get McDonald’s to sign up, this reader at least wouldn’t have been very receptive:

“Cometa Networks press continually made reference to its McDonald’s account. I really don’t think about going to McDonald’s to do ANY PC work. The environment just is not conducive to this exercise. If I had 100 choices for a Wi-Fi venue, a place like McDonald’s would probably rank about 99.”

Wayport in May announced that it won the contract with McDonald’s and will roll out its Wi-Fi service to 8,000 of the fast-food restaurants over the next year.

Another reader says it’s all about latency:

“Latency is the big technical difference between WLAN and cellular services, i.e., probably less that 100 milliseconds for WLAN and probably more than 500 ms for cellular. This doesn’t matter for surfing and E-mail, but when people start using wireless for connectivity to business apps, like so they can work while waiting for a plane, response time will be more critical.”

Yet another reader had this to say about the possible rise of WiMAX, the high-speed follow-on to Wi-Fi:

“Technology is only the enabler when it comes to applications. If the application is not interesting, or if the application is too expensive, or if the application is too cumbersome to use, the best technology behind the applications is meaningless. It is too early to say if WiMAX can even survive, let alone prosper. Ultimately, it is what the service provider and what the carries trying to do with WiMAX. At the moment, I see mostly a bunch of start-ups and Intel/TI waving the flags because they want to make money. The takers are largely quiet, in my limited view of course.”

Many thanks to all who wrote in.