The Road Wirer
the "Pulse" at Networld+Interop2000
by Mark Sedenquist
A couple of days ago I was wandering around a large convention hall and the displays caused me to wonder momentarily how I had been transported to the boardwalk at California's Venice Beach. From a single vantage point I could easily see-- not that I really wanted to-- Jerry Springer and his crew of loudmouthed chair-throwers, a troupe of rope-climbing acrobats, assorted magicians, a few sword-jugglers, and a bevy of models lending sex appeal to the products of the day.
It was only the fact that my cellular phone wasn't working-- despite having a "perfect" signal-strength indicator-- that I remembered I was on the exhibit floor of Networld+Interop2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada. When one is attending the premiere computer networking event of the year with another 90,000 or so engineers, marketers, inventors, investors and news hounds, each of whom is sporting and attempting to use 1.75 wireless devices simultaneously, even a beefed- up network of radio repeaters and telecommunication devices can't keep up with demand.
Despite the glitz and glamor of some of the exhibits, I am hard pressed to remember either the name of Jerry Springer's sponsor or the products that he was supposedly promoting. One lasting memory I do have from that exhibit floor was a simple exhibit with an attractive spokesperson introducing a couple of video clips of engineers talking about their work in creating new chip designs. Despite the roar of noise emanating from the adjoining booths, about fifty attendees listened in rapt attention to the low-key but informative discussion. Genuine content beats slick veneer any day, and fortunately, the presentations in many of the booths were excellent. I shall be writing about some of the innovations I discovered in this column in the next few days.
While the displays in the exhibit hall were fascinating, it was the range of topics discussed in breakout sessions of the conference that engaged my attention and expanded my knowledge of acronyms exponentially. Megan Edwards, my editor/partner, has often decried my personal use of acronymic abbreviations, and it is true that I am fond of reducing as many concepts as possible to their initials in daily speech. I have met my match-- there were a number of times during sessions at Networld+Interop2000 when I was treated to such long strings of acronymic jargon that I was almost moved to stand and applaud the speakers on their creativity. I refrained from expressing my admiration when, after looking around at my neighbors, it was clear that I was probably the only person who wasn't fluent in the idiom of the day.
So, post-Networld+Interop2000, are we any closer to "Dynamic Space? Well, the news is mixed. There are some new offerings in the satellite connection space, Tachyon, Inc is now providing two-way service with uploads in the range of 64K to 256K and downstream speeds approaching 2Mbs. Next week I will comment on this and other satellite-based services. In informal discussions with a couple of seasoned telecommunication engineers, I gathered that the provision of true high-speed data access to dashboarders using conventional delivery methods seems to be at least four to five years away.
However, in the realm of the "unconventional" there was some breaking news issued by the FCC on May 10th that could lead to the laying of the groundwork for the establishment of the Dynamic Space scenario that I envision. One of the impediments to creating a high-speed access connection to the Internet is the lack of available telecommunications bands. Much of the communication spectrum has been purchased or "licensed," and the owners of those bands are unwilling to allow other technologies and users to share those resources. Larry Fullerton has developed a method of using tiny, high-speed pulses of energy for communication purposes. His work deals with the Ultra-Wide Band, (UWB) spectrum in bands below 2 GHz. The FCC has now adopted a proposal that may lead to the use of this underutilized band for unlicensed use--be sure to check out Time Domain. This is exciting stuff because "Time-Modulated UWB" technology may be able to provide true broad band Internet speed to wireless dashboarders. It is a technology that the RW is going to review carefully in the days and weeks to come.
Next week: News about Tachyon, GlobalStar and DirecPC's new two-way satellite Internet connection services. I will be on the road next week en route to another wireless meeting, this time in Austin, Texas. Hope to hear from you soon.
Las Vegas, Nevada
May 15, 2000