How the Internet of Things Could Fracture Wi-Fi

New mesh Wi-Fi networks improve coverage, but at the cost of interoperability

2 min read
Illustration by BloodBros
Illustration: BloodBros

Wi-Fi is the invisible workhorse of modern life. But Wi-Fi is struggling. And the next phase of the Internet—the Internet of Things—could break it.

Startups and Internet service providers are developing an application layer that divorces some functions from the base networking standard, IEEE 802.11. Many new features sprouting up within this layer—such as mesh networks (a set of routers that work together to extend wireless coverage) and provisioning tactics (which define how wireless devices connect to networks)—have been developed in response to the Internet of Things.

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The Cellular Industry’s Clash Over the Movement to Remake Networks

The wireless industry is divided on Open RAN’s goal to make network components interoperable

13 min read
Photo: George Frey/AFP/Getty Images
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We've all been told that 5G wireless is going to deliver amazing capabilities and services. But it won't come cheap. When all is said and done, 5G will cost almost US $1 trillion to deploy over the next half decade. That enormous expense will be borne mostly by network operators, companies like AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and dozens more around the world that provide cellular service to their customers. Facing such an immense cost, these operators asked a very reasonable question: How can we make this cheaper and more flexible?

Their answer: Make it possible to mix and match network components from different companies, with the goal of fostering more competition and driving down prices. At the same time, they sparked a schism within the industry over how wireless networks should be built. Their opponents—and sometimes begrudging partners—are the handful of telecom-equipment vendors capable of providing the hardware the network operators have been buying and deploying for years.

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