[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Open your laptop in New York City and chances are you’ll find a Wi-Fi hotspot to surf on. Not so in tiny Lone Pine, California, wedged between Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada mountains. Houses are spread out, not stacked, and Wi-Fi sure ain’t a long-distance champ. That’s why a lot of cities abandoned their ambitious plans for universal wireless coverage, explains wireless consultant Robert Morrow in a recent issue of Science.
Morrow writes that Wi-Fi will probably stick around in offices. But he says a different wireless technology called Wi-Max, developed about four years ago, could become the new standard for large areas with scattered users. Wi-Max avoids airwave interference by operating in licensed frequencies. And being licensed means Wi-Max stations can pump up transmitting power, expanding their range to a kilometer or more. That’s 20 times the range of a Wi-Fi station, so an entire city could be covered by a score of Wi-Max base stations. And if tons of users swamp a Wi-Max station, it can redirect them to an uncrowded neighbor. So it looks like no matter how lost in the woods you get, you’ll still be able to check your e-mail.