The March Towards Multimedia Wi-Fi

Michael Vizard

On the eve of Black Friday and as the rest of the holiday shopping season approaches, it's pretty clear that multimedia is a big theme when it comes to the next-generation of mobile computing devices.

With a wide variety of mobile computing devices now starting to support rich media types such as video, it would seem that the Dick Tracy two-way video wristwatch can't be too far away now.

The problem, however, is that advances at one end of the technology spectrum are not being matched elsewhere. So while the folks who make mobile computing devices are adding more multimedia capabilities, the wireless networks they depend on are still pretty fragile.

This is one of the reasons why we're seeing Aruba team up with a new Multimedia Working Group to advance multimedia standards for 802.11n networking environments. Despite all the noise about so-called 4G networks, the fact of the matter is that most multimedia applications running on mobile computing devices are going to be dependent on Wi-Fi. We already see the carriers trying to push data-intensive traffic off their networks and onto Wi-Fi whenever possible. The issue that will face us next is that the 802.11n networks we have available today are not really set up to effectively support this kind of traffic.

Of course, as noble as the intentions behind the Multimedia Working Group efforts are, it's missing an important constituency. Brad Noblet, the Multimedia Wi-Fi Working Group chair, says the next step will be to recruit manufacturers of mobile computing devices to give their input on how to advance multimedia Wi-Fi networks.

We'll have to wait and see how the rest of the wireless networking community responds to this multimedia initiative. The fact of the matter is that like all-things-networking, no advances can be really be made until there is a quorum.

In the meantime, when it comes to multimedia mobile computing, our collective imaginations will continue to run ahead of our networking limitations. But maybe by this time next year we'll have seen enough progress to make 2012 the year of mobile multimedia.

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