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Congress and the FCC need to make some significant decisions over the next year or two. If their staff members have a better understanding of the differences between wired and wireless, they will be able to offer advice based on fact and data

Wireless 101

Friday, October 23, 2009

We have been holding our Wireless Universities for sixteen years now, starting the first year of the CTIA Wireless APP show (now Wireless I.T. & Entertainment) in Las Vegas and held the day before every CTIA show since. We have also held this course in Canada for a major network company, in China, in Japan,and for many companies within the United States. The program started out being called the "Wireless Data University" and as time passed and wireless data became a larger part of wireless, we changed the name several times and it is now the "Andrew Seybold Wireless University." Over this time, we have "graduated" more than 5,000 attendees. Still a full-day course, we start in the morning with technology, where we have been, and where we are going. Then in the afternoon, we switch gears and discuss operating systems and content.


I bring this up because now looks like the right time to put together a Wireless 101 course for the many who don't understand wireless at all, or who believe that wired and wireless systems have the same attributes so the same uses and rules should apply. Much of the debate about Net Neutrality, how many network operators should compete with each other, and how to solve first responder communications problems are being engaged in by people who are not educated about the differences between wired and wireless and do not understand that these differences call for different solutions.


If we put together such a course, I wonder whether we could get congressional staffers whose bosses will be making the decisions, and perhaps even FCC Commission staffers, to attend. I don't think we could expect them to sit through a full 8-hour course, but it certainly would be possible to put together a half-day session that could be offered several times for scheduling convenience and perhaps even videotaped or streamed and stored on the Internet.


It would be great to have this type of course hosted both in Washington DC and in Silicon Valley. I keep hearing it said that Washington folks and wireless network operators need to come to Silicon Valley to understand where the real technology advances are being made. If more Silicon Valley types understood wireless, perhaps their technology advances could be better geared for both the wired and wireless worlds.


Three or four hours is not a lot of time in which to convey the nuances of wireless services-voice, text, MMS, and data services-but it is enough time to present a general overview so attendees will leave with an understanding of the complexities of the various technologies, the resources that need to be deployed for them to work, the issues with gaining approvals for deployments in various cities and counties, and the differences between the wired and wireless Internet. If nothing else, they should come away with an understanding that wired access to the Internet, and the Internet itself, is about DATA services exclusively (VoIP is data), while wireless networks are about many different forms of communications in addition to data, INCLUDING access to the Internet.


One section I might include would be called "The Killer Applications" and it would make the point that the real killer application for the Internet is ACCESS, either wired or wireless, and that once we have access, everyone has a different killer application. To guarantee open and fair access to content or use of the Internet as a pipe to tunnel back to our corporate data services, these pipes must be managed at some level.


Though I can think of many more things I would like to include in this course, with real-life examples and perhaps discussions between those with different views, my goal would be simple. I would help educate those who will be making the decisions about how to handle issues surrounding wired and wireless, fiber and spectrum bandwidth, and fixed demand for services that can be pre-managed, to demand for services that can materialize anywhere on a wireless network at any time of day or night.


Congress and the FCC need to make some significant decisions over the next year or two. If their staff members have a better understanding of the differences between wired and wireless, they will be able to offer advice based on fact and data-which is what the FCC Chairman has said he wants-rather than on what is provided by influence peddlers who are only looking out for "their side." In reality, there should be no sides in this debate. There should be a mutual understanding that wired and wireless systems make up our communications networks and both will continue to play an important role into the future. There should also be an understanding that wired and wireless systems are different and the differences need to be understood before rules are applied.


These are just a few thoughts about what I would like to do. Over the past 16 years, we have become known for rendering technology understandable to non-technologists. While these sessions would not be about making experts out of anyone, they would impart important knowledge about the differences in the types of resources available to each type of service provider and future decisions would be better informed.


Andrew M. Seybold


COMMENTS: This is an archived post. Commenting is no longer available.

Syed Hosain - 10/23/2009 16:06:16

I like the idea!! If you need any help teaching it (not that I expect you do), please let me know! :)

It always frustrates me when I hear that wireless and non-wireless Internet access should have identical characteristics. In particular, in the business I am in (wireless M2M applications), this often leads to unrealistic expectations of service availability and how it is all "supposed" to work perfectly all the time.

Greg Carttar - 10/23/2009 16:43:38

Killer app - One which expands in bandwidth requirements to put the previously sufficient network on its knees.

Syed Hosain - 10/23/2009 16:45:53

That is a good definition! :) Do you mind if I borrow and use it?

Greg Carttar - 10/23/2009 16:47:28

Go for it. Please do.

Syed Hosain - 10/23/2009 16:48:55


Andrew Seybold - 10/23/2009 16:50:10

Syed--and Greg thanks for your comments-and Greg I too like your definition

Joy Maguire - 10/23/2009 17:43:56

Andy, I think this idea is great, but I, too, worry that 3-4 hours is not sufficient to get as much knowledge transferred to people who influence our wireless world as we would all like .I wonder if it might be appropriate to provide the basic course "Wireless 101" to explain the technologies, the network services and architectures, etc., including a small section on Killer App, then provide a follow-on course Wireless 2.0 after you have whetted their appetites.
I think that doing the courses in person in WDC and Silicon Valley as well as storing and streaming them on the Web are a good idea - the advantage of the in person presentations, of course, is the interaction and the questions, but I am sure there is a way to add interactivity to an online course as well.

Andrew Seybold - 10/23/2009 17:51:07

Joy--thanks and I am up for that--I love to do these sessions as you know and would love to follow up 101 with 2.0! And I think we might even have some takers.


Greg Carttar - 10/24/2009 08:32:12

For quite a while, I've been working on a class for firefighters that is, for lack of a better word, "Communications Lite", an attempt to impart enough basic knowledge so that communications equipment can be used correctly and effectively. Simple concepts, illustrated with analogy, that connect to training that they already posses in firefighting.

If they want to learn more, then there is a follow-on class that goes a little deeper into theory. It's structured sort of like the Haz-mat Awareness, Operations, and Technician progression.

The object is not to turn them into radio technicians, but rather to turn them into enlightened radio users.

Surely there is a way to impart some basic concepts about wireless networking similarly.

It would seem that there would be enough cross-discipline analogy to get some basic concepts across, even with politicians.

Laymen glaze over VERY quickly, and it is difficult to get them back once glazed.

Layne Holt - 10/24/2009 11:58:10

Joy's idea has my vote with with the addition of some real-life examples.

Andrew Seybold - 10/24/2009 11:59:08

Thanks Greg and others who have contributed directly to me via email, all good comments. However, I am not invisioning a course that will teach dispatchers or Public Safety folks how to understand radio basics but rather to inform (teach) those who do not understand the differences between wired and wireless technologies, the differences in managment required by the two different types of broadband serivces, and hope that their take away be to appreciate the differences between wired and wireless and why the two forms of broadband connectivity, even though they both provide access to the Internet are not the same and should not be consdiered, from a rule making point of view, the same.

Greg Carttar - 10/24/2009 12:20:33

I understand. I was trying to draw a parallel to a very compact and simplified wired/wireless overview, where the student could go on to a more detailed learning experience if they desired.
As an instructor, my first task is to get the student to understand that there is an issue, in a way that does not glaze them over, then build on that with examples that they can relate to.

Best Regards,

Greg Carttar, CHS-V
3rd St. R & D Production Services
Special Event and Disaster Communications
417-336-4045 24 hrs

Safety Officer 307, Communications Officer,
Fire Service Instructor I, HazMat Technician
Central Taney County Fire Protection District

Syed Hosain - 10/24/2009 12:23:52

Yes! It isn't just the people who *use* the wireless technology - this basic education needs to go to decision / policy makers as well. Since these are the politicians who run our country - at all levels - that is where to start.

Including, for example, Congresspeople and Senators ... who *like* to interfere with technology decisions with inadequate understanding and knowledge. They also tend to treat the FCC people (who have some, but insufficient, info on wireless) as people who are not to be trusted for some reason - so there is no real expertise guiding the politicians.


Andrew Seybold - 10/24/2009 18:46:18

Syed--you are correct unfortunately, I can remember a time when the Chief Engineer of the FCC was consulted and his advice was taken in many cases. But this is not the case today, there are plenty of very capable folks at the FCC but they are not asked to take part in the preceedings nor are they asked to provide their input. If we are to continue to have rules made by attornies who don't listen to their technical advisors then we are in a lot of trouble--and hence my thoughts about trying to educate those who may not want to become wireless experts but who certainly need the education so that they can balance what they are hearing with facts and realility.

Syed Hosain - 10/24/2009 21:01:18

I am definitely in agreement. Please let me know how I can help with this project!


Cathy Sutter - 10/27/2009 10:02:03


Great idea regarding a wireless 101 course. It is imperitive that the simple basics of "RF" are explained before you can even start delving into the various services offered today. As a 900Mhz trunking operator in Arizona, finding someone to sell on my systems is almost impossible unless I train them myself which can take years just learning 800, 900, UHF and VHF. Wish I could send my customers least the ones who still can't figure out PTT !
Best of luck my friend !