Page 15 - Winter 2018 Travelore Issue 44
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DRVC Travelore - Page 15
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up to 30 feet under optimal conditions. Though it is a line-of-sight technology, things can be in the way since the radio waves are bouncing around in the air in a somewhat random fashion.
3) Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) - OK folks, I will admit, this is where it begins to get a bit difficult to under- stand so hang on. WiFi became a networking standard almost twenty years ago. If you ever worked in an office or school twenty or more years ago, if you were connected to the office network via an Ethernet cable you were considered up-to-date. Further, if you were connected to the Internet so you could send or receive emails, you were in a very connected (networked) environment. And, if the wire was disconnected, you were isolated.
4) Cellular - Don’t worry. I’m not going to geek out on you, just keep in mind that AT&T and Verizon use the term (wireless) in rather imprecise ways. Sure, it is wireless but it is really a bit more than that. I wish they’d stick with cellular voice or cellular data. But, since they do bundle a bunch of services and capa- bilities together, they seem to take advantage of the opportunity to confuse things by just saying wireless.
The World of WiFi
WiFi has nearly replaced all of those miles of wire in an office while making pervasive use of it in our homes, restaurants, stores, and campgrounds. Little did we know even 15 years ago that we’d be using it so heavily today. Even some of us living in sticks and bricks have WiFi- enabled security cameras that, in turn, transmit data to our smartphones so we can see who ringing the doorbell.
WiFi, like other wireless technologies, does have it’s spe- cific uses and specific limitations. Yes, it’s a line-of-sight technology but things can interrupt the signal even when bouncing around space you inhabit.
WiFi has been implemented in different versions. Origi- nally, it was used to communicate at a certain speed for up to a certain distance. In the beginning it operated at 11 mbs (megabits per second) and up to 150 feet from the access point. That access point, typically, was connected via a wire to another location where an internet connec- tion existed. Today, however, we have much faster speeds. Those speeds, however, have brought with it challenges
not the least of which is the effective range let alone the number of devices trying to utilize the radio waves.
To put it simply, WiFi is a “shared resource” and as such, all the users (devices) have to cooperate with the use of the technology. As more devices use the channel, the busier the channel becomes and the slower it appears to be work- ing. You can thing of WiFi as a highway. If you are the only one traveling on the Interstate going between Chicago and St. Louis you should be able to get there rather quickly and without other traffic to bother you. But, what happens when the road is clogged with holiday travelers? Yes, the time it may take will be longer in addition to running the risk of having an accident to deal with. The highway, like WiFi, is a shared resource.
The Realm of Cellular
Cellular voice and data, though digitized nowadays, is much like WiFi in that it is a shared resource. Though it is a line-of-sight communication method capable of reaching out miles instead of feet, it is plagued by some of the same issues. The main culprit is the number of users accessing
a cell tower at any one time. The next issue has to do with immovable objects like buildings and trees. Then, if it rains and it is summer, the water droplets on the trees create a myriad of mirrors to bounce the signals even more wildly that in the dead of winter with a cloudless sky.
Cellular, also like WiFi, has been implemented in versions. With each version the attempt is to speed up communica- tion or make it more reliable. Within months of this pub- lication, the major cellular providers will start implementing the infrastructure to handle
what will likely be called “5g” referring to
“fifth generation”. It will take a while for
this iteration to be implemented every-
where just as 4g and LTE took a while.
On top of all of this, new equipment will
be the only devices that can take advantage
of this enhancement to personal communication.
Summing Up
This covers some of the basics of getting connected while traveling in your RV. For some of you it has been a review while, for others, it has probably been an education. Hope- fully it helps with understanding what wireless is and what it is not.

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