Wireless networking has gone mainstream in a relatively short amount of time—Wi-Fi hotspots are ubiquitous, and Internet access via ultracompact laptop, PDA, and phone is now commonplace. Today, the "last mile" in wireless technologies is wireless broadband, which can provide LAN-like speeds over cellular-type distances. At the forefront of the effort are two competing technologies:
• Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), often referred to as Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) and defined by the IEEE 802.16 working group, and
• 4G mobile broadband, which is based on existing legacy code division multiple access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) cellular technologies.
Although it's technically a complementary rather than competitive technology, Wi-Fi also comes into play when discussing broadband wireless deployment. You could argue that the pervasive nature of Wi-Fi hotspots prevents the immediate urgency that motivates users to upgrade or purchase wireless broadband devices. Ultimately, end users want easy-to-use high-speed access over wireless connections.
Several debates continue to rage over the specific wireless technology that works best in a particular environment—a topic we won't get into here. Rather, this special issue of IT Professional presents information from the end user's perspective, in which ease of use and basic fundamentals are more important than the protocol with the highest theoretical maximum speed.
In Chin-Tser Huang and J. Morris Chang's "Responding to Security Issues in WiMAX Networks," we learn more about the security parameters defined in WiMAX. Understanding these specifics provides a good foundation for learning the security strategies required of all wireless protocols. In "Hand-off Evolution with Multiple Interfaces," Ching-Lun Lin, Chih-Hsiang Ho, and Jen-Yi Pan discuss the implementation challenges of maintaining an open wireless connection while moving between substations or even between technologies. Wesley Chou's article, "Considerations for an Efficient Mobile Workforce," focuses on the current generation of cellular protocols and provides criteria for corporate adoption of standard handheld devices. Finally, I-Horng Jeng, Allen Y. Chang, and Yong-Rui Wang look at the broader industry's response to wireless technologies—particularly, a push for mobile application development that depends on broadband access—in "Plug into the Online Database and Play Mobile Web 2.0."
Although multiple vendors and standards bodies are working to create a unified wireless broadband technology, the reality is that many protocols will remain in play for the foreseeable future. WiMAX has seen successful deployment in developing countries, whereas incumbent cellular providers in developed areas are using their existing infrastructure as leverage for further advancement. The IT professional's job is to understand what these technologies can do for his or her own organization.
is an engineering manager at Cisco Systems. His experience includes managing global teams in the development of large-scale application-aware network equipment, interfacing with all levels of IT staff (from C-level and down) at several Fortune 100 companies, and creating processes for maintainable network design. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J. Morris Chang
is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University. His technical interests include wireless networks, object-oriented programming languages, and embedded computer systems. Chang has a PhD in computer engineering from North Carolina State University. Contact him at email@example.com.
is a corporate engineer at LinQuest. His technical interests include GPS navigation, wireless communications, and digital signal processing. Wu has a PhD in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.