I can’t hear for wireless!
If you walked into a room where 12 FM radios were playing full blast, could you expect to hear anything in the cacophony? Well that’s what trying to use wireless internet is like here at CES.
I can’t get a Wi-Fi connection at my hotel, and I can’t get one at the show either. Wireless devices are great for the home. In tightly packed exhibition halls, they’re rubbish and unluckily for us, that’s exactly where they are being used.
As I write this I’m seeing 17 Wi-Fi hotspots, and over half of them are on the default channel 6. Wi-Fi in North America has a choice of 11 frequencies to transmit on, but no one seems to worry about checking what’s already transmitting where, and of course they’re all transmitting full blast, shouting over each other.
No wonder I can’t connect to anything.
The problem also shows up in Bluetooth devices. On one Bluetooth audio stand, we detected around 20 transmitting devices and whilst shooting material for the Click video blog, my colleague and I were keen to prove to show we could make it work on camera, using our own phones to dock with the receiving devices on the stands. There was surely no issue with it working, this stuff has been around for years after all.
But it didn’t.
This is what’s known as the tragedy of the commons. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth only work because of common (unlicensed) radio spectrum. It benefits all, but use it inconsiderately and you damage the resource for everyone.
My plea to the showfloor – turn your Wi-Fi down! The most stable internet access I get in Las Vegas is when I plug in my ethernet cable.
For an exhibition where wireless connectivity is the ‘now’ thing, the next big thing, might just be wire.