Wi-Fi – Ruggedized versus consumer grade. What are the differences?

As many of you have come to find out through the use of smartphones and PDAs with Wi-Fi, that getting connectivity can often be a headache.  Although 3G has reduced these woes through better coverage, the truth is that some devices just don’t want to connect to Wi-Fi when you haven’t got the luxury of 3G.

The symptoms are typically that your device connects and then drops the connection and then hunts for another.  And sometimes the connection looks promising – you have three or four bars and yet the device comes back and says “unable to connect”.  You shrug your shoulders, you move on and it was no big deal.

However, if this was your network and the device has to work, you’d be frustrated.  Now, in AIDC, this is precisely the case as it’s a critical business productivity tool on which you depend.  To help with this, these devices typically have a more industrial grade radio in them – it might be more sensitive or have greater power.  However, the design improvements don’t stop there. 

The software “supplicant” is the component which allows the user to select an access point and connect.  The one that comes built in is often inadequate to do the job.  Let’s take Wavelink’s Seattle office.  We’re in the heart of downtown and at any given moment, a device might be able to “see” over a hundred networks.  In fact the Avalanche rogue and foreign device detection feature will, in any given week, detect over 3000 devices and networks.  And analyzing it further, in any given second, on any given Wi-Fi channel, over 300 frames are being transferred, just to advertise the presence of a network.  And let’s not forget that error rates due to interference are very high – averaging 20-30%.  It’s no wonder that OS supplied supplicants don’t cut it.  They may see the desired network for a few seconds, and maybe even connect.  But typically the connection will be dropped in less than a minute.    And sometimes the OS supplied supplicant won’t even see the network at all.

Tomorrow I’ll look what AIDC vendors and Wavelink provide to avoid these problems as well as other facilities which enhance security to a level required by today’s businesses.

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