Wireless is only one of the many electronics topics we cover in Electronic Design. Yet it's one of the hottest technologies today. In fact, it can be found across all of the individual EE fields. In this special issue, we'll look at how wireless affects everything from analog design to embedded systems. Our Engineering Feature examines WiMAX, the broadband wireless solution. Our Technology Report then looks at wireless mesh networks. While both technologies have been in the development stages for years, they're now showing up in real-world applications. Elsewhere in this issue, our editors cover how wireless is making its presence felt in their respective beats.
But if you're new to the technology, where should you begin? The chart below summarizes today's most popular wireless services, appications, and specifications. The graph illustrates the most popular way to categorize these technologies—range versus data rate. It seems that the faster you want to go, the shorter the range. Still, some technologies will let you have your cake and eat it too. And you can extend range with mesh techniques and still maintain your data rate.
Most cell-phone development, which appears to be at a lull right now, is focused on 2.5G technologies like CDMA2000, GSM/GPRS/EDGE, and their variations. UMTS/3GPP 3G cell phones and systems are gradually emerging, yet they're still a fraction of the total market. 3G will grow, and there will be a gradual switchover in the future. VoIP over Wi-Fi and WiMAX may modify that growth, though. Also, multimode phones will cover standard cell phones and VoIP.
There may be nothing new with 802.11 (or Wi-Fi), but it's flourishing anyway. Standards work continues to improve security and quality of service. A mesh option is in the plan as well. The high-speed 802.11n, a work in progress, will use multiple-input/multiple-output techniques to boost rates to 100 Mbits at impressive distances. As the opposing working groups come to a consensus, we may see a final standard next year.