Wireless go home

Wireless networking continues to get a lot of publicity in the Middle East, with hotspots popping up around the region.

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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 26, 2003

Wireless networking continues to get a lot of publicity in the Middle East, with hotspots popping up around the region.

While Channel looked at the subject of public WLAN hotspots a few weeks ago, the concept of the home network is also raising some interesting questions.

The home network can include a lot of different ideas, from allowing two PCs to share an Internet connection at home to having your PC, DVR and the refrigerator all managed on one network, but broadly speaking, the wired home concept is gaining ground. Sony is looking at putting Linux into its consumer electronics to enable them to be put together into a single network.

At the most simple level, a lot of homes now have two PCs, and the idea of connecting them together to share files or play games is very tempting.

Wireless is the obvious bridge for the home user—after all, even the most modern homes do not come with ducts or raised floors to run cables through. Anyone who has a home cinema set-up will know how messy the cables for five or six speakers looks in the average living room. Wireless should allow you to link up all of your hardware with nothing more conspicuous than a wireless receiver.

But the problem is, wireless just isn’t that simple yet. I have spoken to at least two IT people who have tried to set up networks at home and run into problems. Admittedly, these people were non-techies, but when they still had problems with the equipment even after getting help from their own technical staff, you have to wonder how the average home user is going to manage?

Partly, at least in the Gulf, the way homes are built seems to be causing problems—the mix of rebar and concrete is not the most conducive to wireless signals, and some users are having to use multiple access points within their home to get an adequate network connection.

Mostly though, the problem is with the set up. In the US, some solution providers have suggested there could be a revenue stream in setting up home networks. The idea is interesting, but difficult to see how it might work. Home networking equipment is a retail sale, and most retailers aren’t set up to send out technical staff to customer’s homes. It would also clearly be a task for a skilled engineer—the hardware in each network and the environment would make each job unique, yet the costs of an engineer to set up a home network would be more than the hardware itself.

The answer lies in the software, and in the same way that setting up a PC now is nothing like the chore it was five years ago, automating as much of the process as possible. But while the technology should remove the headaches in time, retailers had better be ready for some frustrated customers.

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