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High density WiFi

2010-06-10 19:39:03.049223+00 by Dan Lyke 3 comments

Steve Jobs survives Gizmodo but not MiFi suggests that the reason Steve had trouble at the iPhone 4 unveiling was all the bloggers using the WiFi to 3G devices like the previously mentioned on Flutterby Verizon MiFi, causing WiFi interference:

When Jobs ran into error messages and slow-loading pages from his demo phone, he called out “Scott,” to Scott Forstall, the company’s senior VP of iOS Software, “you got any suggestions?” Multiple audience members shouted back in response “Verizon!” — referring to the network that often has more reliable coverage, especially here in San Francisco. Jobs took the bait, breaking the fourth wall to reply, “We’re actually on Wi-Fi here.”

Down in the comments, Packetguy suggests:

...The issue isn’t Jobs asking people to turn off their abusive MiFis,or AT&T’s problematic network. It’s that devices like the MiFi are an incredibly stupid replacement for a one-foot USB cable, which is all these audience members were using it for. 802.11 does not support AP densities of more than three per 100′ radius under the best conditions. The WWDC had more like 50 per 100′.

Seems like there should be a Bluetooth solution for this... Via Omega Delta.

But I guess the other question is: Were the people hollering "Verizon" getting connectivity? If so, then WiFi isn't the problem, because their MiFi devices were presumably getting through.

[ related topics: Apple Computer Wireless broadband iPhone ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-10 20:10:48.496703+00 by: ebradway

Sounds like time for some experimenting. I'm betting the MiFi was getting a solid connection to Verizon and people within a 5 foot radius were getting a solid connection to the MiFi. But outside that radius, the MiFi was increasing the noise. Since Jobs had to be in the middle of a stage, he was outside the radius of clear signal from his AP. Seems to make sense anyway... Does it make sense to limit the channels the MiFi can operate on?

As for using AT&T, I sure would anticipate having trouble getting a connection at a large Apple event on their sole carrier. And I would expect that any other carrier would be better. If I were Jobs, I'd either sneak in some kind of hacked WiFi that operated outside the normal channels (violating FCC regs - but only for a limited distance and a short span of time). Or just jailbreak the phone and run it on another carrier.

But tech conferences are always a challenge when it comes to provisioning networking.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-10 23:12:14.883219+00 by: markd

I'm at WWDC, and the WiFi gets progressively worse the more folks that are there (not unsurprising). It was not nearly this bad last year (I had no complaints then).

I bet people within the 5 foot radius were getting a great connection, but since it's private, nobody else can use it. Some folks have renamed their WiFi networks to classy things like "NOT 4U". Knowing little about the tech, there does seem to be a correlation to MiFi densities and atrocious (vs just bad) WiFi for everyone else.

Luckily there's high speed plugins around the perimeter for doing bulk operations.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-11 11:51:42.816153+00 by: DaveP [edit history]

Actually, according to another report I heard from a friend at the show, even people with MiFi were having trouble connecting between their laptop and their pocket. As the number of base stations rises, no matter your signal strength, the number of dropped packets goes up. Older iPhones that are better about falling back to the lower-speed WiFi networks reportedly had better luck, as there were fewer of those polluting the airwaves. And iPads can use the 5GHz 802.11n band, and they were working better, too. But the iPhone 4 is stuck in the 2.4GHz band.

Bluetooth isn't the answer either: when the density rises high enough, even bluetooth starts failing.

It's an interesting issue. I was predicting that AT&T's network would fail at the conference due to the density of devices trying to hit cells, but I'd never thought through the number of people who'd have MiFi there and that wireless networking would be almost completely useless. A MiFi DDOS. Huh!

Edit: There are also lots of good comments at Five Hundred WiFi Networks Walk Into a Bar