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Book Review: "Deploying Wireless WANs" and Interview with Jack Unger

ISP-Planet Associate Editor Alex Goldman reviews "Deploying License-Free Wireless Wide-Area Networks," a new Cisco Press book by Jack Unger, and speaks with the author.
Review by Alex Goldman, ISP-Planet Associate Editor
Originally published on isp-planet.com February 18, 2003.

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Jack Unger, founder and president of Wireless InfoNet, is the author of Deploying License-Free Wireless Wide-Area Networks that will be published by Cisco Press in March, 2003.

At 400 pages, the book will have an introduction, nine chapters, three appendixes, and an index. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 will review the basics. Chapter 4 will cover site surveys. Chapter 5 will describe antenna systems. Chapter 6 will cover other wireless equipment. Chapter 7 will talk about outdoor installations. Chapter 8, which we received for review, covers the all-important subject of noise and interference problems. Chapter 9 will talk about the remaining issues in providing wireless broadband Internet access. Appendix A will cover wireless standards. Appendix B will describe providers of hardware and software as well as service provider organizations. Appendix C will provide answers to chapter review questions.

The language in the book is concise, and is simple without being condescending. Although Unger does not avoid technical terms, he takes care to define them when they appear for the first time, and makes frequent use of charts and schematics to clarify the points he makes. This allows him to handle complex issues using language that is not difficult to understand.

Although the book is published by Cisco, Unger says that it is vendor neutral. "I do not slant towards any vendor," he says. "That was one of the conditions for writing the book."

Unger has been teaching people how to deploy license-free wireless WANs for a long time. He founded his consulting and training company, Wireless InfoNet, in 1993. Using free resources responsibly has never been easy. Notes Unger, "there is a need for everyone who is deploying to be willing to cooperate, and when necessary coordinate their coverage areas, antenna systems, and power levels to avoid creating unnecessary interference."

Over the years, he has seen many people with strong computer networking backgrounds enter the wireless space with false or preconceived notions of how it will work. "Wireless is invisible and if you have not worked out there, you won't know what's what," he says.

Yes, it is his business, but Unger feels that the wireless area needs more education. "Many people entering the industry need to devote time to learn about it," he says.

"I've probably done 25 or 30 seminars in the last two years alone," he adds. "One common error is two use omnidirectional antennas in two cells a short distance away from each other. Without interference minimization that will cause self-interference, reducing throughput on both systems."

Another basic error concerns site surveys. "It is crucial, in my view, to perform a wireless site survey before you sign a lease at a location, because if the pre-existing noise level is high, your access point may not work well at that location." Unger notes that those new to the market can find themselves in the unenviable situation of having signed a lease for space they cannot use.

Unger adds, "this is to my knowledge the first and so far only book for the WISP industry. I'm hoping that it proves useful to them."

He says he once wanted to be a teacher. "I wanted to teach physics, but I learned that I was not that good with calculus and gravitated to psychology." Unger's speaking voice has much of the reassuring tones of the professional physician, and does not have the projection that teachers learn to direct at noisy classrooms.

Unger first became interested in wireless when he was very young. "When I was about 10, my parents gave me two books, Electronics Made Simple and Electricity Made Simple. I liked the electronics book especially. By 11, I was involved with HAM radio. For a kid like me, it opened a door to the rest of the world."

The HAM radio fraternity taught Unger how to use a HAM radio, and helped him obtain a novice license and then a general license. Eventually, he began teaching others. "I could walk around my neighborhood and see the antennas. I'd knock on the door and say, 'Hi, I'm Jack and I'm getting my novice license.' We'd sit down around the kitchen table and talk. I learned a lot from strangers, and today, if someone has a question, I just want to help them."

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