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Article Review: Telecommunications and Networking


The ease of use and flexibility presented by wireless technologies, there is a certain potential for the expansion of the access protocol in the near future, if governments, scholars and engineers in the related fields redouble their efforts in realizing the potential of wireless data communication. These technologies have been in existence for a considerable period of time, during which they have undergone multiple innovations and development to enhance their efficacy and efficiency; efforts and developments that have aptly prepared the access protocols for a take-off. Partridge (2011) examines the potential presented by these technologies, and perhaps most crucially, explores areas of further development to exploit the technologies to ensure the entire planet’s connectivity to be able to realize the fullest benefits of information technology. The key areas included in the article’s path of wireless development include the following:

The Shift from Hardware to Programmable Software Radios

While Craig Partridge realizes the difficulties facing the transition to software radios, not least because of the discord between the policy makers, the software engineers and the radio engineers, which has in turn resulted into similar differences in the direction and priorities of related research, tremendous progress has been made. To begin with, there is an urgent need to obtain the proper mix of programmable hardware to cope with high performing software radios, which has largely gone without attention by the government, scholars and engineers in the field. By the close of the year 2020, the article envisages the replacement of hardware radios by software radios for both the military as well as civilian purposes. The technology, which has already made inroads in the US military and the growing efficiency, has led to the reduction in the packaging to render them suitable for civilian purposes, in contrast to a decade ago, when the software radios were bulky, expensive and cumbersome. Programmable Software chips present an even greater potential for the contraction in size and cost, while at once boosting efficiency and relevance in the modern world (Patridge, 2011, 63). These technologies promises increased flexibility across different access protocols, which is already manifest in products such as Microsoft’s Research Software Radios (Sora), Wireless Network After Next (WNAN) as well as in Universal Software Peripheral (USRP).

Understanding the Software Radio Reality

With the replacement of hardware radios, it will be unnecessary to purchase wireless protocols along with devices, while at once providing support for Bluetooth and WIFI connectivity, with the emphasis shifting to cover Digital Signal Processing (DSP), radio processing powers and programmable gate array capabilities. Additionally, these technologies will increase the efficient usage of bandwidth, with the possibility of dynamic allocation of broadband, according to the needs of the applications and the consumers’ needs, coupled with the fact that it will no longer be necessary to limit wireless communication to particular data communications and protocols determined at the time of the device’s purchase. These will allow unlimited compatibility of access protocols, which will not only add to the ease of use and flexibility for the consumers, but will ultimately, translate into increased relevance of these devices to the consumers and their needs.

Design Possibilities

There are two possible paths involving:

  • A set programmable components that mix DSPs, FPGAs as well as possible embedded processors, where software engineers can develop suites for every programmable component. There is a wide difference in the way of combining different DSPs, embedded processors and FPGAs to attain the most efficient processing power. Further, this path is burdened by even more threatening system problems such as the choice of frequency filters, which are critical in the reduction of the processing power needs, which can however, only be attained at increased development costs.
  • The second approach involves the reliance on highly configurable chips, which involve inbuilt frequency, media access and coding protocol configurations. While there are clear design and practical advantages between the two extremes, there is need for increased research to develop both options to their best possible efficiency, as against opting for one of the alternative. Engineers should boost the energy efficiency, flexibility and applicability of both the designs through research in order to ensure the world gets the better of the either world.

Achieving the Software Radio Reality

The article points out the practical difficulties presented by increased flexibility as well as complexity of wireless communication protocols. The possibility of softwares getting in the way of each other, disrupting communication or coming under attack is multiply increased, effectively necessitating even more research effort to allow devices discriminate between different PDA specific transmissions. Further, there is a possibility of differentiating between the radio frequencies, as well as a third option where standard body would register all possible protocols, according to the equally varied software configurations. The article envisages the possibility of approval of, and possible reconfiguration across the three different solutions to limit possibilities of conflict or deliberate external attacks if any. It is equally possible to determine independently determine the suitable radio configurations, through the evaluation of all options facilitated through research, which particularly suits programmable radios. However, even this option is faced with multiple difficulties, not least because of the possible different languages of configuration tables and whether tables should be broken up depending on the different ranges of the spectrum (Partridge, 2011, 67).

Regulation & the way Forward

The most obvious solution lies in government controls, and the critical role played by the policy makers in ensuring that a software radio reality is realized. Creation of new, or mandating the existing regulatory bodies to license and effectively regulate different would be critical in cutting back possible external attacks or internal conflicts that may result from design or configuration flaws. There is a further possibility in rendering the trusted module to create a trusted reasoner, or better still to create both an untrusted reasoned and a validator, allow it scan different spectrum rules as determined by different regulatory authorities, then subsequently adapting them to suit the needs of the users (partridge, 2011, 66). These solutions would most possibly be backed by a central spectrum manager, with the capacity to designate different spectrum segments to be specifically used by radios with cognitive reasoning abilities. The article recommends a collective effort by all stakeholders (Partridge, 2011, 62), coupled by an exploration of all possible solutions as against favoring any one way forward. A policy and regulatory framework is undoubtedly critical in ensuring that the limitations of technology are not exploited by external forces, while at once ensuring smooth, non disruptive systems.

Transformation of Wireless Protocols into Radio Applets

As against the current situation where consumers must buy wireless protocols when purchasing their Portable Digital Assistants, which effectively results into the users being restricted to one or a few protocols, determined at the time of purchase. This has multiple advantages, not least because it fails to anticipate the users’ future needs and instead, seeks to determine their possible future needs on the basis of their current needs and their own assessment of those needs, which is often uniformed and inaccurate. Users could change their geographical locations and or purchase other equipments that could be incompatible with the protocols, resulting into an enormous inconvenience and inefficiency. While today it is possible for PDA manufacturing to rake in profits on account of WIFI and Bluetooth support, the realization of software radios would render these different wireless data access protocols into applets that would be easily supported by all PDAs (Partridge, 2011, 64). This would not only boost convenience, but perhaps most crucially, will shift the focus of research and innovation resources, towards boosting radio processing power. This way, changing and or migrating across different wireless data access protocols would trigger an automatic change in the PDA’s protocols, by downloading newer or different protocols to allow a user to communication, without any further cost of effort on their part.

Additionally, as against the current protocols which used fixed bandwidth’s which doubly breeds inefficiency on account of excess capacity or shortages. These will be transformed into increased adaptability to available bandwidth in relation to the equally varied bandwidth needs of the users. As such, there will be little jams in one area, coupled with unused capacity on another end (Partridge, 2011, 64). Applications that require excess bandwidth will automatically scan the existing spectrum for availability of unused bandwidth frequencies, which will result into the application being, apportioned more bandwidth, as against the reduction in transmission speeds that is characteristic of the modern Bluetooth, wireless and other protocols. As such, by the close of 2020, it will be no longer necessary to attempt anticipate one’s bandwidth or data communication protocols at when purchasing different communication devices, nor will the existing devices force users to purchase similar or compatible products to fit in with their prior purchases.

With the introduction of software radio, there will be even greater scope for increased usage and compatibility of the existing data communication protocols, which will even be further enhanced by better licensing regimes and improved use of spectrums to manage the new reality. The possibility of software radio multiply changing spectrums throws regulatory challenges, not least because it renders it difficult for the regulatory bodies, relying on the existent technologies and laws to effectively control the new data communication environment. (Partridge, 2011, 66) recognizes the need to identify and approve different spectrums as a basis of regulation. This would only be possible, on the back of the currently existing data communication protocols such as WIFI and Bluetooth. Approval or licensing of spectrums, facilitated by the current data access protocols, will proof critical in reducing the possibility, however remote, of malicious development of software devices that would disrupt the existing, approved frequencies. Besides the critical role played by these protocols in regulation, the safety of the networks will as well remain dependent on the currently available protocols. This is not least because there are no new options that have been developed, but because Bluetooth and data access protocols have relatively well developed security infrastructures, that could be easily be used by the new technologies.

Assessment of partridge’s Contribution

Regulation & the Way Forward

Partridge alludes to the poor preparation demonstrated by the software and radio engineers and the policy advocates in preparation for the arrival of the new software radios. It is difficult to over-emphasize the role played by each of these, as well as other stakeholders in ensuring that software radio is a successful reality, and even more, the need for a collaborative effort to ensure this (partridge, 2011, 62). A lack of a collective effort has, and will only give yield to a diversion or resources as well as research issues to opposing needs, effectively resulting into reduced productivity that will in turn hurt the speed and efficiency with which software radios will ultimately be realized. Channeling of resources to a single objective is critical, just as it is equally critical for the computer and radio engineers to have shared objectives in the development of the new data access protocols (Hussain & Hussain, 2007). The choice and direction of research, on the basis of the two software radio types is a particularly instructive illustration, of how short term considerations, based on what is currently feasible could potentially lead to the withdrawal of attention from one radio type that may prove critical in the future (partridge, 2011, 64).

The preference of highly configurable chip based software radios, as against the radio type founded on set of independently programmable components, runs the risk of discarding a solution that may in fact, help the plane cut back on its energy consumption and boost efficiency not only by using less energy, but perhaps most significantly, through the replacement of even more energy inefficient radios (Grant, 2001, 152). This check can only be offered by the policy makers as against being solely reliant on hard hearted engineers. In addition, partridge (2011) raises an important issue that would prove critical in the success of software radios, regulation. This would only be possible with the efficient use of the research evaluating the available options, development of technological solutions, coupled with the establishment of laws and regulatory bodies to enforce these solutions (Hussain & Hussain, 2007). This will help prevent malicious attacks by rogue software devices and configuration conflicts among others, which will collectively contribute to the successful realization of software radio reality.

Achieving the Software Radio Reality

Software radio is not unlike any new technology, and it is bound to be beset by multiple difficulties. Flexibility and intricacy are doubly unhelpful to regulation, which is even more worsened by the fact that there is little theoretical or research work that has been directed understanding software radio behaviors (Khosrowpour, 2006). There is a potential of standard channels possibly broadcasting softwares to given geographical locations for specific device models, which would make it easier for the regulators and ensure safety, but would not change much of the hardware radio realities (Grant, 2001, 64). Efforts to change this have centered on the possibility of software engineers employing one language for different PDAs, which will increase compatibility, but faces multiple practical challenges. For a start, deciding on one programming language would be a challenge, just as it is equally difficult to find a programming abstraction to would suit FPGAs, DSPs and configurable chipsets equally (Partridge, 2011, 66). A further solution, which involve protocol specifications broadcast, which is followed by the subsequent conversion of those specifications into configurations promises great practical results, but there is little known about the feasibility of this option.

In common, with the initial tenets of Partridge’s article, the most practical solution, and one that is relatively more feasible that the preceding alternatives, lies in regulation. This comprises of the registration of different protocols by regulatory bodies, which will subsequently help control them and prevent malicious devices and softwares form disrupting the infrastructure. Approval and licensing of spectrums is as yet, the most practicable solution that has made the software revolution draw closer (Partridge, 2011, 66).

Critical Assessment of the Article Review

This article review presents important elements of Partridge (2011), presenting not just the important elements of the article, but perhaps most critically, highlighting those elements that are critical to the understanding of the hardware and software radio. The review begins with the description of the current hardware radio, followed by an examination of the anticipated shift towards software radio, anticipated by the close 2020. This paper does as well as recognize the difficulties faced by the software radio revolution, as well as the efforts that have been put into meeting the emerging challenges, through the section assessing the achievement of software radio reality (Grant, 2001, 183).

This section effectively serves to recognize that while the new data access protocols promises great practical and efficiency benefits, difficulties remain, and the success of the revolution is solely dependent on whether the technologies meet the needs of the users. This is critical since the decisions of the final consumers are not dependent on the academic benefits and facts as is commonly asserted in the marketing pitches (Hussain & Hussain, 2007). Partridge lays emphasis on, and this paper has not sought to de-emphasize the important role served by collaborative efforts by all stakeholders, which is particularly critical in the regulation of the new technologies. Further, this paper places particular weight on the role that will be played by the current protocols in ensuring both regulation and success of the software radio.

While the article presents varied views from different perspectives, it suffers from a weakness since many of the sources obtained and included in the exploration of different issues highlighted in Partridge (2011) were either in agreement with, or different only slightly from the premises in Partridge (20110. This is not unexpected in technical matters, but it is serves to limit the critical perspective that would otherwise, highly supplement the contribution of the paper. Further, the prediction of the possible software revolution is theoretically possible, or even when applied to a smaller scale (e.g. the US military), but it is the view of this paper that the 2020 prediction is a bit rich, as are many of the major promises of the new technology. It may proof successful in the long term, especially with the improvement in technology as well as regulatory mechanisms, but this soon, it remain a theoretical possibility with a great promise.

References List

Grant, G. ,2001, Managing Telecommunications and Networking Technologies in the 21st Century: Issues and Trends. New York: Idea Group.

Hussain, K. M., & Hussain, D., 2007, Telecommunications & Networks. London: Focal Press.

Khosrowpour, M., 2006, Cases on Telecommunications and Networking. New York: Idea Inc.

Partridge, C., 2011, Realizing the Future of Wireless Data Communications. Communications of the ACM , 62-69.

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