IT Pro Portal caught up with Mark Pearce, Enterasys strategic alliances director for EMEA, at last weeks' IP Expo 2013 to talk about the role of wireless Internet and networking in a constantly evolving market.
"The thing that always amazes me," Pearce told us, "and they've been saying it for fifteen, twenty, thirty years – 'you never need that much bandwidth. 7 megs is enough. 10 gigs is enough.' It's not. The world is changing.
"Everything is more social, so people are constantly on the Internet; people are on their smartphone, their iPad, their tablet, no matter where they are and no matter what time of day. And the applications they use are usually video based applications, so the amount of bandwidth they're consuming all the time is increasing, increasing, increasing. Who knows when it's going to stop?"
Indeed, the amount of bandwidth that we use is highlighted by the recent revelation that BBC iPlayer could run for 59 years on the bandwidth that British Internet users waste. But our increasing reliance on Internet-based apps and services has made Wi-Fi an open target for hackers and malware attackers seeking to exploit our reliance on Internet connections in public places.
"People worry about Wi-Fi and have done for years," Pearce said, "and for some reason that fear has always been there and continues to be there."
The greatest fear lies in the unknown, and if people are really worried about Wi-Fi and what it can do, Pearce pointed to our understanding of wireless networks as a root of concern.
"No one really knows what Wi-Fi is or what it stands for," he added. "It's like electricity, no one really knows what exactly electric is and how it works, and Wi-Fi is going the same way."
"Wi-Fi has become almost a utility, and will be a utility within the next two to three years."
If WiFi really is becoming a utility that everyone needs but doesn't question the source of, is that a good thing? "There's all the things around [wireless networks]" says Pearce. "Analytics, the ability for the network to know who the people are [that are connecting to WiFi], where they are."
"So organisations - whether it's a conference arena like this, or a shopping mall, office or a hotel - are looking at the Wi-Fi networks and trying to make them available to customers and then use that information from their customers so that either now or in the future those customers have a better experience, and part of that is obviously the security of the infrastructure."
However, there are problems that arise from such a set up. "There are obviously privacy issues about that," Pearce nods. "What we're finding is today's students and young people are not as bothered about that sort of stuff as maybe I was. It's alright so long as the organisation or network whose Wi-Fi you're using puts the relevant data protection steps in place so that you know you tick the box in the terms and conditions [to opt out]."
"So there is an issue there, but I think there's a level of trust too, rightly or wrongly. The kids coming out of universities nowadays don't seem anywhere near as concerned about it, because they're used to it."