APPROACH

Based on the framework that emerged from these realizations during the early part of the study, the panel developed a plan that included a schedule with specific benchmarks as well as a strategy for approaching the subject. The goal was to maximize the efficiency of the data-gathering phase and to formulate a concept that would be true to the overall framework.

Thus, the schedule of activities was organized as follows. It commenced with a kick-off meeting of the panel (jointly with sponsors) in January 1999 in the Washington, DC area, during which the panel unfolded its strategy. A technical workshop followed in the Washington, DC area on March 15, 1999, in which most major U.S. companies active in the wireless communications area were invited to participate. The panel chose to canvas U.S. industry opinion in this manner (rather than through individual visits) purely for reasons of efficiency. Thirteen companies (listed elsewhere in the report) contributed inputs based on a questionnaire that the panel developed and forwarded to them ahead of time. The collection of viewgraphs from their presentations became (and still is) available from WTEC as a separate document.

Following that the panel took two weeklong trips to Europe and Japan, respectively, where it visited a total of 24 companies and institutes. These visits took place in April, May, and early June 1999. The intensity of the schedule necessitated splitting the group (consisting of panel members and of representatives of some of the panel's sponsors) into subgroups. Thus, no single individual in the group enjoyed first-hand contact with all of the visited sites. Shortly after the completion of these visits, a separate report for each site was generated, authored by a pre-designated member of the group but in wide consultation with and inputs from other panel members. These reports were sent to the visited sites for concurrence and, after revisions to account for hosts' comments, became available on the WTEC Web site. They are now included, after final editing, as appendices C and D of this report.

At this point the panel needs to mention that representatives from some of the sponsoring agencies played a very active role in participating in the conduct of this study. Through their membership in the travel group, authorship of site-visit reports, and active deliberation with the panel, they provided valuable assistance in shaping the outcome of the study.

Exactly because the site visit reports were generated as separate documents, the panelists felt that the structure of the main analytical report should not follow the format of reporting findings from each site. Rather, it was decided to structure the report on the basis of technical areas.

Thus, the specific elements found at a particular site, as they pertained to one technical area, would be fused into the discussion of that area along with the appropriate elements found in other sites. In this way, the panel members believe they have produced a more informed and informative report that will be more useful to sponsors and to the community at large. In addition, under that structure, the findings would be consistent with the principles of the framework outlined in the introduction.

In deciding what technical areas to choose so as to form a spanning skeleton for the entire field, it was natural to follow the OSI layered architecture. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that one of this panel's major findings is that the traditional separate consideration of networking layers is less useful in the wireless area. Indeed, the technical coupling among layers, always present even in nonwireless networks, is simply too strong in wireless systems to be ignored. The convenience that separation into layers provides is in large measure due to the fact that it ignores the interactions among layers. In wireless networks this convenience is countered by the neglect of crucial interactions (between multiple access and routing or between link control and compression, for example).

However, structuring the report along traditional layer lines does not contradict this finding. It simply permits a clean organization of the report. In fact, relationships among the layers are duly noted and reported as these arise. Thus, the chapters that follow in the main body of the report are centered, respectively, on the following topics:

After a brief gestation period following the site visits and the composition of the site-visit reports, the panel held a final open workshop to disclose the preliminary findings of the study. This workshop was held in the Washington, DC area in September 1999 and was attended by a large audience. The collection of viewgraphs from the presentations by the panelists and the sponsors were posted on the WTEC Web site shortly after the workshop (now superceded there by this final report). The present report constitutes the final step in this study.


Published: July 2000; WTEC Hyper-Librarian