ZDNet reports that the link extends from the company's labs in the downtown area (at the University of California at Berkeley Space Science Lab) all the way to Grizzly Peak Boulevard, which is 1.5 miles away. They did this with a standard access point with modified software and a dish receiver antenna.
Intel has also developed a "steerable antenna" (with some tech developed at the State University in Russia; it and U of C both have Intel facilities) that can steer a Wi-Fi signal around obstacles like buildings and trees. These are directed signals -- it's not omni-directional. The steerable antenna on a tower would, in theory, be immune to being knocked out of alignment.
So when can we expect to get this technology in a product? We probably can't. Will it be put to use in citywide Wi-Fi like EarthLink wants to do right there in San Francisco? Definitely not.
Eventually, a Wi-Fi signal could be bounced to a village and the smart antennas could steer the signal to villagers. The theory is that towers with Wi-Fi antennas might cost significantly less than doing the same thing with WiMax or other existing long-distance wireless technology. It also avoids the need for licensing spectrum, since Wi-Fi runs on globally unlicensed radio frequencies.
This article was first published on WiFiPlanet.com.