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Recent Entries

Turnkey Networking
The Hot Spot Heard Round the World
Joltage, Sputnik
Powell Urges Complaint
Deals & quality hardware
Forever Spotty
A Cerulean Byte
Streaming Through the Multiplex
Sirius Rejoinders
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March 2002 Archives

March 28, 2002

Turnkey Networking

By Glenn Fleishman

Wired News analyzes Joltage's potential: Paul Boutin examines the nature of Joltage's viral networking system, and finds some skepticism about roll-out. Part of what's driving Joltage, SOHO Wireless, and Sputnik is their reliance on a willingness on the part of their potential customers to have their eyes go all blurry when they read the usage restrictions on their DSL and cable accounts.

A good "for instance": my office has both SDSL (1.1 Mbps) and ADSL (1.5 down, 128K up) to handle our servers and our local users. The SDSL runs about $300/month for 24x7 support, 32 IP addresses, and unlimited bandwidth. We often average 300 kbps during the day. Our ADSL is $70 per month, single static IP, no bandwidth cap, but consumer-grade service. SDSL: we can use our bandwidth in practically any manner; ADSL: personal/local use only. Unless Joltage et al. can offer a real revenue picture for their affiliates, people won't be upgrading.

The flip side of this is that ISPs would have to monitor network usage and see sustained bandwidth. The likelihood with hot spots is that usage is rarely, if ever, saturated. More likely, people are checking email, downloading Web pages, transferring (briefly) large files. But it's less likely that every day for eight hours, people will fill your pipe. If they do, you then have a revenue reason (with Joltage at least) to increase your pipeline to serve your audience.

Of course, because you're hanging your access on the star of anything company which can, most likely, change their arrangement with you with some notice. If you start to make real money, it's possible any company would cap fees, rejigger their agreements, or otherwise try to make things more advantageous for themselves once you're captive.

The competition in this field already, though, may ensure that any hot spot location with sufficient users would have enough revenue potential that the operator would run multiple access points (to hop on more than one network affiliate relationship).

Even of more concern: if you operate a Joltage et al. hot spot in a dense area that turns out to be successful, there's no barrier to stop a neighbor from adding a node and diluting your income. McDonald's has succeeded in building an infinite number of stores in part because of how it offers geographical territories to ensure franchises don't poach. Of course, they've been sued for treading on this principle as well in setting up company-owned outlets.

Now Joltage wouldn't run any of its access points in popular areas, would it? Almost certainly not as it would engender too much resentment. But, then, hereUare's investors also started up WiFi Metro, which competes against potential partners.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 27, 2002

The Hot Spot Heard Round the World

By Glenn Fleishman

Dan Gillmor on Journalism 3.0: Dan blogs live during a session at PC Forum; a few minutes later, the speaker about whom he blogged corrects him from the stage; Dan posts an update. What kind of journalism just happened there? I've already seen pointers to pointers to pointers about this activity. It reminds me a science fiction story called, I believe, the Game (reminiscent of Magister Ludi, or the Glass Bead Game, by Herman Hesse). Aliens have given humans an extraordinary game that sounds much like Go. The planet becomes consumed with this game, peace breaks out, etc. The master of this game, a man whom the aliens sent back with the rules, is in one of his last matches when his competitor produces a move that stuns both him and the audience. He mutters, "Beautiful," and the world changes (for the good) permanently. I feel like I've the echo of that word just now, and don't know exactly what it bodes.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:45 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 26, 2002

Joltage, Sputnik

By Glenn Fleishman covers the public launches of Joltage and Sputnik: These companies are all about footprint. A thousand disparate hot spots are worth as much as a hotel chain? We'll see.

News for 3/26/02

BBC uncovers thousands of open networks in London: Merry Olde Englande is looking rather Swiss (as in cheese), as London wireless networks are found in the thousands, and mostly open to all comers.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:56 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 24, 2002

Powell Urges Complaint

By Glenn Fleishman

FCC Commissioner Michael Powell urges public to complain about Sirius petition (scroll to very bottom): At PC Forum 2002, the head of the FCC, in response to a question about satellite digital radio delivery company Sirius's petition to restrict some emissions in the Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz band (extensively documented on this site), urged the public to complain using the process available to them.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 23, 2002

Deals & quality hardware

By Glenn Fleishman

It is fairly easy to find "the best price" on 802.11 hardware, using the various search engines that specialize in "deals" BUT it is MUCH HARDER to find information about the QUALITY of the hardware.

While pouring over the spec sheets that most on-line stores have CAN give you a clue about who is rebadging what, it remains very difficult to determine what models from which manufacturers are using a particular chipset.

Specifically, rather simply 'review' products and stating "this access point has an easy to use web interface for set-up" someone should go into the details of what makes the various HW tick. Who is using the PrismII chipset, in what cards? What are the alternatives? Which model # access points have provisons for external antenae? Which have RF sections that put out the legal limit?

Obviously this is MUCH MORE WORK than a "fan boy review", it might require some actual test equipment and interviewing the engineers at the various companies, but I would appreciate such info MUCH MORE. In fact, I'd probably be willing to PAY for it!

Ideas? feedback is welcome!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:12 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 22, 2002

Forever Spotty

By Glenn Fleishman

Wi-Fi friend, says Voicestream head: the Boston Globe reports on the CTIA conference's embrace of Wi-Fi as a seamless partner to 3G. One 3G company's head says, Wi-Fi service will forever be spotty; 3G will be the spackle of coverage. [via Alan Reiter]

Jumping the Gun?

Several folks tried to sell me as news Joltage's plan for announcing their software rollout. I'm confused about this. The rollout may be news, but without a footprint and with two competitors (SOHO Wireless and Sputnik), I'm not sure if this isn't marketing by press release. Eleven days ago, I wrote about all three companies.


802.11 Planet breaks the news that VoiceStream has ended its hereUare partnership: hereUare is refreshingly frank in this article about the end of their business relationship with VoiceStream, which had originated back in the MobileStar days. The break-off means that hereUare has half the reach (about 600 versus previously 1,200 hot spots). The flip side, though, is that hereUare is strongly positioned going forward as one of the lead back-office handling aggregators for alternative real-estate. In English, hereUare has a package they can offer smaller chains and single businesses that allows integration into a larger network, billing, customer support, and so forth. The larger real-estate holders, like hotels and convention centers, will most likely require infrastructure builders as partners.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:20 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 20, 2002

A Cerulean Byte

By Glenn Fleishman

Apple Goes Blue: Bluetooth, that is. In a move that surprised me, at least, Apple offers up a Bluetooth technology preview, working with D-Link's USB-based Bluetooth adapter, which Apple will offer for $49 through its Apple Store starting in April coupled with some OS X 10.1.3 software. They are careful to hedge their bets, billing the software as a preview and not listing specific devices. Palm owners, start your salivating: with Palm backing Bluetooth as a sync technology and Apple offering the hardware and OS support, I expect the next release of Palm's beta (or 1.0) of Palm Desktop for OS X will include Bluetooth support.

I talked to Apple today about its new Bluetooth support (more accurately, shortly upcoming support), and they made it clear that part of their interest in making this technology available is to turn the Mac once more into a technology-done-right showcase. As with 802.11b, FireWire, and USB, Apple was not only the first or one of the firsts, but they were and remain the premier platform on which the technology is used without fuss through hardware abstraction and OS integration.

Likwise, with Bluetooth, they worked with a single vendor (D-Link) which can supply a device cheaply that works with their Bluetooth 1.1 compliant stack. Their stack is as standard as they could make it, and it has a potential of pushing their implementation of the standard out into the marketplace because the one place that vendors of Bluetooth-enabled devices can point their users is going to be an Apple Mac OS X 10.1.3-equipped machine.

Apple pointed out that GPRS phones with Bluetooth built in will work work with their Bluetooth add on as simply as selecting Bluetooth from the Internet Connection manager software and entering the values a cell provider gave for their network connection. (This is currently possible with USB or infrared in some cases.)

The Apple message: Wi-Fi is wireless Ethernet; Bluetooth is wireless USB. A good clear message. Apple, in fact, won't be building LAN features into their Bluetooth stack, even where those might be available or implementable, because they want to focus LAN work onto AirPort, their Wi-Fi hardware.

More Bluetooth news: 802.15.1 approved: the numbering may be overwhelming, but stay with me. The 802.15 Working Group is dedicated to Personal Area Networks (PANs). Task Group 1 (802.15.1) had a mission of converting the Bluetooth 1.1 specification, developed outside of the IEEE process, into a 802-compatible set of procedures. Meanwhile, a few months ago, Task Group 2 (802.15.2) worked out a plan for co-existence in which PANs and WLANs could avoid trampling on each other's signals.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:51 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 19, 2002

Streaming Through the Multiplex

By Glenn Fleishman

First wireless movie theater? It's not what you think: the Austin Wireless Group announced today that the Alamo DraftHouse Movie Theater at 2700 W. Anderson Ln. in North Austin, Texas, has full Wi-Fi access. (They thank a bunch of the usual suspects, too: Jim Thompson of Musenki, Hem Ramachandran of Marlabs, and Dan Vogler of WireHead who donated equipment, time, and expertise in the name of the AWG.). From the press release: Typical theaters may not work well for this concept, but the Alamo DraftHouse has table seating for movie goers, so they can order drinks and food while watching the movie. So Internet use would not add anything more to the tolerated commotion that already exists with wait staff taking and delivering orders to the crowd. The group invites all comers on March 25th for Revolution OS.

VoiceStream to market GPRS + Wi-Fi products in 2003: in an even clearer signal about VoiceStream's moves forward, the firm's head announced at the CTIA conference yesterday that the company would be offering hardware that would support both GPRS and Wi-Fi. VoiceStream also announced a deal with Nokia to build out its EDGE technology which will offer high-data rate GPRS. Nokia has been working aggressively to provide cell telcos with combined GSM/GRPS/Wi-Fi systems, which may ultimately be part of this deal.

Add this to your lexicon: HotZone: WiFi Metro and the fixed wireless ISP Gatespeed Broadband have partnered to cover six city blocks in downtown Palo Alto in what they're dubbing a HotZone. They note, The HotZone’s reach extends from as far West as the University CalTrain Station and as Far East as the intersections of Ramona and University Avenues. For a limited time, users can test-drive the HotZone by obtaining a free trial pass from the WiFi Metro website.

I am Curious, Wireless

In mid-January, I had the pleasure of meeting Carlo Cassisa, the director of business development for HomeRun, a division of Swedish cellular operator Telia dedicated to public-space Wi-Fi service. With Carlo was Lars Jansson, a manager in the same division. (Workload has prevented me from writing this up before now; my apologies!)

Lars and Carlo were traveling around the U.S., testing hot spots and meeting with people involved in or writing about wireless networking. By the time I’d met them, they had already spoken to almost everyone I know or know of in the industry, and they’re two of the most charming businesspeople you’ll ever meet. (The lack of indoors smoking opportunities in Seattle was obviously a problem for them, but they handled it with élan.)

They even confessed to me that they had figured out how to end-run the authentication software in the hotel (which I won’t name) that they stayed in in Seattle for Wi-Fi access. Sorry, guys, your secret is out of the bag!

We spoke for nearly two hours, and it was clear to me that Telia HomeRun, at the very least, was a lightyear or two ahead of understanding what consumers want from integrated wireless. Part of this stems from the difference in experience with cell phones that Europeans and Americans continue to have, although that gap will probably close by early 2003.

Carlo explained the real impact of short messaging service (SMS) to me in terms of bulk: billions of messages exchanged. People are completely comfortable using their tiny, well-designed Nokia and similar handsets to punch in small sequences of text. This training and utility makes the European (and Japanese) markets primed for an expansion.

Contrast that with Americans’ experiences with WAP, which Jakob Nielsen and the Nielsen Norman Group effectively killed development on when their report came out that even with days of experience and a motivated test group, most people couldn’t or wouldn’t complete a few simple tests, like retrieving the weather forecast for their city.

Among other services that Carlo described, Telia FriendFinder, a service in which when parties opt-in to include each other in their list, the cell system notifies you when someone is nearby who is in your list. The size of the cell determines how close the person is; in cities, the granularity is much higher, so you know your friend is maybe a few hundred meters away.

Carlo cited impressive penetration figures for Sweden with 400,000 households having broadband service of some kind out of 4.5 million household overall. This is partly impressive because of the higher cost relative to U.S. pricing and cost of living.

Part of HomeRun’s strategy for public-space deployment has been to track where people are likely to need a stopover point. For instance, they have built 25 to 30 hot spots in road restaurants, which I believe are the equivalent of those stopovers in turnpikes in the U.S. Because of the size of the country, travelers can be sure that they will hit a hot spot every 15 to 150 miles. Even better, they can use a cell-based yellow pages finder to see where the nearest hot spot is, whether on the road or in a city.

You can use SMS to a number, 4400, and request information from yellow pages based on your current location. If you use a new number, 4488, you get a set of driving directions.

Stockholm has about 30 Telia hot spots alone, meaning that you’re never far from one in th city.

The pricing for HomeRun is quite interesting, and might be useful knowledge for U.S. providers. The base rate is about US$30/month and US$0.24 per minute. A flat monthly rate runs US$150.

This compare to US$30 per month for 512K DSL and cell phone rates of US$0.05/minute for evening calls (6 pm and later). HomeRun also sells 24-hour access cards which work throughout their network for about US$12 (120 krona). The cards use a scratch-off strip and then a code you enter. The scratch-off part enables merchants to have an inventory of cards on hand which they can return or keep safe without shrinkage unless they are actually stolen (at which point, the specific numbers are known). Having just a list of codes or using a gateway page are both much less convenient and prone to theft.

Carlo pointed to the utility of paying several dollars as a Wi-Fi day rate in pointing out that when he had to send a five-page document to Sweden recently by fax from the U.S., he spent $24 to send it from his hotel (or rather, that’s what they wanted). He said, “I park my car in the hotel garage for $19/day.”

The Swedish government is working on a program to lease computers to individuals in a country where computer literacy is very high. Carlo expects that may increase Wi-Fi use as one of the lease options is a laptop configuration.

Carlo also echoed a point about public space Wi-Fi I’ve heard frequently. We’re all spending more and more time in airports. With Wi-Fi access, getting things done in the airport “gives you more time.” You can finish work away from the office. He said, “Our belief is that this helps people” by reducing their out-of-job-time workload.

Carlo brought up another good example on the issues around Boingo and other pricing models. He said that for a large-scale business, a mid-level employee who spends a fair amount of time on the road might cost the company US$10,000 per month overall for travel, benefits, support, and salary. So what’s $10,150 versus $10,000 per month if you get extra hours of work out of that employee? “Can I save something on that?” No.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:40 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 18, 2002

Sirius Rejoinders

By Glenn Fleishman

An alert reader pointed me to the phrase in the Sirius petition that reads, "The above limit would go into effect 18 months after the date of final adoption of the rule and apply to all devices manufactured thereafter." I missed that in my reading, but it still feels like we're talking about the thin edge of the wedge here. I don't believe this is about future devices; in 18 to 24 months, there will be 200 million or more Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices in use worldwide, if not many more.

Jeff Butler pointed me to a post which addresses industry responses from Intersil and Motorola to the Sirius petition.

Intersil's response notes in a quite lovely phrase, If DARS providers have trouble serving their customers, Part 15 is not to blame. Rather, it appears the DARS providers built a fragile system, and now turn to the Commission for relief from the shortcomings of their own engineering. This echoes what I and others have been saying since the news reached the public threshold. Another devastating retort: Sirius states that the maximum tolerable interference level for its receivers is –152.6 dBW/MHz. This level is actually about 8 dB below the thermal noise floor. Meaning that heat in the air creates more noise than the level of signal Sirius was objecting to. It's a good read.

Motorola's filing notes that, Interestingly enough in the filing by XM the main source of interference is not the equipment operating in the 2.4 GHz band but interference from vehicle ignition noise.

I've rarely seen such open scorn in legal documents.

CTIA and Wi-Fi

The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's annual conference is underway in Florida right now. Enhancing Wi-Fi's role at the conference was this morning's keynote address by Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink and more recently of Boingo Wireless. Alan Reiter has blogged the keynote and discussion live as he will continue to do. Dan Gillmor, veteran tech reporter and columnist, is also blogging from the event. (The dominant mode of reporting may already have shifted.)

Dayton used his keynote to announce four Boingo events, all of which slop over into other companies and realms.

Alan reports from the CTIA event that Voicestream's head, John Stanton, was on stage with Sky Dayton, with a discussion moderated by CTIA chair Tom Wheeler. Alan hoped that a Voicestream/Boingo partnership was going to be announced, but Stanton is obviously still sussing out whether Boingo is a competitor or partner. I argue quite clearly: partner. Voicestream should be in the business of building the network and allowing its aggregate customers (cell/WLAN/corporate) access, but shouldn't compete with, but rather suck revenue from, others who want to load its network with traffic.

The Boingo installation at CTIA, covering a million square feet, is open to all users, not just those with the equipment configuration normally required by Boingo's software. In an excellent display of technical and marketing savvy, Boingo added a temporary gateway page for Mac and PDA users as well as non-compliant Windows users. This made everyone happy, apparently, and it works just fine for the event. But it highlights for Boingo the importance of rapidly rolling out more driver and platform support to keep the momentum going.

Boingo's model continues to be make it easy to access networks via software that handles account information, security, and finds hot spots. A gateway page can do none of those things.

Stroh Feedback on Sirius Petition

Steve Stroh, the editor and publisher of the Focus on Broadband Wireless Internet Access newsletter sent me some excellent feedback on the Sirius satellite radio system's petition with the FCC about enforcing out-of-band signals from the 2.4 GHz band. With his permission, I quote his response here.

I feel that Sirius could well have an uphill battle on its hands with its petition. I don't think that Sirius quite appreciates the enormity of the entire 2.4 GHz market that its petition will affect- basically ANYTHING that transmits on 2.4 GHz. The response to this petition will likely be enormous, and well-crafted.

The worst threat of interference from 2.4 GHz out of band emissions will be in urban areas... where Sirius plans to deploy "repeaters" (actually, terrestrial transmitters) transmitting at hundreds and perhaps thousands of watts of power. This because satellite signals don't work well in urban concrete canyons. In rural areas and other "open spaces", where users will be out of range of such repeaters (receiving direct from satellite), signals will be weakest... but in such areas there will be much less 2.4 GHz equipment operating. It's not a given that Sirius will win the battle to erect their repeaters as proposed, so this "further restrict 2.4 GHz out of band emissions" petition seems to me like a backup plan.

In my opinion, the biggest threat to 802.11 usage is not Sirius, but rather the issue of RF Lighting, which has been looming for some time. At the 2002 Chicago WISPCon last week, I met someone who had tried to deploy a Part 15 system (they weren't using 802.11) in proximity to an RF lighting system. The Part 15 system could not operate at all, and this was chilling because the system in question was a Frequency Hopping (FH) system, which is much more robust than Direct Sequence (used in 802.11b). If the FH system couldn't work around an RF lighting system, DS systems haven't a prayer. For a bit of background, see

Thanks, Steve, for this insight. RF Lighting wasn't even on my radar (as it were).

Other News for 3/18/2002

802.11 Planet Conference's June agenda released: I learned vast amounts and met great people in the industry at the last 802.11 Planet conference, the first such event, this last November in Santa Clara. The first event had reasonable attendance given its rescheduling (post-Sept. 11) and the climate around flying. The smaller numbers didn't suppress the excitement and quality of attendee, however; I had hundreds of great conversations and listened to fantastic speakers. With a resurgence in people's confidence in the air and the economy, I expect Philadelphia to be jam-packed with entrepreneurs, techies, IT folk, and writers.

Ricoh offers $1,300 Wi-Fi IP camera: MacCentral notes that this device is both Mac and PC compatible. It's more like a computer with a built-in camera than a camera with incidental computer features. It can take live motion and still pictures, fax images, and make your coffee.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:02 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 17, 2002

Seattle Suprasonics

By Glenn Fleishman

MSNBC reports on the next wave of bandwidth, starting with Wi-Fi in Seattle: a really neat report (and I mean that honestly) on the coming waves of new sorts of bandwidth and methods of networking, starting off with a great overview of Wi-Fi as expressed in the community networking world. Notably Matt Westervelt of Seattle Wireless had his photo and his words included in a way that appears entirely accurate to me. The article goes on to discuss Internet2, terabit networks, and other nifty visions of tomorrow.

A great quote: Internet2 spokesman Greg Wood. “Ten years ago ... it’s hard to imagine, but it was actually impossible to send e-mail from one system to another." Okay, it wasn't impossible, it was just implausible in many cases unless you were on the actual Internet. There was no commercial Internet. There were few gateways. You had to have a university account or something wacky like a Well account. Sobers you up when you realize where we're at this short a time later. It's like seeing a 1992-era cell phone: you start laughing and laughing, and then realize that if you'd showed up with a Motorola StarTac in 1992, it would have been approximately like bringing plastic bottles of soft drink to the Congressional Congress in the 18th century.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:24 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 16, 2002

Siriusly Twisted

By Glenn Fleishman

Read the text of the Sirius petition (in PDF form): a kind reader forwarded this 1 Mb PDF file which contains the entire petition. (It's a PDF of a scan, so you cannot get a text conversion at the moment.)

Some background: Sirius is a U.S. satellite digital radio provider which is using the 2.3 GHZ band (licensed) to broadcast continuous satellite signals that can be received by in-car players (currently). The service has a monthly fee attached and offers hundreds of channels.

Sirius's petition to the FCC is essentially asking them to more explicitly enforce an out-of-band provision which wasn't specifically included in the Part 15 and Part 18 rules that apply to devices using unlicensed spectrum, including the 2.4 GHz band that Wi-Fi, 802.11g, Bluetooth, and HomeRF use.

Sirius's point, which is valid, is that extremely low-strength signals that appear as mere background radiation from a legal and proper 2.400-2.485 GHz device could, in fact, seriously disrupt their service in areas where these devices abound.

When I say their point is valid, I mean that from their perspective, they've raised and spent billions on what has already turned out to be technology that's behind the times. The fact that their equipment cannot deal with the level of signal interference that they're discussing means that they misjudged the technological marketplace in which they designed and launched satellites.

They're essentially doomed regardless of whether they get this rule change forced through. If the rule change is forced through, they not only will cause massive inconvenience, the implosion of a multi-billion dollar market for WLAN products, the shutdown of existing services, wireless ISPs, and manufacturers, but essentially take back from Americans frequencies that were promised them.

Their argument is that as licensed spectrumholders, they are to be protected from unlicensed uses that encroach on their turf. They haven't proved a specific problem, in fact, but merely demonstrated that such a problem could happen, and, if so, would destroy their service offering.

So if their rule change is adopted, Wi-Fi is doomed short-term, because, ostensibly, all existing and new 2.4 GHz devices would need to be upgraded or taken out of service. Can the FCC enforce this uniformly? Of course not. But it would affect public space Wi-Fi in a big way.

I say that Sirius is doomed if the rule change isn't adopted, but I mean, rather, that they have to adapt and they appear technically limited, or are trying to maintain they are. Instead of working to upgrade their oversensitive equipment and work on algorithms that would defeat the out-of-band problem, they are asking everyone else to change. They have the right, unfortunately, to ask this.

Let's raise a ruckus. Time to contact the FCC and offer some public feedback. Time to call and write Agere, 3Com, Linksys, D-Link, Cisco, Apple, Buffalo, SMC, Asante, Proxim, and others and alert them to this issue and get them to have their lobbyists go to work. Time to remind the Bush administration of the freedom of the marketplace, and that spectrumholders hold spectrum only at the sufferance of the public good. Time to call the IT department at your company and have them write letters to your congressmen. Alert your CEO. Call IBM and tell them that their hundreds of millions in savings (internally) and revenue (through IBM Global Services) is about to go kerblooey.

Let's take a stand on spectrum.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 15, 2002

The Death of Wi-Fi?

By Glenn Fleishman

Satellite Radio Company Tries to Kill Wi-Fi reports on a potential FCC ruling limiting 2.4 GHz radiated signal: this is the most frightening development to hit Wi-Fi in its history. If the attempt by satellite radio firm Sirius succeeds, public space, wISP, and community Wi-Fi could suffer crushing blows.

Concourse Launches First Airport

The big news of the day (until the above story came in), as I break in today's New York Times (3rd item), is that Concourse Communications launches its Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) service on March 20. Concourse's approach is to not deal with the back-office at all. They're a pure infrastructure company which is contracting with airport authorities, negotiating the intricacies of that world, handling contractors for installation, and letting iPass resell access to their system.

The MSP airport will have about 70 percent coverage initially, increasing rapidly to near 100 percent service. The installation includes Bluetooth access point and printer stations. The first 30 days after the network is lit will be free. Afterwards, service is through iPass, an iPass partner or affiliate (which could include other aggregators), or at a walk-up rate of $7.95 per 24 hours, which is rapidly becoming the de facto day rate.

Concourse has the contract for the New York metro airports (Newark, Kenndy, and LaGuardia), and has already wired two terminals at Newark and Kennedy. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey suffered huge losses in the World Trade Center attack, as it many of the administrative staff worked out of the towers, which were in fact built by and leased out by the Port Authority. Their personal and professional losses coupled with the downturn in air traffic and increased security all led to delays in Concourse's deployment.

Concourse expects to offer some limited service by mid-year in Newark and Kennedy and expand based on their experience in MSP.

Other News

DoCoMo to launch Wi-Fi trial: integrated billing might be an incentive for use.

Mapping the generous world: mapping overlays of free network points in various community networks via NYCWireless. Includes NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, and more. [Via Kottke through]

Philips and Viewsonic introduce separate Wi-Fi displays: the Philips unit (press release in German) is detachable from a base station; Viewsonics is entirely independent and can be used like a tablet PC.

The Register reports that Britain and the Netherlands will be able to use 802.11a devices by July: the first in a wave of approvals for unlicensed 5 GHz devices using 802.11a in Europe, albeit over a smaller set of channels than available in the U.S. (But still more clear, nonoverlapping domains than 802.11b.)

Extremely technical, but precise overview of the challenges facing 802.11g finalization and rollout: mixed 802.11b and g networks could reduce overall throughput to only slightly above solo 802.11b networks because, as the author puts it, the data from b radios reduces the amount of time available for g encoding, which reduces overall throughput.

Several days ago, the Austrian wISP Metronet started service in Vienna: they assert that they are the first public WLAN company in Europe (disputation, anyone?). The network has about 40 access points with another 100 coming online shortly. Service extends to Graz and Linz soon. (Es ist sehr interessant, dass auf der Site so viel Englisch gebraucht wird! Englisch muss noch für Technologie wie Boxing und Sport die "mot juste" haben.)

Phillipe Langlois wrote in to announce a new wireless security list: Discussion in this group relates to wireless security, wardriving, GSM networks, GPRS, 802.11b and .11a security, WEP, hiperlan2, spread spectrum, WAP, bluetooth, UMTS and 3G, UWB. This list is created in the spirit of BugTraq to provide a forum for full disclosure on wireless security. Phillipe also runs a firm that makes security products, WaveSecurity. Subscribe at or visit the archives and/or subscribe.

Let's talk about throughput

Lots of fellow reporters and Web site bloggers have been using throughput to mean maximum speed (in the sense of maximum theoretical throughput). But that falls far from the mark: users care about real throughput, or the net Net speed they can see in day-to-day use.

The IEEE defines throughput broadly as, the amount of work that can be performed by a computer system or component in a given period of time. The U.S. government's telecommunications glossary more exactly defines it in terms of bandwidth: The number of bits, characters, or blocks passing through a data communication system, or portion of that system....Throughput may vary greatly from its theoretical maximum.

The 802.11a spec may have a maximum raw bandwidth of 54 Mbps, but a practical throughput of as low as 23 Mbps, according to reports. So let's be exact: when you're talking about the potential of a system, it's fine to use the theoretical maximum number of bits; but when you're talking about the realities, you must subtract overhead (framing, addressing, etc.), error correction, and other bits that don't contain actual data in transmission.

(I'm not even going to start on latency: this two-part, four-year-old article says it all.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 14, 2002

Cell Industry High Fives Wi-Fi at Conference

By Glenn Fleishman

Let's talk irony: Boingo to offer conference-wide Wi-Fi access for CTIA (cell industry trade group) conference: as noted earlier in this blog and extensively at Alan Reiter's (he's involved in the event), Boingo Wireless will offer 1,000,000 sq. ft. of Wi-Fi at the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association's annual conference. Some details had to be worked out and Boingo was able to coordinate them: many attendees would be unable to use the combination of hardware and drivers required to access Boingo's network using the current generation of front-end software.

Some relevant details: 1,000,000 sq. ft. Existing Boingo customers can use the network. Three days of servcie will cost $15.90 (instead of $5 as earlier reported), or $7.95 per 24-hour period. New Boingo signups at the $24.95/month (10 connect days per month) rate get free connect days from March 17 to 20 at the conference. Boingo set up a gateway authentication system for Macintosh, PDA, and non-complaint-equipment Windows users.

The press release notes how many organizations were involved in making this happen: The network is a joint-deployment enabled by Boingo Wireless; the CTIA; the Orange County Convention Center and its Internet Services provider, Smart City; and Nomadix, which is demonstrating the new features in its Universal Subscriber Gateway that enable any network operator to turn a Wi-Fi network into a Boingo Wireless commercial hotspot.

The CTIA event will be the biggest public rollout of Boingo Wireless, as well as the largest domestic Wi-Fi coverage at a conference. Forty thousand people are expected to attend the event, which could be a watershed in the cell industry's perception of and plans for Wi-Fi.

Other News for 3/14/02

Concourse launches Minneapolis/St. Paul service on March 20: my story in tomorrow's New York Times (scroll to third item).

BBC on 54 Mbps 802.11a in Europe: an oddly clueless story from the BBC that omits any mention of the competing Europen spec, HiperLAN2, which has been in development for several years without products emerging. Meanwhile the changes to the 802.11a spec (modified by 802.11h as an add-on) allow for 802.11a's European approval in the near future. American hegemony extends.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 13, 2002

Wi-Fi-lia (or is that Wiphilia?) in Business 2.0

By Glenn Fleishman

Business 2.0's April cover date issue weighs in with three Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi-related stories: Hawaii sees unique uses among community networks, a great and interesting article about community Wi-Fi and its relatives in Hawaii and elsewhere that unfortunately includes a definition of parasitic networks that's incorrect; Apple's Wi-Fi bet changed an industry in an article about Apple's constant technical innovation; and Atheros, the first 802.11a chipset maker: a business that defied the stupid conventional wisdom of its time and bided its time, developed technology, and husbanded its VC money.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:38 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 12, 2002

Have Modem, Will Apple

By Glenn Fleishman

You can modify an Orinoco RG-1000 to use Apple's AirPort software, too: Cory Doctorow points to boogah smalls's determination that the Orinoco RG-1000, which comes with a modem, also works with Apple's AirPort software. He points out some of the good features of Apple's software not available on the $180 RG-1000, such as 128-bit WEP keys. Another point: the Apple software routes and bridges native AppleTalk traffic, which only a few other devices do.

(Mea culpa: I purposely omitted the name of the original poster of the directions. Even though they posted publicly, I assumed they wouldn't want their name taken in vain. In fact, posts on some discussion boards indicate he did. So thanks to Sunil (, who goes by Mac Daddy on the list to which this was originally forwarded. The whole community thanks you!)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:54 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 11, 2002

DIY Infrastructure

By Glenn Fleishman

The Current Trend of the Week: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Hot Spot Infrastructure: Many folks have written in after the Sputnik unveiling to mention two other firms: SOHO Wireless and Joltage. All three firms are promoting what I would label vernacular autochthonous infrastructure just to be wordy.

Vernacular, because they want people and companies of all types to install these things without lots of fancy administrative experience. The software appears in all three cases to solve many of the internal network security issues, although a closer look is warranted. The notion in each case is that you install the software, type in a little configuration information, and you're a node.

Autochthonous, which means literally springing oneself from the earth, because these points will pop up all over the place, much like the mythical soldiers sprouted from dragons' teeth.

Infrastructure, because these firms are trying to build out national networks without themselves ever touching hardware. Software is a virus; hardware is a business.

I expect that each of these companies has a grander goal: not creating their own hegemony of branded access points that don't talk to other networks. Rather their goal is to be part of the 1,000 or 100,000 hot spots of light that will fill in the gaps in community and commercial deployments, by providing ease and profit sharing.

Yeah, did I mention profit-sharing?

Each of these firms has a different notion about it, but the participants who run software will be affiliates and get something in return: free access to other network points or a share in the booty.

I expect that because we're seeing three, and some part of all three companies are based on using GPL'd software, we may see a wave of new firms.

Glenn's prediction: if successful, these companies will coordinate their hot spots through Boingo and Boingo-like firms to increase coverage in disparate areas, broadening the footprint without incurring extra expense.

News for 3/11/02

Atheros to offer 802.11a/b plus draft e/g/i chipsets in second half of 2002: in a big step forward, and faster than I would have expected, Atheros will ship chipsets that support current 802.11 a and b technology, as well as the draft forms of e (quality of service), g (high-bit rate 2.4 GHz), and i (TKIP or AES security). Since none of these drafts are yet in their ratification stage, it's interesting that this much can put into silicon. Or, to paraphrase a famous, awful battlefield saying: burn it all in silicon, and let God sort out the firmware.

Irony and/or a view of things to come: the cell industry's conference to offer $5 unlimited Wi-Fi through Boingo: 40,000 attendees can't be wrong - the Cellular Telephone and Internet Association (CTIA)'s annual conference runs March 18 to 20 in Orlando, Florida. Alan Reiter, among others, helped build the necessary partnerships to establish sitewide Wi-Fi. This will be a big chunk of exposure for Boingo, as well. Mobile Planet and Avaya will sell equipment on site. Read more at Alan Reiter's site.

WLANs replace wide-area cellular/radio networks: in a move that should freak out Motorola (if they haven't sold off this division) as well as a cellular telcos (if they haven't made their WLAN investment plans yet), a small community has installed full Wi-Fi coverage across 36 square miles to replace expensive radio and cellular service. [From via Alan Reiter]

Portland, Oregon, hostel gets Wi-Fi access before the city's Starbucks, hotels, and airport: Another coup for the folks at community group Personal Telco, which involved donations of ISP service from a local firm, and a donation by Intel, which has a heavy presence in the area, of Wi-Fi equipment. Nice job, folks! Read more about the group at their site. [via Nigel Ballard of Personal Telco] Reports from Voicestream, by the way, indicate that Portland is the next city to get its Starbucks unwired.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:33 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 10, 2002

Singing Networks

By Glenn Fleishman

Cory Doctorow opportunistically plugs in to unplug the SXSW conference: Cory's a big fan of wireless, and the South by Southwest Conferences are a perfect venue. Cory advertised his availability by naming the ESSID

Other News

Welcome a new wireless blog with a European slant: Tomas B. Krag of Denmark (Tak!) plans to write about wireless and mobile technologies with the perspective from European, and more specifically, Scandinavia. Given the innovations coming from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, I look forward to his observations. (Tomas also notes that my item the other day about free access in Copenhagen was a limited deal late last year. It's now about US$3.50 for 30 minutes, US$6.00 per hour. Telia had planned to introduce service in SAS lounges; not sure if this part of the same network.)

Apparently, folks want AirPorts for less: the item from yesterday on turning a $150 RG-1100 from Agere into a $300 AirPort Base Station with a software update struck a chord. But can anyone articulate exactly why the AirPort Base Station software is better? The RG-1100 lacks a modem port, so you don't get that advantage. And you could already configure the RG-1100 from a Macintosh. I like the AirPort Admin Utility better than a Web-based front end, but that's about the only real advantage.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 9, 2002

Apple Base Station for Half Price

By Glenn Fleishman

Turn a $150 Orinoco RG-1100 into a $300 Apple AirPort Base Station, for free: regular reader Ben Finkelstein forwarded a post from a Mac list in which a reader notes that Agere's Orinoco RG-1100 is essentially the same device as the Apple AirPort Base Station, but at half the price. The post offered these instructions (I've cleaned them up), which I am sure void your warranty and put you into a special place in purgatory if the update fails. I warned you!

1. Download the AirPort 2.02 upgrade software (Apple's download page; check for appropriate version; Mac only)
2. Install the software on a machine with an Apple AirPort card.
3. Connect the RG-1100 to the Ethernet network or to the individual machine using a crossover cable (some Macs now auto-sense and don't require a crossover cable).
4. Reset the RG-1100. This puts it in software update mode.
5. Run the AirPort Admin Utility in either OS 9 or X and click Configure.
6. The software recognizes the RG-1100 and prompts to upgrade it to 2.02.
7. Click Continue, walk through configuration screens, and the RG-110 reboots.

The original poster said the unit walks and talks like an AirPort. The RG-1100 lacks an internal modem (the RG-1000 has one, but I don't know if it'll take this update), so you can only use it in an Ethernet-only environnment unlike the Apple Base Station.

You can buy the RG-1100 for $147 from the Gateway Accessory Store, run by Necx, which I've had great dealings with. (I don't get a cut.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified | 2 Comments

March 8, 2002

Voicestream Rebrands

By Glenn Fleishman

Bob Liu breaks this news about Deutsche Telekom: the company is rebranding its VoiceStream service and MobileStar assets under the T-Mobile name they are already using elsewhere. The service will be called Global Wireless by T-Mobile. This coalescing of brand represents a large commercial step forward, as DT is now tying its fortunes to successful experiences with both kinds of networks as it tries to woo customers in the next wave of data services.

Other News

The Munich airport also offers free wireless access: a reader writes in with the information that he used it without problem just a few days ago. If your German is rusty, try this highly inaccurate but amusing translation from Babelfish. (Explain why translating Zugang to access results in a typo in the translation.)

Oh, the machine translation is just too horrible. It says, in brief, Receive or transmit email, retrieve important information from the World Wide Web, or simply surf for fun. Take advantage of our high-speed wireless access. There's no password or ESSID requirement; just enter in your network name field the text "any" (or leave blank depending on software). I love the sound of German: wireless is drahtlos (literally wireless, just as in English).

They call them crisps in England: BBC News reports that a UK firm driving around London with a Pringles can antenna found two-thirds of wireless networks totally unprotected in the City (the financial district). Recommends some sensible protection.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:31 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 7, 2002

A Tiny Beep Orbiting the Planet

By Glenn Fleishman

Sputnik's been flushed into the open: turn a PC into an authenticated gateway, become part of the mesh, share your network, use it for a fee (free for now): Doc Searls blasted me a note about these guys. I haven't had time to absorb the shock of their tiny beep orbiting our known Wi-Fi world. Sputnik software turns a PC into an access point and uses firewall, quality of service, and other components to protect the local network and give priority to local users (and other Sputnik roamers, from what I can tell). This is viral software: if you establish a Sputnik node, you get free access to the rest of the network. More as it develops.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:11 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 6, 2002

Free Airports and Hotels, Starting with Taiwain

By Glenn Fleishman

Jim Thompson of Musenki sends in a long report on airports, starting with the news that Taiwan's airport offers free Wi-Fi:

He writes: More details, such as they are, here. He also quotes from this report: President Abni inaugurated the free wireless broadband access at the CKS Airport today for international travelers to Daiwan. The free service, called EzOn, is provided by the Yam web company as an advertising scheme. The coverage area will initially be limited, but by April this year, it will cover virtually all areas within both terminal buildings.

Jim points to other free services in airports and hotels:

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:46 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 5, 2002

Salon on Wi-Fi's Present

By Glenn Fleishman

Paul Boutin files an exhaustively researched story on the state of commercial Wi-Fi, with observations on related realms: as is typical with a Boutin story, he talked to many, many people and puts together a picture on the current sporadic usage and patchiness of commercial Wi-Fi that's more complete than anything else seen to date. He's not cynical about it, obviously, but it's clear from the quotes he was able to gather that the current providers have some very hot spots in captive venues, and a lot of fairly cold spots which generate zilch. The article points towards the potential of the big boys (probably cell companies) entering the market in a big way, if only they can make up their minds to do it given their huge investment in currently incompatible, slow data rate technology.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:22 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 4, 2002

The New York Times Gets It

By Glenn Fleishman

This morning's New York Times (Monday, 3/4) has two superb stories on Wi-Fi in the business section: one covers Wi-Fi's community networking angle, and how the bursting energy in that unfederated movement may be the nucleus of the next big cool thing - mesh networks that use tiny cells to bypass conventional infrastructure. This time, that cool thing will be mostly free. The other article focuses on Wi-Fi's remarkable popularity and growth, centering around the accidental and purposeful availability of service at coffee shops, in neighborhood, and used for interesting purposes.

Both stories, by John Markoff (a real gem among tech reporters) and Amy Harmon (also one who Gets It Right), come from an attitude of understanding: it's clear that both writers aren't trying to cram Wi-Fi into a hole it doesn't fit in. Rather, both articles arise out of what the grassroots commercial and non-commercial uses are, and why this is interesting and important. The fact that both articles have a business focus and appeared on the cover of the business section announces a sea-change in their perception of Wi-Fi, and will also signal to the business types who read the paper that Wi-Fi is to be reckoned with.

Other News for 3/4/2002 reports on wISP hereUare's study that San Francisco is the hottest spot: SF leads the nation in public access points, says hereUare, a San Francisco-based public access firm. The numbers they offer up sound perfectly reasonable.

Military interest in Wi-Fi at Asian Aerospace exposition in Singapore: a long-time friend who covers the defense industry writes, "Just got back from Singapore, where I was covering Asian Aerospace, the continent's largest defense expo. Also visited three Singaporean military sites, and found Wi-Fi in use at two of them: an experimental mobile Army battalion headquarters, where the wireless protocol is used to link laptop computers quickly and conveniently; and in a naval combat simulator, where instructors use Wi-Fied touch tablets to enter minute-by-minute evaluations of their trainees under simulated fire." I mentioned to my friend that the mere presence or absence of traffic (plus the information density itself) could reveal strategic information even with the information totally encrypted. He responded, "One of the big tasks these days (for the US military if no one else) is compiling an 'electronic order of battle': a list of emitters in the battlespace and what they're attached to. Sounds like the NSA, the Air Force's Rivet Joint crews, and other sigint bodies will have to add the Wi-Fi spectrum to the list of those they look for."

Boingo pushes forward, predicts 5,000 hot spots by year's end: a very nicely reported piece by Mark Frauenfelder on Boingo's roll-out and future plans, including some of the back-and-forth about their initial inclusion of Neighborhood Area Networks (NAN).

Bob Liu at turns in an insightful article on the backlash against Boingo from community networks: Bob's article focuses on the non-quid-pro-quo nature of Boingo's current offer, which is - we want to include community network access points in our location finder, but we aren't offering free accounts or other services in return.

Sky Dayton's comments a few days ago on Boingo and community networks: Boingo's founder takes a moment to explain where they're at in building networks to avoid the kind of conflict that happened at the launch.

It's clear to me that no commercial services can blanket the world with bandwidth affordably, and the cross-over of free community networks and commercial networks will form a more seamless whole. The commercial networks will tend to control venues where outside access is impossible (the conference center bunker, for instance, in which cement prevents radio waves), or where the venue is too far from communities (airports, remote hotels, resorts, etc.). But the commercial network will rely on the spread of community networks to ensure that people have continuous access, even if quality of service is uneven and availability not assured. With enough of the mesh approach, other cells fill in the gap, anyway.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:02 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 2, 2002

Cut the Cord

By Glenn Fleishman

Unwiring your home in the Seattle Times: my article in the Seattle Times Personal Technology section on the basics of wireless in the home.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:58 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

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