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September 2002 Archives

September 30, 2002

News for 9/30/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Bluetooth's emergence: Another good article that addresses Bluetooth's sudden change in fortunes, as equipment ships, operating systems support it, and the gear actually works.

802.11g explicated in great detail: This piece gives tremendous insight into the 802.11g timeline, including how we got to where we're at, the realistic market for the gear, and when we might see real g-based devices.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:22 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 29, 2002

iSync Arrives

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Apple ships iSync beta: runs through iSync's features, which include Bluetooth-based synchronization of information to cell phones, starting out with a limited set.

With the release of iSync, I'm definitely in the mindset for a Sony Ericsson T68i, which is one of the supported cell phones. (Perhaps I can just drop my current phone.) I tested a T68i for about five weeks, in the middle of which period Jaguar was released with its built-inBluetooth support. The phone itself is pretty terrific, and coupled with the wireless headset, a real winner. Two problems, though: no direct US carrier support yet, and GSM/GPRS only options mean that coverage is not 100 percent. Ah, a third problem: without cell phone number portability, I'd have to change my phone number, which I've had for nearly five years and am reluctant to give up.

O'Reilly Mac OS X conference this week: Expect fewer posts, as I speak and attend the O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference this week in Santa Clara. (You can still sign up and attend!) Monday morning, I present 3 1/2 hours on wireless in a tutorial session, and then attend the rest of the week, which includes sessions on community wireless networking, zero-configuration networking with Rendezvous, and virtual private networks.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:07 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 28, 2002

News for 9/28/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Bluetooth starts to reach usefulness: My article in today's Seattle Times discusses how Bluetooth works and in which devices you can find Bluetooth support, or how to add it to existing equipment. My prognostication, implied in the article, is that once you have enough equipment shipping with Bluetooth built in, an extra $50 or so to enable your computer or laptop won't seem like much because of the additional utility. Cell data is the big motivator here: if I can get a 2.5 or 3G phone with Bluetooth that I can control entirely from my computer as a network connection, then why bother with infrared, cables, or other proprietary solutions?

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:39 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 27, 2002

News for 9/27/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Managing large WLANs may turn from aggregation into peer to peer networks and other options: My article in next week's InfoWorld magazine, addresses the current state and future of enterprise-scale WLAN management, when you're handling hundreds to thousands of access points across buildings or even continents. The current technology is quite good for what it does -- I didn't get a chance to address much of that, as this was a future-gazing piece. One network admin at a college in New York described deploying over 200 802.11a access points: it took him just four hours to configure all of them using the Harmony AP Controller from Proxim.

My article is part of a package of features on WLANs, covering issues of the state of standards, some practical examples, and insight into Bluesocket's approach to inside-the-network-style management of authentication. There's also a nice chunk on roaming: dealing with cross-subnet computer motion, and creating virtual IP addresses to cope with it.

Toshiba ships cable modem/Wi-Fi/Ethernet combo: The device is an Ethernet hub, a wireless access point, and a cable modem. It meets a standard for cable modems, but I'm not clear whether you could buy this and swap it in, which the article seems to imply. More likely, cable data services will adopt this device.

Proxim to sell long-range Wi-Fi gear: The article doesn't nail down exactly what the crux is, but Proxim appears to be entering the long-range wISP market for fixed point-to-point wireless with a line of equipment that will cost $2,000 to $6,000 per installation. It's unclear how many customers you hang off that and what the customer-premises equipment will cost.

Wireless around the world: I'm collecting the terms of wireless in various languages. In German, drahtlos; in Danish, the similar sounding trådløs. Dutch: also similar, draadloos. In Estonian, traadita. Several Francophones noted that the French phrase is sans fil. In Italian, senza fili. More, please!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:11 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 26, 2002

News for 9/26/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Microsoft releases Bluetooth code for XP to developers: Following's regular excellent reporting in this area, Joe Wilcox files a story on the potential timetable for Bluetooth support to be released to consumers following the developer release today. The story also notes several of the mass-market Bluetooth devices now available. I believe the snowball has started to roll.

Brazil the next hot spot for hot spots?: Alan Reiter weighs in on convergence and wireless networking in Brazil, where he recently spent two weeks.

Sony to release Palm 5-based handheld with Wi-Fi capability: According to The Register, the $600 handheld will accept a Sony Wi-Fi card in a special slot.

Vocera's communicator combines pager, intercom, walkie-talkie, and phone: This interesting device was unveiled at DemoMobile last week, and I have more coverage to come on it.

New Danish WISP: A new WISP, Organic, is on its way in Denmark. The page referenced here has some excellent quotes about Wi-Fi, and a large note in Danish: 802.11, wi-fi, wlan, hotspots, open spectrum, accesspoints, and wireless Internet. What is that? In smaller type below, it says more background information is on the way. [via Hans Henrik Højberg] Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, one of the organizers of Organic wrote to note that the project was floated under the name MetroStar until the recent announcement. He also notes that there's an English page.

Wireless around the world: I'm collecting the terms of wireless in various languages. In German, drahtlos; in Danish, the similar sounding trådløs. Dutch: also similar, draadloos. More, please!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:41 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 25, 2002

News for 9/25/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Microsoft promotes multiple machines, Wi-Fi gateway discount for MSN Broadband: In what could only be termed a pro-consumer bundle, Microsoft is offering 20 percent off its reasonably priced home wireless gateways when purchased as part of a subscription to MSN Broadband, their high-speed partnered Internet service that costs $40 to $50 per month, depending on location. MSN seems to be promoting the notion that any number of computers could be connected for no additional charge, and promoting adoption of their gateway by discounting it to $120.

Here's where I have to wonder, as always, if Microsoft's OS bias winds up blinding them to real profit. Their Macintosh Business Unit has made the company a small fortune in adapting hardware (mice and keyboards) and writing software (from-the-ground-up Office) for Mac users. The wireless gateway from Microsoft is another excellent opportunity for Microsoft to get Mac customers: the $150 list price device has most of the features that Apple's stubbornly $300 AirPort Base Station includes. (If you're a dial-up Internet user, the AirPort Base Station is a better choice unless you look at the Agere (now Proxim) residential gateway with built-in modem, which is more or less a $150 version of the AirPort Base Station.)

The MacBU has already announced that MSN 8 will be coming to the Mac, written from the ground up for OS X, sometime in 2003. Bundle that software with a custom Mac front-end (or just a nice, working Web interface), and the company could suck many AOL users away, as well as pick up more broadband customers.

802.11g's ratification process spelled out: A brief article that re-emphasizes the fact that the final version of 802.11g is still many moons away from ratification as a full IEEE standard. That won't stop folks from burning silicon, but it might cause buyers to hesitate from getting gear that calls itself 802.11g compatible before such a thing exists. The final version of 802.11g is unlikely to change in the last few months before ratification, but it's not unheard of. [via the unblinking eye of Alan Reiter]

Portable, sustainable wireless networking: At a celebration of sustainable existence and other laudable goals in England, a wireless network with a satellite network was run through solar power -- and a lot of excellent kludges. [via Adam Engst of TidBITS]

Chaos Manor gets unwired: Jerry Pournelle's writes with his usual combination of wit and technical detail about an above-average user's attempt to get a Cisco system running. It almost works, a rarity in Chaos Manor (usually things fail with clouds of smoke and items flying about), and the culprit turns out to be the authentication controller. [via the unsleeping gaze of Alan Reiter]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:58 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 24, 2002

News for 9/24/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

SMC Networks to ship dual a/b adapter in October: For $130 and using Atheros's a/b chipset, SMC Networks will offer a CardBus Adapter in October that can use either 802.11a or 802.11b. The press release notes that the card supports the AES encryption standard, although how this integrates with current generation technology, I'm unclear. The unit supports both standard 802.11a and 802.11b, as well as an out-of-the-standards-body Turbo Mode for a that runs up to 108 Mbps of raw traffic.

ZDNet on Microsoft's wireless gateway: better than average: ZDNet praises with faint damns the new Microsoft wireless gateway, noting what the review cites as an exemplary manual (96 pages and easy to follow), and good out of the box configuration. The review dings them for requiring a floppy backup of a unit's configuration.

Frank Catalano deconstructs Wi-Fi: Frank's created a permanent URL outside of his Yahoo mailing list for his excellent column from last week that looked across the entire horizon of Wi-Fi industries, users, and challenges.

Nicholas Negroponte on Wi-Fi's disruptive effect: In the Sky Dayton-cover issue of Wired, Negroponte writes about how Wi-Fi is a harbinger of unclenching the fists of telecommunications companies on ubiquitous or at least widespread data networks. He talks about mesh networking, and its utility, although ad hoc mesh networks require communities: you won't have a device that arbitrarily links you into a grid; you have to make that choice. Wai Sing Lee forwarded me the link, and offers a variety of rebuttal and accuracy checks to it (read the third post by IronMac).

Pronto Networks partners with Boingo Wireless: Pronto appears to be a network of networks itself, handling services for its partners. The 11 partners Pronto already has plan to install 400 hot spots over the next year, including one partner specializing in kiosks.

Keep on top of the news with Google: Google took its news analyzer out of beta yesterday, and it's worth a close look. I've added links at the left for common networking terms: Wi-Fi, 802.11b, and 802.11a. Google's system scans news sites and updates the information constantly, providing you an effective shortcut. Because they scan so many sites, I've found otherwise for-fee articles from the Wall Street Journal and other publications available through republished sources, like Yahoo News.

Microsoft's corporate WLAN down as consumer product launches: Smell the irony, but things like this happen. The headline about the company being in a tizzy seems to overstate the story, which pointed out that folks just plugged in. Still, odd to be down for 36 hours without it being a scheduled problem. Security hole?

England's Birmingham Airport goes wireless: The article notes that the airport is one of the first public hot spots in England, which only recently approved commercial network use of the unlicensed spectrum.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 19, 2002

News for 9/19/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Microsoft takes the plunge: announces Wi-Fi gateways: Microsoft today announced its several wireless products, along with some related wired gateway hardware. The offerings, as expected, aren't very exciting, mimicking the commodity consumer gear on the market already. Where Microsoft might be able to make a difference is in their massive technical support operation. One of the consistent complaints about consumer Wi-Fi products is the inability to get solid tech support time after time. Whatever you think about Microsoft, they wrote the book on accountability and follow-up for technical support, and we'll see if they can execute on that with Wi-Fi gear as well.

Frank Catalano deconstructs Wi-Fi [may required Yahoo login; permanent URL coming next week]: Segment by segment, veteran tech reporter Frank Catalano deconstructs Wi-Fi's current state and potential. This article is a model of conciseness, without losing any of the most important details. One dispute: none of the conferences that I know about on Wi-Fi are pushing public hot spots as a profitable idea, but are rather examining whether they could be profitable by themselves or as part of larger plans. The other point: none of the conferences are making anybody rich (yet), as they're all still ramping up.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:44 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 18, 2002

News for 9/18/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

Today's news is also sponsored by Vernier Networks, enabling companies to rapidly deploy and operate secure, scalable, and mission-critical 802.11 wireless networks.

The above are paid, sponsored links. Contact us for more information.

Microsoft readies Thursday announcement for entry to home gateway market: reports on Microsoft's remarkably unsophisticated entry into the commodity home gateway market. By offering a device that sounds as if it has practically no unique features or better pricing (in fact slightly worse) than the commodity home gear from Linksys and others, Microsoft is risking disappointing consumers who might turn to them for a simpler process in configuring their systems. The Microsoft approach includes several options like auto-detecting settings for a user's ISP connection, but it's unclear whether that involves just running a utility on a user's machine that finds the settings and copies them to the wireless gateway. The initial gateway will be a four-port 10/100 Mbps switch and Wi-Fi access point, according to this report.

Vocera announces Wi-Fi-based communicator: Vocera announced at the DemoMobile conference today their Vocera Communications System which uses a small wearable communicator that connects over standard Wi-Fi networks to offer mobile workers voice-based intercom and telephony. The system relies in part on a voice-recognition system that lets people wearing these badges carry out tasks by speaking them, obviating the need for hands or an interface. The device has been beta tested with nurses where one nurse told the company they saved as much as an hour a day using the communicator, and the device is also expected to be a big winner in the retail environment. The company told me a few weeks ago about an aspect of their system which allows people to be grouped by function. A supervisor could say, "Find me the nearest cashier," and the system would use the group list and some proximity information from Wi-Fi access points to pick the likeliest person. More on Vocera next week.

Lucent successfully tests UMTS (3G) to Wi-Fi roaming: Spectacularly, this test not only showed how one could roam from a 3G network to a Wi-Fi network, but also demonstrated an implementation of Mobile IP, a long-awaited addition to IP networking that would allow a user to take their IP with them, more or less. Mobile IP has stalled in part because of the drive to put IPv6 into more devices. IPv6 contains essentially the ideas and substance of MobileIP in its spec. Once (or, perhaps "if ever") IPv6 is found in enough routers in the right places, you should be able to take your IP on the road.

Green Packets makes beta available of self-organizing network software: SONbuddy automatically seeks, organizes and maintains a peer-to-peer and peer-to-multi-peer, ad-hoc community based on user-defined preferred search parameters. Green Packets's software apparently allows mobile devices to create ad hoc networks, much like Bluetooth, but employing a more generic assumption of underlying infrastructure than Bluetooth's specific requirements. Green Packets uses self-healing routing technology. SONbuddy is available in beta form for Windows-based notebooks, desktops and PocketPC-based PDAs. Applications included with the system allow users to create profiles, seek out like-minded individuals (sounds very much like Telia's cell-phone service), use voice over IP, exchange files, instant message, form chat rooms, and share white boards.

Business Week on sustainability of free networks: A quite well-reasoned article about how free networks are working to sustain interest and viability. The writer hints at the end of the article that perhaps the poor economy is one reason why community networks have thrived: un- and underemployed technology enthusiasts deprived of 90-hour work weeks are building services on their own.

Intersil in full production of 802.11a chipset, $35 in quantity: Intersil has ramped up to full production for its set of chips that manfacturers can use to create 802.11a products. They also announced they will be sampling chips to OEMs soon for the Duette product, which will be 802.11a, b, and g compliant. The 802.11g standard is on track for May 2003 ratification, with various chipmakers proposing a late winter 2003 schedule for g-compliant chips. Ben Charny at writes that Intersil's move might start a price war that could reduce the price of access points and client adapters for 802.11a quite rapidly.

Warchalking moves from idea to fad to movement to condemnation: Despite the fact that there is no warchalking movement -- it's a powerful meme, but not a grassroots or top-down organization, fer chrissakes -- Nokia apparently issued an advisory to its customers covered in this article. In part, the article quotes the advisory as saying, While the warchalkers maintain they are not trying to hack networks, they are using a resource which they haven't paid for. I know of zero evidence that warchalking is being employed exclusively or even largely for this purpose. The article also cites as a fact, not needing attribution, that spammers are "warspamming", even though the original appearance of both that idea and the "10 million" number quoted in this article was part of a speculative speech given, not research or real reports of activity.

Attend the upcoming O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference -- strong wireless focus: The Mac OS X Conference is a must-attend event for OS X administrators and developers, as well as extra-geeky end-users, and there's a strong thread of wireless networking running through the conference. It starts with my Monday morning 3 1/2 hour tutorial on wireless, tied into OS X aspects but also covering more general topics; then Rob Flickenger's community wireless tutorial that afternoon. Over the three days of the conference proper, wireless rears its head many times, in sessions on Rendezvous and networking. You can obtain a great discount on the event here.

Register now for 802.11 Planet in Santa Clara, CA, in early December: I'll be heading up a panel and attending. I went to last year's inaugural event in Santa Clara, and it was fantastic.

Rendezvous spreads: Apple's network discovery protocol for services like filesharing and printing continues to gain adherents. Their version of a zero-configuration protocol now has several more major adherents in addition to the original three (Epson, Lexmark, and HP): Xerox, Philips, Canon, Sybase, and... World Book? Ah, the product marks the first cool application-based benefit: sharing notes and research.

Infoworld rounds up DemoMobile's upcoming announcements: this week, companies show many new wireless products at the DemoMobile conference.

US government report on securing cyberspace mentions 802.11b: Report says options to secure Wi-Fi neworks should be better explained. Agreed! Out of the box, it's easy to secure Bluetooth, and HomeRF has strong encryption built right in with practically zero-user involvement. Wi-Fi makers can make consumer products easier to secure with a first line of defense. Hopefully, 802.11i remains on track.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:12 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 17, 2002

News for 9/17/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Telia HomeRun drops prices precipitously: Telia HomeRun is a Wi-Fi-based hot-spot service with hundreds of locations throughout Scandinavia. In this short article, it's noted that they have dropped ther monthly rate from $31.86 to $4.25, and what's called the traffic rate--per minute charge?--from 25 cents to 21 cents. The price for signing up has been reduced as well, from $52.58 to $21.24. [via Nigel Ballard]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:54 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 16, 2002

News for 9/16/2002

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

News to come

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:51 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 13, 2002

Wi-Fi in Wales

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Wales becomes one of the most connected places on earth with Wi-Fi: This article on Welsh Wi-Fi represents the culmination of years and effort, including fights with British Telecomm. (Dave Hughes has long been involved with this.)

Dude, where's my Wi-Fi? Movable Wi-Fi: The fellow I mentioned yesterday, Michael Oh, gets a whole article about his cool moving hot-spot.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:25 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 12, 2002

They Thought Cell Phones Were Silly, Too?

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Shosteck Group states public hot spots an unprofitable idea from start to finish: A friend forwarded an email briefing from this interesting analyst group about the future of wireless hot spot profitability. The briefing states, Our analysis shows that despite increasing numbers of laptop computers equipped with WLAN capability, only a tiny fraction of those laptops will ever pay to connect to a public WLAN network. In short, we believe that wireless operators will find public WLAN networks to be an unprofitable loss leader.

They go on to note several reasons: both lack of ubiquity and cost to build out ubiquity (they estimate 100,000s of hot spots needed, which I agree with); lack of a deep market space; free public WLAN access in many areas; and the use of public access as a secondary tool for people who travel, thus having less value associated with it.

While I think their analysis is pretty much correct given their assumptions, I also believe they're reasoning from the wrong direction: public commercial hot spots are clearly on track to develop as an adjunct to lower-speed cellular data networks, and thus service pricing and availability will be tied to an overall development of that market across all kinds of devices and all kinds of users.

I have a feeling that this analysis, when applied to the nascent cell market many years ago would have resulted in a statement that because payphones and free local calls were available pretty much everywhere, no one would pay a much larger fee than their home phone line service to have coverage when they traveled.

There's a transformative time ahead when the commercial hot spot market either floats or fails. The time when that comes is when we see a cell company start to build out 10,000 APs in a year, and all the major airports have service.

The big limiting factor in people paying is clearly airports. The airports have their own mandates and declining concessionaire revenue. So it may be 2 to 3 years before the 35 major market airports have substantial coverage.

But that day will come because the battle will be won or lost first in the airports. Hotels are slowly but inevitably adding Wi-Fi service because business travelers demand it. 2.5G and 3G data services are slowly showing up as well.

When a business traveler--which is surely a niche, but a multi-million person niche--can have access at all kinds of speeds with a single (or no) login, and a single bill as they travel continuously from one place to other via airports, hotels, conference centers, and the back seat of cabs, the market will thrive.

Until then, everyone is trying concepts on for size, looking at adoption rates, and trying to light the spark that starts 10,000 APs being built.

Other News for 9/12/2002

WET11 Superstar!: The Linksys WET11 wireless bridge gets its day in the sun. I offer a reasonably technical review at O'Reilly Networks; Nick Wingfield, a colleague at the Wall Street Journal, provides a more realistic consumer view; and Slashdot picks up my suggestion to discuss the article and the device. I'll be writing a more technical column still about how the WET11 bridges MAC addresses in a week or so.

A pile of feedback has poured in about the article and the product, including some technical detail and potential bugs (it translates MAC addresses into a single address to fool the access point; DHCP seems to break in some cases with it), and some disappointment by people who expected it to be a network-to-access-point bridge, when it's just a many-devices-to-access-point bridge. More on this soon.

Boston Globe on Boston hot spots: Solid reporting on the business and practice of Wi-Fi hot spots in Boston. Nice to know that Boston has Michael Oh, kind of the east coast Rick Ehrlinspiel. Rick showed up at Starbucks/T-Mobile's rollout announcement to hand out cards to the press and set up a Surf and Sip hot spot next door; Michael Oh used a portable Wi-Fi system set up in a car to offer free access across the street from a Starbucks on Labor Day.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:21 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified | 1 Comment

September 10, 2002

Boingo Bounces, but Wired Breaks

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Wired-less magazine on Wi-Fi: The whole article is up, so I can comment in depth. Conceptually, the piece is flawed: as is the case with much technology/social journalism, the author and editors picked a poster child, Sky Dayton, and his company to a lesser extent, and made them the avatar for an industry. Dayton and Boingo are important components in the evolution of commercial hot spot service, but are one set of nexi. It's an important distinction: they're not the center, but they're at one center of many. Did this article want to be a profile of Sky Dayton and morph into a Wi-Fi piece?

Because they seize on Dayton as the avatar, the author feels compelled to run through a bunch of tired personal observations. Sky's an interesting fellow, I agree, but I don't really think knowing how he's dressed or his educational background helps me better understand the scope of the industry which is what most of the article is devoted to. Also, they put him in a suit (or he insisted?) for the cover and interior shot, so how does that relate to the extensive clothing comments? Mayan sandals? Whatever.

Let's go though the errors. Boingo sells Internet access via Wi-Fi: Not really. It sells access to Internet access, which is not the same thing in an article that's harping on the financial details. Dayton is betting...that they'll shell out $75 a month: Sloppy. Up to $75 per month. Because Boingo offers a predictable day rate, and an intermediate $30-odd per month plan, the $75 figure is a red herring.

MobileStar went bankrupt while putting access points--which can cost $4,000 each--in 550 Starbucks. Actually, MobileStar went bankrupt while building out Starbucks data network while telling investors that they'd have massive revenue from subscribers by the fall 2001. Starbucks's requirements forced the $4,000 cost (which I heard from MobileStar's CEO in Sept. 2001 was $2,500 per site), which was for the hot spot, not the less accurately referred to access points.

Bongo? What is this Bongo? Now we're in a Pink Panther movie. This whole I wandered around to two hotels and gave up going to a third and asked the front-desk staff about the service and they didn't know what it was thing. It's tired. There's a bigger story here that involves Wi-Fi and broadband in general that's not at a tangent to this overall picture if the author had gone beyond anecdote into research. The hotel industry has invested massively and been massively talked into building wireless broadband. But the problem that the writer saw in small could have been a good point in the piece: the front-desk staff, the chain customer service/reservations desk, and other people associated with hotels rarely have much information about the third-party services they offer. So far, according to analysts I've spoken with, hotels aren't making back the money on broadband. But they all feel it's inevitable because business travelers demand it and are making room-night decisions. You only need a handful of people every night switching to your hotel coupled with the access fees to make it a viable service.

Did the writer turn his laptop on in these hotels to see if Wi-Fi existed? No. Did he call the partners who run the Wi-Fi in these hotels to find out what the story is? No. He basically relies on the lack of information provided, even to the extent that he's told he can't log on and doesn't try. (Most of us are willing to slip into a hotel lobby or bar and check for Wi-Fi, aren't we?)

The list of Boingo's current sites lacks several obvious m-worker sign of Boingo at JFK, SFO, or O'Hare: I'm beginning to think the writer forgets Boingo's model here at this point, so intent on making them the flash poiint of the industry. Historical reasons dating back to 1999 and 2000 are why these airports aren't wireless, and add to that the airline slump and 9/11. (He redeems himself a bit later.)

The map in the print edition of Minneapolis-St. Paul fails to credit Concourse Communications. I figure the only reason they used this illustration is that they'd done an Infoporn showing hot spots throughout the US a few months ago, and Concourse was the only wISP willing to give that much detailed information. The caption fails to mention Concourse, but Dick Snyder is quoted in the article with an attribution that mentions the airport. (They have JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia's concession, not just JFK.)

...a recent InStat/MDR study estimates there won't be 40,000 public hot spots, total, worldwide, until 2006: Predictions of future hot spot locations are pure speculation. The industry is either going to bloom with massive cell telco investment, who will co-opt, expand, and seamlessly integrate with 2.5/3G, or hot spots will become a onesy-twosy situation without any national integration or presence. We won't have 40K hot spots in 2006, but a smaller number or a much, much higher number, like 500K or 1M. Anyone with knowledge of the industry and of telecom in general knows that it's not going to rise gradually, but bloom or explode. Many analysts will go on the record about that very fact.

The whole interlude about eCompanies seems misplaced to me, and again a function of turning Dayton and Boingo into the symbol of the industry instead of looking at a much wider variety of players and segments that are well-deployed and represent hundreds of millions in revenue, like IBM Global Services.

Later, we get into the whole San Francisco airport situation. This is where there's some good meat. I interviewed John Payne last year, and this part of the article finally gets into the issues of why we don't see more wireless access in airports: it's expensive and ITT directors (information technology and telecommunications) have been burned. Payne was burned twice, but others have been burned once or more, and now face a variety of burdens having to do with post-9/11 information needs and reduced budgets.

Some errors in this part: Aerzone bid an eye-popping $2 million for the rights to build a handful of Laptop Lane Wi-Fi kiosks: it wasn't eye-popping at the time. But the firm went bust before it ever installed a node: No, it ceased operations. It was a division of SoftNet, which had purchased Laptop Lanes from a Seattle-based company, and SoftNet pulled the plug frightened about the capital investment requirements when the markets were already drying up. I interviewed the CMO of Aerzone on a Friday in December; on Tuesday, the PR firm called to tell me the company was shut down. Not bankrupt.

...its assets were purchased by...Wayport: Not exactly. Wayport bought several Laptop Lanes locations, but had to renegoatiate a bit with airport authorities, as not all the agreements were assignable.

Criticism a bit later by Airpath and Wayport executives is wonderful, in that the writer got them on the record talking about the problems with the model to date, but we all know we're in the baby steps of this industry. 600 or 4,000 hot spots are really nothing, and Boingo can't succeed unless the infrastructure starts to ramp up dramatically and soon. Airpath and Wayport could fall by the wayside and it wouldn't make much difference if there were 40,000 other hot spots. Wayport has spent a lot of money over a lot of years without reaching profitability, and a recent press release indicated that they had had 1 million sessions over the company's lifetime: maybe several million in revenue from that entire span.

Then we get into Pass-One. Pass-One is an interesting idea, binding together a number of international players and one of the cell telephone world's fee settlements firms that handles payments across networks from users who roam. Wayport's CEO puts his neck out there, given that he only has a few hundred hot spots and all the partners together really have a fairly small footprint. He also makes what I think is a howler possible only from someone who hasn't engaged in software development: I can be in that [aggregator] business in 90 days; it's just a matter of writing the client software. I'm sure Microsoft would like the secret of that kind of software deployment that would allow reliable client connections on dozens of Wi-Fi chipsets and hardware configurations. Hey, wait, Microsoft did that themselves--it just took years and hundreds of people.

In mid-July rumors began to swirl about a wireless venture...codenamed Project Rainbow: Rumors? Mostly a single New York Times article that every company involved has seemed to deny or repudiate. It may be that such an effort is underway, but it's been way too quiet. Too much real-estate is involved, and too many wardrivers to let a network of the scale of that under discussion be deployed without anyone noticing.

Deutsch Telecomm recently purchased MobileStar...: It bought its assets out of bankruptcy after providing a bridge loan as one of the conditions. It walked away from the debt and shareholders. This happened in January, which might be recent but seems a long time ago.

I suppose I appear pretty vehement, but that's because there's a good article here that would explain and challenge the industry's assumptions and success, and the hot spot world's future. But this wasn't it.

Other News for 9/10/02

Linksys partners with Verizon: Linksys sent me a press release about an interesting DSL partnership with Verizon. Business customers of Verizon can get a rebate of up to $180 when they order DSL and purchase a Linksys EtherFast router (the BEFW11S4 which is a four port 10/100 Mbps switch with a separate WAN port and a bridge/router/wireless access point). on roaming from home: Standards discussions in the works, which most would welcome, but nothing substantive yet resulting.

Analyst report estimates death to single-venue hot spots; 128K hot spots by 2007: The analysis firm BWCS has issued a report that projects a count of 128,000 worldwide hot spots by 2007. Bzzt! I'm sorry, try again. If any of the current projects come to fruition, the worldwide number will exceed 100,000 within 6 to 8 months. If there are only 128K hot spots by 2007, the industry will have failed and it will be a mere curiosity instead of a major component and partner to cell telephone carriers' high-speed data services. The press release quotes the report's author as saying, "We have effectively seen the end of the standalone hotspot owner-operator business model, with a string of well-known W-ISPs selling out or switching the focus of their operations." Also a provably false statement: the cost of operating a small number of hot spots has dropped dramatically because of reduced equipment costs and the variety of in-a-box hot spot offerings from FatPort, Surf and Sip, Boingo Wireless, and others. Smaller regional outfits have a higher chance of understanding the local market and getting a variety of good venues hooked up while charging reasonable amounts of money to counter their less-capital-intensive deployments. You don't find regional or local wISPs spending $4,000 per outlet.

Belkin adds new wireless router: Veteran cabling/adapter company Belkin, now fully emerged into the wireless space with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi gear, offers up their new 11Mbps Wireless Cable/DSL Gateway Router (F5D6231-4). It has a 4-port 10/100 Mbps Ethernet switch, and supports a variety of gateway features, including DMZ (machine exposing), NAT, IPSec pass-through, and stateful packet inspection plus 128-bit WEP keys. Due out Nov. 1 with Windows drivers, and Mac support to follow, the list price is $150. The interesting part about this unit is a prefab setup wizard customized for ISP integration: when run, it should automatically configure your gateway for your ISP's particular setup.

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

September 9, 2002

News for 9/9/02

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

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802.11g moves closer to adoption: Texas Instruments's PR firm alerted me this morning to the fact that IEEE 802.11 Task Group G (TGg for short) has passed its first letter ballot, on its way to May 2003 final ratification. TI has a working 802.11a chipset in their labs which they're merging with their ACX100 chipset which supports the PBCC encoding, an optional encoding for 802.11g since last year's compromise vote. TI plans to offer 54 Mbps service, although I'm very curious to see the real throughput and whether or if it surpasses "22 Mbps" versions of PBCC and OFDM. TI expects to be in full production with g and an a/g dual solution in the first quarter of 2003.

New mailing list for wireless networking: has launched a wireless networking discussion list. You can subscribe to it via Yahoo Groups (wireless-world) or by sending email to

Czech bandwidth after the floods: Geoff Goodfellow, the owner of a Prague, Czech Republic, bar that flooded with 2 meters of water recently, wrote to alert us to an article called Rooftop Rebellion about wireless in old Bohemia.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:38 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 7, 2002

News for 9/7/02

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

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Symbol moves smartness from access points to switch: In what is clearly part of a trend for enterprise-grade wireless LAN equipment, Symbol announced a new kind of AP controller switch. The APs for this unit are about 1/2 or 1/3 of the cost of a typical enterprise AP, and comprise more or less a NIC and radio in a box using power over Ethernet, and thus allowing more flexibility in deployment than DC-adapter based APs. The intelligence is in the rank-mounted switch, which handles network policy, authentication hand off, and other filtering tasks.

I call this a trend, as I'm in the middle of researching the topic and thought that the broad conclusion you could make is intelligence is moving from individual APs to centralized controllers in the enterprise. Several other companies have similar solutions with a different mix of options, including Cisco, Proxim, and Sputnik. Look for more comprehensive information in a few weeks.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:11 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 4, 2002

News for 9/4/02

By Glenn Fleishman

Today's 802.11b Networking News is sponsored by FatPort's access point for the rest of us -- FatPoint

The above is a paid, sponsored link. Contact us for more information.

Texas Instruments' new chips: 10 percent of the power use: TI announced new Wi-Fi chipsets due out in the 4th quarter that will use as little as 10 percent of the power required for current generation chips. The company said that handhelds could get an additional 25 percent battery life and laptops about 6 percent because of this power drop. A variety of coverage: EE Times, Reuters, San Francisco Chronicle, EBNews, and 802.11 Planet. [via Sifry Alerts]

Conexant Systems adds Intersil Wi-Fi chips to DSL and cable modem designs: This move by Conexant Systems moves Wi-Fi into the de facto consumer space: equipment that consumers will use or build on top of because it's there and they didn't have to buy or configure it. Such integration lowers the overall cost of jumping into Wi-Fi because the price of a DSL or cable modem is already subsidized, and an additional chipset and antenna will only increase manufacturing costs by a small amount -- maybe $25 to $30 per unit in quantity. This puts Wi-Fi on the same ground as HomeRF, which has been more successful at pushing the integrated agenda.

Proxim upgrades AP-2000: 802.11a add-on, new firwmare: As one of their first moves after finishing the acquisition of the Orinoco product line from Agere, Proxim has released a kit to add 802.11a support to the AP-2000 access point. The kit is a simple CardBus 802.11a card that slides into an empty slot of an AP-2000. The revised firmware adds VLAN support, Ultra High Density cell size, and automatic channel selection. VLAN supports allows two overlaid networks: one that's secure and one that's for guest access via the same AP. The list price of the AP-2000 is $895; it's aimed at enteprises. The 802.11a kit is $249. The firmware revision is a free download for existing AP-2000 owners.

NPR segment on wardriving: Listen and learn.

Apple updates its AirPort design guide: The new version covers building out AirPort networks using the 2.0 Base Station and OS X 10.2, which restored the software base station option available in OS 9.

Pushback on the Nokia D311 card's speed: Yesterday, I pointed to an article noting a dual Wi-Fi/GPRS phone, and that it's speed was limited to 14.4 kbps. Gerton de Goeij of Logica Consulting in The Netherlands wrote to correct this: [Gizmodo noted that] the GPRS is low speed for the US card, but that is not true. The European and US card have the same speed (40.2 kbit/s in current networks with coding scheme 2). The slower datarate of 14.4 kbit/s refers to CSD (circuit switched data). The higher datarate to HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Swithed Data) which bundles CSD channels. This is only available in a few european countries (e.g. germany). So it would be more accurate to say the card has the capability but not the ability to connect at the higher speeds. The lower speed is a GSM limit, not a GPRS limit.

The Netherlands commercial Wi-Fi rollout: Another Dutch reader, Leon Buijs, notes that the Hubhop service, currently free, is rolling out 40 Wi-Fi hot spots in Dixons stores across The Netherlands. Dixons has a 132 stores. The rollout is in conjunction with Apple and will use Apple Base Stations. Two locations are currently active.

Fake out lame network crackers: It won't solve the problem of dedicated crackers, but folks running Netstumbler and other software will find themselves overwhelmed with fake network beacons using this software. [via Gizmodo]

UWB scare because of disintermediation?: David Janes rants about the attempt to hijack UWB's potential by alleging interference with airplane systems without the details necessary to understand what kind of UWB transmissions and at what power levels were used. David makes a reasonable case, but I think he overstates the sales angle of this: there are many, many companies that stand to gain from the sale of UWB equipment, just as billions of dollars of Wi-Fi equipment (equally disintermediate but short range) are being sold now.

New Wi-Fi public hot spot listing site: Noel Jackson has started up, a site that will make an attempt at collecting self-reported design-to-be-open Wi-Fi nodes.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:05 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

September 3, 2002

News for 9/3/02

By Glenn Fleishman

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Ikano Communications buys WiFi Metro, hereUare: In what can only be seen as a good sign for the industry, a more-established networking firm has purchased the substantial assets (network and software) of the two related Wi-Fi firms, WiFi Metro (itself a purchaser of AirWave's hot spots several months ago), and hereUare, a back-end billing and authentication aggregator.

Les Echos reports on Starbucks/T-Mobile and commercial Wi-Fi in general (in French): I'm quoted in the article noting the marketing coup for T-Mobile's involvement in this, and the likelihood that actual revenue will take a while to pay back the initial costs.

Nokia GPRS/802.11b card: Gizmodo notes the Nokia combo card has been available for a few months, but only offers low-speed GPRS access. Still, a nice notch on the stick as devices like this start coming out of the pipeline.

The littlest warchalker: Awwwwww!

Lacunae: I married my long-time sweetheart on Sunday as part of a long wedding weekend, and will be playing catchup on piles of work between now and our honeymoon in a couple of weeks. If articles seem light or I don't respond quickly to your email, that's why, and I'll be back to a more regular schedule later in the month.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:17 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

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