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Filleting the Herring
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Proxim Connects the Dots
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February 2003 Archives

February 28, 2003

Filleting the Herring

By Glenn Fleishman

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Red Herring leaves unusual smell: It's my unfortunate duty to shred an article written by a colleague in The Red Herring about the wireless hot spot business. I don't know Dan B____y, and my apologies to him; this won't be pleasant. (Update!: I swear it's not my fault, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting at 11.30 am Pacific today, that Red Herring's March issue is its last.)

Third paragraph: Four years ago... Larry Brilliant put together AerZone, which was another big idea with dubious prospects in a sea of bloated expectations. AerZone was a division of SoftNet, which had also purchased Laptop Lanes. AerZone, by late 2000, had contracts with several airports and airlines to provide service. In mid-December, four days after I had interviewed the CMO, SoftNet closed the division and put Laptop Lanes on the block. They couldn't raise additional capital. Part of AerZone's model was, as with other wISPs at the time, to pay for everything.

But, the company and the wi-fi market it hopes to exploit are starting to look like a hype bubble -- some much-needed skepticism injected into the overall Cometa coverage. Much of the coverage has focused on the scope and nature without drilling into costs and practicality.

Wi-fi is yet another example of a grassroots technology for which early adopters have grown accustomed to paying little or nothing. It really depends on which audience, and they're hardly early adopters any more. People who use Wi-Fi consistently on the road are entirely accustomed to paying for it. I'm not sure who gets it for free unless they're conveniently near a community node or an open node.

Now we get into muddy waters; put on your waders. ...David Hagan, president of Boingo, one of the pioneer wi-fi service providers, with 800 hot spots in hotels and airports around the United States, and a staunch believer in the build-it-and-they-will-come philosophy of customer acquisition. Actually, Boingo believes in the you-build-it-and-we-will-come model, because they aggregate not build infrastructure.

Now the author starts sinking into the mire. Boingo's expensive philosophy is precisely what Cometa intends to avoid. (Boingo raised $20 million in venture capital a year ago and says it has two years' worth of cash left.) Boingo is developing software and partnerships, so their philosophy is quite cheap compared with infrastructure build out. Boingo is relying on distributed infrastructure in which no one company winds up building out massively, like Cometa, and bearing huge costs, but rather builds strategically and relies on aggregators to fill their pipes.

Cometa is relying on the widespread corporate adoption of wi-fi, a trend that is still nascent. It might be my InfoWorld mentality here, but the penetration of Wi-Fi into the corporation is nearing mid-term, not nascent. Within two years, every laptop that a corporation buys will either have Wi-Fi preinstalled or prebuilt (a la Centrino), or will be a mandatory part of configuration. Many corporate surveys show most corporations have already deployed wireless LANs or are in the middle of testing; most of the rest, a small number, plan to install WLANs soon. Security remains the stumbling block, but not much of one.

This next part is terrific, however, and delightfully expressed. Cometa's stated goal in creating its 20,000 hot spots throughout the United States is to provide wi-fi access within a five-minute walk of any urban point or a five-minute drive of any suburban site. But experts say it will take far more than 20,000 sites to accomplish that ambitious goal, especially since it requires several hundred hot spots just to cover a decent-size college campus.

Now, we get into mixed market issues. Given the players, it seems appropriate that Cometa is making a bet on the enterprise market. After all, home networking enthusiasts have been known to be stingy. But analysts predict that growth in the small office/home wi-fi market will far outstrip the enterprise wi-fi market. But that's hardware sales and installation, not service plans. How would Cometa serve a home audience? It makes no sense. Intel is providing hardware for consumers and businesses, so their part of Cometa is following that market.

The author now provides an example of why listening to the company you're interviewing too closely causes you to drink the blue zombie soup and repeat their tropes. With IBM (site installation), Intel (wi-fi chip manufacturing), and AT&T (broadband access) running the show... (Just by the way, this illustrates how Cometa isn't the core of these companies but rather IBM Global Services, not IBM proper; Intel, not Wi-Fi chip manufacturing, but Intel Capital; and AT&T's bandwidth division.) ..., however, corporations are likely to feel more comfortable exchanging sensitive data wirelessly than through, say, companies called HereUAre or Surf and Sip. Dude, hereUare has been out of business for months. And Surf and Sip runs as tight a ship as any of the other ISPs; they're even Intel Centrino approved (see the bottom of this article). What, the brand name makes corporate execs nervous? I'm not sure marquee names make CIOs less jumpy given what happened to Worldcom.

And Cometa executives are confident they can drive standards through the industry that will allay any security fears that corporations may have. Bzzz. Thank you for playing! A multi-billion dollar industry is going to roll over for a hot spot operator. Please pick up your consolation prize at the door. Oddly, a broad consortium of companies and individuals in the IEEE, IETF, and Wi-Fi Alliance, among other groups, have created a variety of reliable security standards that will allay the fears as they are deployed over the next nine months, some of them in the next few weeks.

I heard Larry Brilliant speak a few days ago, and he spent quite a while discussing how CIOs want secure, audited hot spots. He also explained how corporations are using VPNs. Because no VPN technology has been compromised that I'm aware of, there's no need to audit hot spots. With a VPN tunnel and an appropriately configured laptop, a hot spot's security is irrelevant -- which is the whole point of a VPN in the first place: to allow use of untrusted networks! CIOs may be asking for this, but it's education on the subject that they need, not audited hot spots.

What makes more sense is for Cometa and all hot spot operators to participate in the public drafts of the wISPr (wireless ISP roaming) proposal that came out of the Wi-Fi Alliance a few days ago. That proposal could become the working document for building well-run hot spots, requiring spot checks through an independent group instead of individual audits or separate standards for each network. If I can bring up the specter of MobileStar twice in two days, the CEO of that departed firm told me in fall 2001 how important it was for them to only partner with companies that matched their high standards.

Finally, we get this amazing quote, which is a coup for the author: Rose Klimovich, the Cometa representative at AT&T, says it best when she admits: "We have to figure out the right way to make money. We will see over the next year or two whether Cometa has figured that out. It hasn't been tested yet." Dear Lord almighty, this is how the telcos still work: throw money at the wall and see if it sticks! (The trick? Soak the money in your own flop sweat first while you think about the future of your career if it fails.)

I feel dirty.

The Red Herring article aside, except for the good parts, it's clear that Cometa has an interesting plan for low-cost hot spot buildout. Because they're using AT&T for bandwidth, they don't suffer T-Mobile's high T-1 costs. Because they're a bunch of giant companies, they get sweetheart highest-volume discount rates on the equipment they install in each location. Because IBM Global Services is involved, again, they're not paying full cost of freight; for all we know, IBM's investment is donated labor and materials for the hot spot buildout.

What we really don't know about Cometa are the following issues:

I sound like a cynical jerk, right? I'm not trying to dis Cometa, but rather explain clearly why the degree of detail they've released so far makes it sounds as though we're living through the late dotcom era again. It's unlikely Cometa will release more details because it doesn't benefit them to do so. But their potential partners and investors will continue to be have questions like the ones I raise--and not everyone can be disclosed under contract to learn the nitty gritty.

Later Thought: The notion of Cometa pushing security standards is actually at odds with Intel's own Centrino co-marketing program in which Intel will be partnering to lend their name with firms like FatPort (announced yesterday), Surf and Sip, and various hotel operations (this last week). (Centrino is Intel's new Wi-Fi-integrated, lower-power laptop OEM system.)

Intel's name means a lot more to CIOs than Cometa could in the short term. The other program is the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi Zone. If that program is successful coupled with their wISPr proposal, the most recognized name in wireless networking, Wi-Fi, becomes the mark that achieves CIO approval.

In a press release about FatPort and Intel's program to test FatPort's FatZones as Centrino compatible, an Intel exec said this: "Intel Centrino mobile technology is designed to enable a rich, wireless mobile computing experience. We're excited to be working with FatPort to bring these services to Canadian locations." Cometa is competing against arms of itself, lending credence to the notion that Intel's involvement in Cometa is farther away from the center, as I note above, than the press releases would indicate. Cometa is an investment; Centrino is a core initiative.

T-Mobile Pricing Update

T-Mobile offers $30 yearly commitment, $40 month-to-month: T-Mobile has posted its new pricing plan and it's not exactly as reported. Gone is the $30 per month yearly commitment regional plan and the $50 per month unlimited national plan. In its place are two national plans, both unlimited: $30 per month for a yearly commitment, $40 a month for a monthly commitment. This is a nice compromise for the road warrior versus occasional traveler.

The bandwidth limit has been removed: unlimited data transfers on all accounts.

Per-hour rate is $6, not the per-day rate, which makes more sense in terms of worrying about people camping out for the day. Interesting choice on the per-minute part of per-hour: you can prepay for 300 minutes for $50 and use minimum 10-minute increments. If you pay by the minute at 10 cent a minute, you have a minimum 60-minute billing or $6.00. So the least you pay with the prepay plan is 60 cents versus $6.00 on pay-as-you-go.

I read the fine print on the new service agreement. First of all, it goes into effect March 1, not today, although they might implement changes earlier. Second, there are some penalties for cancellation of the monthly plans: $200 after the first 30 days for the yearly commitment plan (which is only $360 per year total); $25 after the first 30 days for the month-to-month plan.

The minutes expire 120 days from purchase or refill.

Without the day rate, T-Mobile is still out of sync with the rest of the hospitality hot spot industry (except STSN), but the new monthly rate makes harmonization possible, at least.

Other News

Internet Exchange launches UK wireless service at prices undercutting British Telecom: This Internet cafe has added Wi-Fi at 30 stores for five pounds (about US$8) per day; BT charges 15 pounds (over US $25) for the same service. Other rates are comparably cheaper. This is the week to cut prices, it seems.

Toshiba to blanket Canada with 1,000 hot spots: As the North American market heats up, we need to look north to our less temperate--I'm talking Celsius!--brothers and sisters. Toshiba of Canada. The article mentions Spotnik (no points deployed yet) and Bell Canada (testing but not charging), but not FatPort. Of course, the Global and Mail is based in Toronto and the service discussed is mostly Ontario, while FatPort is in Vancouver, BC. (North of the border insider joke: What did you do to annoy the G&M, Sean? Praise Conrad Black?)

PC Mag interviews Dennis Eaton, sidesteps hard question: The interview is solid, but the writer fails to note Eaton's dual role: Chairman of the Wi-Fi Alliance, but also a marketing director at Intersil, a company that has introduced draft 802.11g products like many others in the industry. A new piece of information: Eaton expects USB 2.0-based 802.11g adapters to be popular.

Wi-Fi over power: Amperion is offering an interesting bit of technology. They have a system that lets an electrical utility encode bandwidth over powerlines, but here's how they solve the step down problem -- the problem of getting bandwidth from the powerlines to the home through transformers. They're using 802.11b signaling from the poles to a customer premises equipment (CPE) device called PowerWiFi. Where they're clever additionally is that the CPE could be individual computers if there's a strong enough or clear enough signal or to some sort of bridge. They mention HomePlug, an in-house data-over-power system, but I assume they'd still be bridging via an external device into the house's power.

Atmel integrates: It's a bit techie, but part of a larger trend in chipmaking. Atmel has stuck processors, two Ethernet controllers, a USART, and a Wi-Fi MAC onto a single chip. You'd still need a baseband/PHY chip, which Marvell makes as a single CMOS unit, just by the way.

Why is Dan's name not spelled out?: I posted the author's name so that I wouldn't be a coward in criticizing his work directly. However, it struck me yesterday that I'm branding this guy because of this blog's high Google ranking. If I spell his name out, that means that every time someone searches on freelancer Dan B, they'll get this page among the top listings, shredding his article. (I guess the last issue of Red Herring didn't get the kind of scrutiny that it might otherwise have.) This would be unfair, and thus I've removed his full name.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:52 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 27, 2003

T-Mobile Brings Pricing In Line

By Glenn Fleishman

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T-Mobile bows to daily pricing, lower monthly fee: The timing is sensible. They now have a true national footprint, although substantively in Starbucks until closer to summer, and they should be focusing on increasing use of infrastructure even if it involves price reductions. I'm totally surprised and fascinated that they will offer a $6 daylong usage deal; it might encourage the kind of cybersquatting Starbucks was trying to discourage.

The article states that unlimited network access is currently $40, but the rate plan page (not updated yet) is in sync with my memory: $50 per month for unlimited national; $30 per month for unlimited regional. I'm speculating that they're cutting the national rate down to the regional rate, but I'll wait for clarification.

At $30 or $40 per month for unlimited national access, we're starting to see a rate that's casual-traveler friendly instead of road warrior oriented; when T-Mobile adds its airport executive lounges and Borders, it starts to become highly worthwhile. In fact, I cashed in some of what I hope will continue to be valuable frequent flyer miles to join United's Red Carpet Club in anticipation of the T-Mobile service. Don't let me down, bankrupt carrier of mine.

This new price is in line with Boingo's reduction a few months ago of their unlimited session rate to $50 per month. (Both require service commitments of a year, of course.)

T-Mobile continues the MobileStar policy of including only 500 Mb of access per month and charging 25 cents per additional Mb. 100 Mb = $25. Pretty steep. None of the other wISPs are bothering to track this, as far as I can determine. Also, if you use their prepaid minutes plan, there's no limit.

Of course, this will probably change with their new dayrate -- does that include unlimited downloads, too? I have $40-odd in a T-Mobile account, will be it be converted to day pass credit? Refunded?

I'm going to put on my Sky Dayton hat here and ask another question: With the quotes in the article at that broke this news from the eyeforwireless conference, it's clear they need to increase the revenue load on their infrastructure. You don't have to read between the lines. Why don't they establish a standard and open to roaming? I believe their day-rate pricing is the first step towards roaming because it puts them on the same page as aggregators and competitors. Load the infrastructure, and profit might be obtainable. Stay isolated, and subsidize Starbucks intranet.

The Hotels Have Landed

Marriott pushes further: Marriott hotels, including the brands Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites, Fairfield Inn and SpringHill Suites, have 200 properties set up with Wi-Fi--although the extent isn't mentioned in any article (rooms, meeting spaces, public areas?). They plan to unwire 200 more with Intel's help on co-marketing. Marriott charges a bizarre $2.95 for 15 minutes and 25 cents per minute thereafter according to several stories, but they must have a day rate as well.

Alongside Marriott, you have the long-established Wayport relationship with a number of property companies owning major brands (Westin, Four Seasons, Embassy, Summerfield, Wyndham, etc.) with wired and wireless combinations, Omni Hotel's recent announcement for free access in its 30 properties, and Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, and W).

In practical terms, some kind of broadband should be available in most premium hotels in the near future. In each room, it's likely that wireline Ethernet will still predominate, however, until Vivato's model proves itself. Less premium hotels could certainly poach customers and distinguish themselves by offering free or $2 per day unlimited Wi-Fi access.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:49 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 26, 2003

Broadcom Updates Draft 802.11g Firmware

By Glenn Fleishman

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Broadcom pushes out firmware upgrade for 802.11g draft chipset: Various companies pushed ot firmware updates today using Broadcom's latest upgrade: Linksys (WAP54G), Belkin, and Apple (AirPort Extreme Base Station). Broadcom has also achieved 802.11b Wi-Fi certification with this release, which is another step in interoperability.

Frequent correspondent Nigel Ballard reports some remarkable results with the new firmware installed. I set up a bridged wireless Ethernet link through three solid walls (150 feet) using a pair of the Buffalo WBR-G54 radio's. I'm passing a Mitel VoIP phone, a 300K video stream, a 75Mb backup file transfer and randomly checking three Email accounts all across the air interface. I get an impressive 8.5 [Mbps] steady throughput even when talking on the phone and polling my Email. And that is in the close proximity to a 100Mw Cisco AP and a 30Mw Orinoco AP both of which are serving wireless clients.

Other News

Boingo tops 1,200: Boingo now has over 1,200 hot spots in its aggregated partner network.

Time Warner Cable co-markets broadband wireless: SkyRiver Communications dropped me a line today to let me know that they had worked out what I think is a unique arrangement. Time Warner Cable will market SkyRiver's broadband wireless services in the San Diego County area market (300 square miles) that they serve alongside their cable and T-1 offerings. The quote from a Time Warner executive noted that especially for business services, this bypasses permits, backhoes, and other issues in bringing out service quickly. The press release says that customers could be up and running within three business days, one of wireless broadband's key advantages over even comparable wired high-speed service. (Lack of buried/pole infrastructure is another.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:28 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 25, 2003

Gee, Isn't July Lovely?

By Glenn Fleishman

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Wi-Fi Alliance sets July as tenative date for 802.11g interoperability testing: reports that products certified as interoperable with the 802.11g could be on shelves as soon as August. I've already seen a few signs that I can't discuss yet that indicate rapid movement among vendors to assure continuous improvement in existing implementations.

Speak Softly and Deploy a Large Footprint

The Wi-Fi Alliance releases its draft on wireless ISP roaming (wISPr, pronounced "whisper"): It's a cogent and not overly long document full of sensible recommendations. The goal of this document is provide a framework in which roaming could be facilitated by having systems that act the same way, regardless of wISP. Without a common framework, wISPs have two choices: adopt the Boingo approach of building client software that handles the many, many authentication systems out there invisible to the user; or build back-end systems that can handle logins from any partner and pass messages over the Internet back to that peer's authentication system. Both are problematic.

I'm sure that individual wISPs and aggregators will have issues with specific items, but given that the document is written in the form of an IETF RFP, there are per se requirements so much as recommendations for and against certain behaviors at different levels of severity: highly recommended, should, may, etc. The discussion in the appendix of 802.1x/EAP is a good primer on the subject with illustrations.

LEAPing to Conclusions

Proxim's response to Cisco's technology sharing announcement: Cisco announced a laundry list of companies that will share its technology for wireless networking. Many comments have come in today about how this is an attempt by Cisco to take proprietary extensions that it has and bypass the industry trade group, The Wi-Fi Alliance, through partnerships.

A Proxim spokesperson sent me their response: We think this is just a further proprietary move by Cisco to lock customers into their infrastructure. Proxim supports open, interoperable enterprise security solutions. In our opinion, the announcement had little content, beyond listing general things like "security", "management" and "voice support" which are obvious and every vendor is working on.

We believe that the industry has already resolved these WLAN security issues with solutions like WFA's WPA and IEEE's 802.11i. Overall, we believe that Cisco is trying to set the industry back to the "proprietary days" before IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance.

I don't know what the patent or licensing issues are, so it's unclear why Cisco wouldn't take their ideas to the Wi-Fi Alliance at large, or even the IEEE or IETF unless they feel that a consensus-driven standards or trade body can't fulfill the function of providing uniform consistent quality across an industry. QED.

Wired News has more on the Cisco story. It's proprietary, but free. The devil will be in the contract details.

Other News

Is that a phased-array antenna, or are you just happy to see me?: Nigel Ballard offered up a link to the Hot or Not collaborative physical-attribute ranking service which shows a guy pursing his lips next to a sexy, naked Vivato antenna. Yup, naked. The Vivato when sold will have either a textile cover (indoors) or a ruggedized enclosure (outdoors).

Etenna tunes antenna to reduce static: I can barely understand what their special technology does, but it sounds awfully 21st-century. If I'm interpreting it right, they've developed a way to prevent certain kinds of interference caused by lack of isolation between parts of a continuous antenna or multiple antennas resulting in a clean separation for different protocols.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:34 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 24, 2003

Eleven-B, Good Buddy

By Glenn Fleishman

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Truck stops, ferries may soon be Wi-Fi hot spots, if not hot beds: Nancy Gohring finds Wi-Fi in the likeliest of places, including truck stops. Rig owners need to always have a load, and cell phones and pagers might be useful, but powering up a laptop could be more efficient. Meanwhile, the Washington State Ferry system is still waiting on a bill that would let them explore putting Wi-Fi on popular runs. The local ferries are riddled with high-tech commuters who would latch onto this service in a second.

Tim Higgins sees throughput not interoperability as key draft 802.11g problem: In his usual exhaustive fashion, Tim digs into the Intersil 802.11g draft chipset's performance. He notes that in his testing of various "g" devices, he's seeing problems maintaining speed not in actually getting equipment to function.

Cisco to share...something: Cisco has announced they'll share some wireless technology with chipmakers to expand the use of...something. I wondered if this was PEAP (Protected EAP), a secure tunneled method of encapsulating EAP transactions using 802.1x, and I should have just consulted the press release. Cisco says it will share PEAP, WPA support for PEAP, and LEAP. It also said it will support marketing word marketing marketing word, but this just means they'll allow their WLAN management unit that lets you configure access points in aggregate and collect their reporting also work with gear from all the makers who implement it. There are obviously some other bits and pieces. I can't figure out yet why Cisco would offer this to the laundry list of competitors and partners: Agere Systems, Atheros, Atmel, Intel, Intersil, Marvell and Texas Instruments.

Benefits of mesh from Intel: The BBC reports on Intel's mesh networking technology demonstration and gives a primer on mesh's utility.

Nokia Rooftop discontinued: In researching an article I'm working on, I attempted to get in contact with Nokia about their Rooftop product line, which was a meshed wireless ISP system to allow deployment of broadband to residential and commercial areas. Their site seemed dead, but I couldn't believe a product introduced so recently and that's such a hot button would just go away. In fact, it has. A Nokia representative confirmed for me today that it's been discontinued. Did I just miss the press release on that? Or did it die a quiet death? Rooftop's absence leaves Locustworld (shipping MeshAP) and Sky Pilot (in trials) as the only two pure mesh distribution systems I'm aware of.

Smart consumer advice for managing Wi-Fi security: A brief intelligent piece (quoting our favorite Wi-Fi pundit, Nigel Ballard, of course) on using Wi-Fi without giving up your secrets. Although VPNs are beyond consumers today, I wouldn't be surprised to see tunneled services become more prevalent in the near future.

Ethical hacker acquitted in Wi-Fi security demonstration: The Register reports that a hacker trying to demonstrate the of a justice Wi-Fi network in Texas was acquitted quickly after being arrested for causing $5,000 in damage to the systems. Right. This is the same logic that led to the leading perl explainer being convicted many moons ago of causing lots of damage to Intel when he embarassed them by showing their password security was ridiculously weak. When in doubt, you sue the person showing you the problem for the amount of money required to fix the problem that they're showing you, not that they caused. If any of you ever endeavor to help clueless systems get better, I'd suggest having a form of release that your subject (victim?) signs holding you harmless for demonstrating their failure. [via TechDirt]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:24 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 21, 2003

Dr. Strangewire, or How I Learned to Love the FCC

By Glenn Fleishman

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It's irony, people! Or is that satire?: The FCC's decision yesterday to essentially re-gut the remaining DSL business by eventually disallowing line-sharing and allowing ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers) to restrict access to any new high-speed digital final miles they deploy should hearten those in the wireless ISP business. Never has the there been such a call to action for an industry.

While the FCC rules will be challenged in court and may once again drag out over years and years while Covad burns -- or thrives depending on how interim rules are enforced -- the likelihood is for higher prices for consumers for DSL services, while those services are likely to also remain highly restricted because the ILECs can be sure that they won't have serious competition.

Cable modem network operators have made it clear that they think 128 Kbps upstream speed is reasonable for consumers, who have subscribed in great numbers. So this leaves residential and business users with few affordable options. Many businesses can pay for full or fractional T1 service, or they can opt for business DSL (as I have done: 768 Kbps SDSL for $250 per month).

But tens of millions of people would assuredly want more if given a decent price and independence from the local monopolies, whose monopoly power has been reasserted in these rules. That "more" could easily come from wireless ISPs.

Wireless ISPs should heed answer this call: the wired market isn't going to serve the customer at a reasonable price and a reasonable speed. With new entries in the wISP CPE (customer premises equipment) all the time, like Proxim's new $300 street price MP-11 system with custome self-install, or Etherlinx's set of inexpensive CPE and CO (central office) style devices, a wISP can be highly competive for installation cost, while offering an extremely high discount off DSL for symmetrical high speeds of 1 to 5 Mbps.

I would guess that any investors holding off on putting money into wISP will see yesterday's announcements as the key to opening up their checkbooks and pushing deployment. If DSL and cable won't become cheaper--although there have been some price drops which can't be sustained given the earnings performance at all Baby Bells, cable operators, and related firms--there's only one way out. Through the air.

Here's Dana Blankenhorn taking a similar stand to mine, but urging Earthlink to take a leading role in the wISP world. I'd go a step further: if Earthlink rolled out wISP service they could couple this with their existing agreement with Boingo and let their wISP customers get a cheap Boingo membership thus tying wISP broadband with wISP hot spot.

For good insight on the regulatory front, read Kevin Werbach's take, which links you to other views. Kevin is a former FCC staffer.

Other News

You Could Make a Dead Man Broadcast: The Rolling Stones have an extensively networked operation on the road based on Wi-Fi and linked via satellite because land-based high-speed service is difficult at their venues (which seems odd, given how many traveling groups depend on it). This business-oriented article explains the Stones organization's use of Wi-Fi for communication among themselves, for updating the Web site with live details of concerts, and for providing a lifeline back to family and loved ones.

Decentralize homeland security: An interesting meld of homeland security and smart mobs is positing in this article, which points out several ways in which distributed networks and intelligence could be effectively used to keep people safe. Unfortunately, the US has an entirely centralized mentality, even while funding decentralized, mesh-based battlefield systems for soldiers!

Intel shows mesh networking: In one swoop, Intel has validated the notion of mesh LAN and MAN (metro area) networking by demonstrating a lab version of it and discussing the uses they expect (and are obviously planning for).

GSM operators should consider Wi-Fi: At the Cannes GSM Association meeting, operators were considering and encouraged to add Wi-Fi to their offerings to better compete with wireline services.

Asian hot spot rollout could quickly offer voice alternative: The Asian Wall Street Journal reports on how the rapid rollout of hot spots across Asia could play out into a cheap alternative to cell phone service with the bonus of data. The article notes over 10,000 hot spots having been deployed. (And note to Tokyo's Mr. Berger: Wi-Fi isn't public domain; the IEEE owns it, among other parties. It's just out there for use.) [via TechDirt]

Dude, where's my Wi-Fi?: The Wi-Fi Caravan of cars down Interstate 5 has begun with backing from technology firms eager to get some promotion. Sounds like fun, but friends don't let friends IM while driving.

More on Proxim's new MP-11 line: I promise a full report on this myself based on a briefing I received, but enjoy 802.11 Planet's excellent rundown as usual.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:00 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 19, 2003

News for 2/19/2003

By Glenn Fleishman

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Wi-Fi phones are coming (requires paid Wall St. Journal registration): My college classmate Kevin Delaney writes from Cannes, Frances, for the Wall Street Journal about the coming wave of cell phones that will work over Wi-Fi networks all within about 12 months. Motorola Inc. expects to unveil a cellphone by the end of next year....Texas Instruments Inc., which supplies an estimated 50% of cellphone chips, says it is releasing at least two cellphone reference designs...within the next few months that would allow its manufacturer clients to make dual-mode devices. Chip makers Intel Corp. and Philips Semiconductors are pushing forward along similar paths....Meanwhile, Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. in December unveiled a hand-held computer with built-in Wi-Fi and cellular capabilities that also enables users to make voice calls....At the 3GSM World Congress here [in Cannes] this week, Hewlett-Packard Co. is showing one of its iPaq hand-held computers connected to a cellphone seamlessly switching back and forth from Wi-Fi and cellular networks...Nokia Corp. also sells a dual Wi-Fi and cellular card to be used in laptops....Nokia, Palm Inc., Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson, and Qualcomm Inc. all say they are looking into Wi-Fi phones and either don't have exact plans yet or won't reveal more until they announce specific products.

Ricochet's return in parts of Denver, San Diego: The Ricochet network's buyer has started to light up parts of Denver and San Diego, and claims speeds of up to 176 Kbps. Goli Ameri, quoted in the article, rightly questions whether hot zones can compete with ubiquitous cell coverage. I've been pushing the new meme: speed trumps ubuiquity. Cell companies count on ubiquity winning, while hot spot operators are hoping for speed. Glenn's wireless data axiom 1 is: Near ubiquity is as good as total ubiquity. Axiom 2: Speed kills. Axiom 3: Cheap unlicensed trumps in two directions: free spectrum, cheap equipment. [via Dewayne Hendricks]

Wi All Fi in a Yellow Subcompact: Cory Doctorow and others form the Wi-Fi caravan from Portland to San Francisco on Feb. 21 with the technical assistance of VIA Technologies. A multi-car, high-speed, mobile Wi-Fi network. Pull over and set a spell boys, and spin us some bandwidth.

FatPort, Netwireless partnership in Canada: Vancouver's FatPort and the nascent Netwireless network have partnered to roll out 175 hot spots in the next year using FatPort's FatPoint turnkey hot spot hardware/back-end system. FatPort and Netwireless now have access through international roaming agreement with what they say is 1,000 hot spots worldwide. Netwireless has just three hot spots listed at the moment, but their parent company runs 150 computer retailers and integrators across Canada, so you can imagine how that sort of business lends itself to opportunities for deployment.

A transmitter grows in Boston: Public housing meets broadband in an experiment to bridge the digital divide. The projects sounds well directed with reasonable expectations. The story told here is similar to that elsewhere: when you give kids access to information, they'll suck at that hose no matter how much you push through it. Kids want to learn. (And play.) [via TechDirt]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:35 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 18, 2003

Proxim Connects the Dots

By Glenn Fleishman

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Proxim's affordable wireless broadband announcement: Proxim announced a consolidated and revised line of wireless broadband products intended to serve residential and corporate customers with an extremely low CPE (customer premises equipment) price expected to be $300 or less. The new system relies on line-of-sight point-to-point service, but the residental CPE comes with an interior window-mounted antenna that the company expects would eliminate 85 percent or more of truck rolls allowing a true customer-installed setup. (I spoke to Proxim last week; more about these products later today.)

Other News

Purchases make Wi-Fi free for limited time: An interesting approach by a UK chain of sandwich shops -- a purchase gives you free Wi-Fi hot spot time.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:20 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 17, 2003

Vivato Unleashed

By Glenn Fleishman

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Vivato's Coming Out Party: Yesterday at Demo, Vivato announced the details of their first Wi-Fi phased-array antenna/switch, an indoor office system that can serve up to 150 users at 11 Mbps at distances up to 300 meters for about $9,000.

Some of the early comments have wondered about this pricing model: how many access points at even enterprise pricing of $500 can you put in place instead of a single Vivato switch? They're missing the key point that explains Vivato's disruptive potential: the Vivato unit is a switch not an access point.

Let that sink in, and you'll realize what it means: each user has the potential through steered and focused beams to receive a full Wi-Fi speed connection without interfering with other users. The Vivato switch has two gigabit Ethernet ports and two 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports. 150 by 11 Mbps minus overhead at full utilization could saturate a gigabit port.

In practical usage, it's likely that not every user within range would certainly receive full exclusive 11 Mbps Wi-Fi usage. The laws of physics coupled with physical reality don't allow that. But to provide equal coverage with access points, you would need at least several dozen, densely placed, with as many nonoverlapping channels as possible, and a robust Ethernet infrastructure underneath it for backhaul.

I interviewed Phil Belanger of Vivato last week; Belanger was formerly VP of marketing and other titles at Wayport, and his move to Vivato is one of the reasons that I gave the company such credibility in the early days. He and others at the company are veterans of the industry.

Belanger said that until the day the FCC gave approval for Vivato to treat each of its steered beams of service as individual point-to-point connections governed by the power rules for those connections, they weren't sure the FCC would actually agree with their interpretation of the law. Fortunately, Powell's staff seems to encourage this kind of envelope stretching that's backed by testing. Belanger said that the FCC likes the Vivato model in that it encourages an "efficient use of the unlicensed spectrum."

The Vivato switch doesn't broadcast, but scans over a 100-degree field of view, but when it connects with a client Wi-Fi adapter, it focuses service directly onto that device. The switch is still limited by weak transmit signal on Wi-Fi cards, but Vivato's approach does extend range as well as allow transparency through interior partitions, solid or cubicle style.

Among several advantages Belanger cites for the switch is that even with all other costs being equal, there's a reduced price for wire deployment, which anyone who has contracted for Ethernet and electrical wiring for an office knows can run hundreds of dollars a drop. Even prewired offices may need renovation as additional devices are added. The Vivato switch just needs an optimal placement in a corner to have that 100-degree view.

The product itself is pretty minimalist: a textile covering (which can be provided in different colors to match office decor) covers the antenna, which has all of its administrative innards hidden as well. The first version of the switch is meant for interiors, and will ship in May. An outdoor version in an environmental, ruggedized enclosure will come next.

Belanger pointed out that the indoor model is limited practically to a single floor of a building, more or less, but that an outdoor version mounted to point at a building could cover most or all of the facility. This lends itself to airport, shopping malls, big retail warehouses, and conference venues, he said.

Up to four switches can be aggregated together to take advantage of the substantial LAN and WLAN management tools and support built in. You have to read the spec sheet for all of it, but it supports 802.1x/EAP, AES (when available as part of 802.11i), TKIP (as part of Wi-Fi Protected Access and 802.11i), 802.1q (VLAN), and on and on.

The switch offers rogue access point detection, because it's constantly scanning and has a signature library of what new access points look like.

Belanger said they would be running a switch at the CTIA conference -- it won't be the show's official network, but Belanger said they should be offering as much of a coverage area.

Vivato will be selling its products through value-added resellers, including TerraWave, announced today. They have 30 VARs signed up already, and the VARs will handle configuration and installation.

My take: Although Vivato is running a couple months behind their original schedule, my analysis continues to be that for many kinds of installations, primarily large venue hot spot and enterprise-scale campus or building projects, Vivato radically changes the deployment and maintenance costs and complexity, while so dramatically increasing network throughput on a per-client basis that it practically cannot be compared to any other product currently on the market.

The closest competitor rely on massive deployment of inexpensive access points, but still cannot achieve the coverage range, simplicity, or throughput of a single Vivato switch no matter how massively they were to build out.

The next three months will be crucial as Vivato tests its devices extensively in the real field, and reports come in. If Vivato can achieve its relatively modest goals given its equipment's potential, Cisco, Proxim, and many other vendors will have to rapidly rethink their model -- and raise cash for an acquisition.

Other News

A more technical Boeing Connexion flight story: EE Times offers a more technical look at the Boeing Connexion in-flight wired/Wi-Fi service story high above Lake Tahoe. Interestingly, Boeing is predicting 20 to 30 percent of a given trans-ocean flight's passengers would opt for service. On a recent flight that was 100 users -- at $35 a pop. This is a significant revenue improvement, obviously, even with the costs of operating the network, like performing a compression routine to put 2 to 10 more passengers on the plane.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:49 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 16, 2003

Vivato Broadcasts Its Plan

By Glenn Fleishman

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Vivato announces first switch, price, shipping date: Vivato's unique phased-array antenna system can server 150 users indoors through walls, doors, and cubicle partitions up to about 300 meters from its hanging location for about $9,000 starting in May. The Vivato system supports 802.1x, has integral AES waiting for activation, and can handle TKIP as part of Wi-Fi Protected Access. I'll have more detail tomorrow from an interview with Vivato conducted last week.

Caffeine Rush Ends for Joltage

Joltage shuts down: Joltage had a model of providing software to locations that wanted to become part of a network they would serve. As of the end of February, they will be shutting down. Their CEO wrote: Unfortunately, it appears that it will take substantially longer than expected for the significant numbers of users we anticipated on such a network to materialize. And because of the difficult economy, we are no longer able to finance our operations as we had once hoped we would be able to.

Joltage, Sputnik, and SOHO Wireless all appeared around the same time with related business models: enable individuals and companies to roll out hot spot without having to buy into large capital infrastructure investments. To wit, install software and convert an old PC with a PCI card into a hot spot nexus that would start collecting fees.

Sputnik semi-exited the business: they continue to distribute their free community gateway software which allows bandwidth throttling, priority access to certain users, and firewalled public service. But they are now an enterprise software company that can manage large numbers of wireless access points through the Central Control software.

Although SOHO Wireless is still around, I haven't heard their name in some time. The list of locations in their network seems to be quite short, but I'm not sure if that's just a list of outlets that want to be listed or all SOHO Wireless locations. (Check out their site for this great and honest revenue expectations run-through for hot spots.)

The world has shifted, it seems, to preboxed, turnkey hot spot installation, as I hear from Surf and Sip, Boingo, Pronto, Fatport, and many others that the boxes just fly out -- and require very little handholding once they arrive. I'd be curious whether preinstalled turnkey hot spots have exceeded 1,000 locations: based on numbers I've seen, I would think so. That's more of a force to be reckoned with, even with the demise of hereUare (an early back-end billing/network aggregator) and Joltage. [Joltage note via Tim Pozar]

Other News

InfoWorld says too early for 802.11g: InfoWorld tested Linksys and D-Link draft-802.11g equipment and found terrible performance in mixed modes plus shortened distances. 802.11g-only mode offered reasonable throughput improvements though: nearly four times as fast as plain 802.11b or mixed-mode b or g. InfoWorld rarely reviews consumer equipment such as this, but they offered an early taste as to have draft equipment will work, and present their reasonable, conservative conclusion to an IT audience.

Starwood, Intel team up for hotel Wi-Fi coverage: Last week, the Starwood hotel chain, which comprises 150 Westin, W, and Sheraton hotels, and Intel announced they would start putting in Wi-Fi access in properties starting in March. No mention of whether Cometa is involved in this at all.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:22 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 14, 2003

Quality Configuration Time

By Glenn Fleishman

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Configuring a/b and g (and sometimes why): I've had a chance to spend some quality time this morning with new products from Proxim (their Orinoco Gold 802.11a/b ComboCard) and Linksy (the draft 802.11g 54 Mbps WAP54G and WPC54G -- I'll be trying the WRT54G soon as well). My test equipment is a 1999-era Sony Vaio (Z505R) running Windows XP Professional. This is a good testbed because the machine itself can be a little funky, so if a card and driver work on it, they'll work anywhere.

Installing and using the Orinoco 802.11a/b card was a snap. I installed the drivers, placed the card in, and it automatically recognized the two infrastructure points with the same SSID in my office. I plugged in a Proxim 802.11a AP that I'd configured some months ago, and was able to quickly run a site survey, configure a connection to it, and swap over. The card can scan for both a and b networks without losing the current configuration, or you can use what it nicely calls a snoop mode which performs more extensive frequency checking. It's definitely an A-plus product, like all Proxim gear, and a refresh to support a/g would be most welcome for the maximum flexibility.

The Linksys configuration software also continues to improve over time. Their older configuration tools were a bear, requiring IP settings changing, reboots, and other problems. But their newer tools all rely on scanning a network for the specific device signatures and then allowing you to connect and configure. I installed the WAP54G because I already have a DHCP server running (on an Apple AirPort graphite model), and a WAP11 as well. They occupy channels 6 and 11.

I installed the WAP54G, set it up to run with a real IP address and a fresh password, and then had some interesting issue with the WPC54G. Initially, I set the WAP54G to act as another infrastructure point on the same network, but on channel 1. (The WAP11 and WAP54G are sitting on top of one another.) Even though the WPC54G card configured easily and connected to the main network, I could not force it to connect to the higher-speed G access point, even when selecting it from a list in the Site Survey window which shows all active access points, including their MAC addresses.

The solution, unfortunately, after testing several options, was to reset the WAP54G's SSID to a new name, leaving it on channel one. I was then able to set a configuration profile for the card that connected to the new network, and it all worked fine. My AirPort Card was also able to connect with no problems to the WPC54G, and I'll be testing an AirPort Extreme Base Station and 12-inch PowerBook G4 with AirPort Extreme shortly to see how they work in this environment.

My score (all ad hoc, seat of the pants) for the Linksys equipment is a 9 out of 10 for ease of configuration, but 5 out of 10 for simplicity of switching between b and g networks. You'd think the WPC54G would preferentially connect to the higher-speed AP (which also had the highest signal strength).

You can buy Linksys 54G equipment from the PC Card (WPC54G, $70), the access point (WAP54G, $130), the wireless gateway (WRT54G, $130), and the PCI Card (WMP54G, $70). And did you know the price continues to plummet on the 802.11b side? See, for instance, the Linksys (BEFW11S4, their Ethernet/wireless gateway, which is now $80 with a mail-in rebate. The WAP11 is just $80 without any rebate, while the WPC11 PC Card is $50 with a rebate.

Interestingly, the WAP11 on channel 6 now seems unhappy: even after powercycling, it's not showing up in Macstumbler or the Linksys Site Survey. I wonder if it couldn't handle the competition from its faster brother? Very odd.

Update later in the afternoon: I realized that the WAP11 I was using was an original 1.4 firmware-series unit, but I had a trump card: a WAP11v2.2 in reserve that I'd configured but never deployed back when I was testing something I can't now recall. I powered it up, force reset it, logged in via a Web browser and set its password, WEP key, SSID, and channel (to 6), and voila: all three stations are operating in their nonoverlapping ranges. Oddly, the WAP11v2.2 is showing 100 percent signal strength to my Vaio (through a wall with an open door) while the WAP54G just next to it only shows a 50-odd percent strength. More testing with mobility (walkin' around) soon.

Other News

Slouching toward interoperability: another draft of 802.11g approved: Another 802.11g draft, version 6.1, was approved this week but as the article notes, there's yet another draft to come, and the difference between this week's approved draft and the previous one were significant enough that devices conforming to each wouldn't work with each other. The article says that the specificiation could be approved in June and published in July, but it's possible that it would be delayed until a September or even November meeting. It's happened before.

Laotians celebrate, even with computer not running: A truly lovely in depth story on the folks trying to bring computer and Internet service to the way, way out there in Laos. A power surge disrupted the efforts to launch, and some fires and guerrillas may continue to threaten people's lives and connectivity. But it's another tool to make sure these villagers are only as disconnected as they want to be. "The first thing I will do when the Jhai Computer comes is call my daughter in Ohio over the Internet," 78-year-old Pane Vongsenthong said, grinning hugely at the children who were jostling for turns on the bicycle. "I never get to call her now, and I miss her voice.

Air reports: Our correspondent writes from 30-odd-thousand feet in the air: Christopher Maines took advantage of the Boeing Connexion on the Lufthansa Frankfurt-Dulles run this morning (or his afternoon) to send this brief note: I'm at this moment somewhere over Northern Canada near Goose Bay and Labrador City on my way to Washington Dulles. The service is not as fast as I would have hoped, however, it's serviceable. I'm currently averaging between 80Kbps [kilobits per second] and 160Kbps (10KBps [kilobytes per second] and 20KBps). The service is extremely easy to set up; as long as you are set up to use DHCP rather than a hard-coded IP, the connection is automatic. Thanks for the report!

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:21 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 13, 2003

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

By Glenn Fleishman

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Pyramid Research's interview with yours truly: I hope I'm not foaming at the mouth in this interview, in which John Yunker and I discuss how Wi-Fi has had an impact or will have an impact on several related industries, including cellular.

Broad Group offers wISP hot spot pricing report: Philip Low of the Broad Group has created an extensive report of worldwide hot spot pricing that would be of use to anyone writing a business plan, methinks. The report analyzes the disparity in pricing in different parts of the world and correlates hot spot rollout with higher prices, interestingly enough. The report is available for 895 pounds sterling.

Laotian bike-powered Wi-Fi: An excellent project to bring necessary aspects of the world to areas that can benefit from it.

Sony's Wi-Fi equipped pocket Web server: GadgetWatch identifies (and offers an English explanation of) a Wi-Fi-enabled portable fileserver! Nifty. 70,000 yen.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 12, 2003

News for 2/12/2003

By Glenn Fleishman

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Wired News reports on 24 Mbps 3G chips: The speed is fine, but what about spectrum? You can't just take the current density of cell tower deployment and even the current 3G spectrum allocation and rules and then throw 24 Mbps over it. More bandwidth means more spectrum: the two are interrelated, although more clever techniques can always cram more data into existing ranges -- even though Shannon's Law wins in the end.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 11, 2003

Press 1 to Pay for Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

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Exclusive story! Excilan offers cell-phone based way to pay for hot spot service : Sean O'Mahoney, CEO of Vancouver, B.C.-based wISP Fatport alerted me to some exciting news from Excilan, a company that's building software bridges for seamless roaming among different kinds of wireless networks, including cell and Wi-Fi. Excilan is launching a system that cell operators and wISPs can sign up for that allows a user at a hot spot location to pull up a gateway page, enter their cell phone number, and receive an automated call. The call prompts the user by telling them the session fee details for their location. The user agrees by pressing a key (such as "1" in the test I ran through using a Schiphol, Amsterdam, test page), which then charges the fee to their cellular bill and authenticates the computer at the hot spot location.

O'Mahoney said that in the initial meeting with Excilan, only European cell carriers were represented, and Fatport was the only North American wISP present. (Fatport is a founding member of Pass-One, which Excilan is apparently part of as well.) But several European hot spot firms were there: Megabeam (Pan-European), Attingo (Netherlands), TLC Mobile (France); O'Mahoney said two others are also involved: Netario (UK) and WLAN AG (Germany). With the proof-of-concept rolling out as an actual service, however, it's expected that other networks and carriers will look at this as an option.

O'Mahony pointed out that this authentication system works both directions: it removes friction for hot spot operators in having users connect to their service; no credit card number is required, and the cell phone call implies another layer of security and accountability. But the other direction is that cell operators can tie into a network of how ever many wISPs sign up for the service. A cell company can essentially offer a branded (even discounted) hot spot service in this way without building any infrastructure or even modified their systems outside the Excilan billing hookup. The wISPs will offer a wholesale rate which the individual cell companies can choose to mark up however they wish. (wISPs would almost certainly offer a direct rate, as well.)

It's not convergence, but it's an interesting step on that road, by providing cell operators with a real chance to judge how frequently their users would engage in this option.

Other News

Business Week's sensible security advice: Stephen Wildstrom offers well-explained, sensible security advice for consumers and businesses, including a good explanation of WEP's weaknesses and the coming Wi-Fi Protected Access fix -- a good article to refer to those who have questions and don't want all the protocol detail.

Rant on draft 802.11g incompatibilities: A not unreasonable reasoned rant about the early release of non-interoperability-tested, non-backward-compatibility-tested 802.11g gear from many manufacturers. Guy points out quite notably that the plug-test (or unplug-fest) informal test conducted recently was under non-disclosure, so there's no good way for information to filter directly from makers to users. Expect a load of frequent firmware upgrades for g devices.

Nomadix and iPass partner: People deploying Nomadix hot spot systems can now support iPass customers. iPass is an aggregation service partnering with 200 networks for dial-up and broadband roaming worldwide. (Does that sound like an ad? It's just a succinct summary of what they do.)

You'll believe a tech writer can fly (and Wi-Fi): Pete Lewis of Fortune files from the air in a 737 configured by Boeing to show off their in-flight, high-speed Connexion service which offers wired (business/first class) and wireless (everywhere on the plane, one assumes) Internet access while flying. The service is currently only available on a single Frankfurt-D.C. Lufthansa flight, but a bigger rollout is expected. As far as in-flight technology goes, being able to charge a flat rate ($15 to $35 is expected depending on the flight's duration) coupled with a relatively simple set up (not as complicated as interactive video, that's for sure) could make this service actually profitable. I know that on a 4 to 10-hour flight, I'd happily pony up the money if I really thought I needed to work. Thirty to 60 minutes of work pays back a $15 to $35 tab depending on what's on the agenda. Continuous access at the flat rate and the relatively high speed (5 Mbps down) makes it a no-brainer for most business people--who will probably press for subscription service with discounts.

Fuel cells to power future laptops to keep Wi-Fi flowing: Intel Capital and others have invested in Neah, a company that plans to make fuel cell-based batteries with stable, less hot reactions than competitors that could have three times the longevity of today's laptop battery. My iBook's 4+ ampere hour (AH) battery, which I gather is about 50+ watt hours (WH) (watts over 12.8 volts equals amps), gives me about three to four hours of carefully husbanded use or two hours of playing a DVD with the screen brightness up. I've tested an external NCharge battery from Valence weighing just over three pounds which has 10 AH or 128 WH and costs about $300. This NCharge battery uses conventional technology; the fuel-cell battery would fit in an existing drive bay while ostensibly reducing weight as well (though that's not spelled out). [via Dana Blankenhorn]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:05 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 10, 2003

News for 2/10/2003

By Glenn Fleishman

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Proxim's 802.11g Plan

Proxim offers inexpensive, upgradable access points, plus their 802.11g plans: Their new AP-600 comes in an a and b version, but can be upgraded through a mini-PCI format plug-in card to handle g or other future revisions. These access points can't be managed by their Harmony system, but they have most of the attributes of enterprise-class equipment, including full 802.1x support with EAP-MDS, EAP-TLS, and EAP-TTLS (but not PEAP) handling. They also support Power over Ethernet.

The 802.11b version is $280 (street price), while the a version is $390. The 802.11g version is expected to run about $350, and an upgrade card will cost $100; they'll be available during the second quarter. However, Proxim will include a $25-off coupon to make it the same price to buy an 802.11b AP now and upgrade it later.

Proxim also announced a CardBus PC Card 802.11g adapter which will sell in second quarter for about $90. (The Orinoco Gold is now $70 and the Silver $50. Oddly, the Silver should also be upgradable to WPA which has no key size differences, so it's unclear why Proxim continues to differentiate the two cards.)

Austrian Hot Spots

Austrian hot-spot operator Metronet adds gas stations: Alan Reiter runs down the advantages of hot spot deployments in smaller countries, while criticizing the high price of access. (Hey, gas is $5.00 a gallon, too, Alan!) Metronet has 250 hot spots, and will introduce 15 at these gas stations, in addition to 20 hot spots close-by to existing highways.

Another reason to love German is from the press release: Ab Mitte Februar können OMV Kunden mit WLAN-fähigen Notebooks oder PDAs die Tankpausen zum drahtlosen Abrufen und Versenden von Emails oder für einen VPN-gesicherten Zugriff auf das eigene Firmenlaufwerk nützen. In English: By the middle of February, OMV customers can (take a deep breath) -- with WLAN-capable notebooks or PDAs -- the time while filling a tank with wireless sending and receiving of email or with a VPN-secured connection to their own company network (release breath) use.

Seybold on Hot Spots

Andrew Seybold says hot spot business bankrupt idea: Seybold points out that venues need a crush of users just to break even, but everyone is running headlong into the business of installing hot spots. I'd argue that the difference between now and a couple of years ago is that the headlong rush is for wireless ISPs to encourage venues to install hot spot hardware and share revenue with the wISP as a billing/aggregator/infrastructure supporter. (Shades of The Onion's headling that Americans agree that mass transit should be used by other Americans.) In the olden days of 2000-2001, Wayport, MobileStar, and many others poured millions into building out infrastructure and even paying fees to have access to venues. The current model is partnership in which the venue bears the capital cost typically in exchange for a relatively high short-term return.

Seybold asks what Cometa's business model is -- he's still waiting to hear from them on that answer. I've maintained for months that Cometa is not pouring money down that old drain, but rather will use its strategic resources to find venues willing to bear the cost of installation, using their funds to handle marketing and back-end services.

Seybold's analysis of costs and revenue isn't exactly on track, to my mind. Seybold is assuming first that venues or partners are recovering just $1 per user per day (Boingo's payment rate) and second that costs are a few grand a month or about $50 per day. Some of this might be on target, but bandwidth costs can be as little as $50 to $200 per month (for sites that opt for xDSL), and venue fees could be higher. The businesses in which $1 per user is received will opt for the cheapest bandwidth they can get, and will also have justified the cost of service for their own business purposes.

Other News

Surf and Sip expands to 100+ coffee shops in England: Rick Ehrlinspiel, head of Surf and Sip writes from a 400-year-old pub in York, England, that they have 16 locations online and will be up to 35 in the country by the end of the month. To boot, they signed a leading coffee chain (107 outlets) and starts deploying next week. The price for service will be £20 per month (1-year commitment) for unlimited use or £30 for month-to-month. They also offer 24 hours for £5. Surf and Sip members get free roaming across all served countries. Next stop: France and Spain.

Australia offers worldwide community node-mapping server: Duane from Sydney Wireless want to alert me and the world that the NodeDB site is back from an overload and better than before, mapping nodes worldwide. He writes:, after its hardware and code updates, is more capable ofhandling higher loads, and also gained a much better user interface with greatly increased feature set. was expanded upon to cover the globe, with new areas and nodes constantly being added. Currently there are over 4,400 sites listed in about 350 separate geographical locations, with no sign of slowing down in sight.

Long-haul mailing list: Simon Woodside has launched a discussion mailing list for dealing with low-cost, long-distance and rural wireless Internet connectivity. The topics include, point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, long-haul or back-haul data links. Generally oriented toward commodity, open-spectrum products, like 802.11b (Wi-Fi), 802.11a, 802.11g, etc. as well as HF and packet radio. To subscribe visit this link.

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

February 8, 2003

Brits Doing It For Themselves

By Glenn Fleishman

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British Telecom won't bring you DSL? Go mesh: Another chapter in the battle of giant telecoms to try to continue to act as a pricey gatekeeper for what is increasingly an easily commodifiable service for people far away from the headwaters of Internet bandwidth. BT and other telecoms say sharing residential service is a no-no, but typically only a slightly more expensive offering can be shared when it's classified as business access. (Banning sharing has nothing to do with bandwidth, everything to do with pricing.) MeshAP from LocustWorld is prominently mentioned in this article; they've got an inexpensive, open-source solution, that they sell as a way to create these kinds of irregular networks.

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

February 7, 2003

News for 2/7/2003

By Glenn Fleishman

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SpeedStream Powerline review: Joe Friend of Indonesia (though in Seattle at the moment) pointed me to an excellent rundown of the SpeedStream Powerline wireless access point, which allows you to bridge a network over your electrical wiring. It's a great idea and cheap, too.

Intel readies Centrino: Intel's set of chips including a Wi-Fi module gets ready to go under the Centrino name.

Etherlinx unveils?: An alert reader noted that Etherlinx's site contains vastly more information than it did before -- not sure if this is a recent change, but a welcome one. Etherlinx made a splash last summer in the New York Times in an article discussing their low-cost, off-the-shelf-modified approach to providing cheap, non-line-of-sight point-to-point service using unlicensed spectrum. The products listed show a couple of examples of their approach, which combines some proprietary ideas with commodity hardware and mesh networking.

Top 15 wireless companies: The 802.11 Report issued their top 15 "fiercest" wireless companies, and it's a good introduction to the major players in the business with capsule summaries.

France Telecom offers vague Wi-Fi plans: Without offering real detail, France Telecom's Orange service will be supplemented with Wi-Fi.

Telia HomeRun and Sonera wGate interconnect: Finnish and Swedish hot spot subscribers can freely roam between networks.

TeleSym puts voice over WLAN: Disruption potential is high even with a niche market when that niche is the sweet spot for spending lots of money for service. (Sub-note: since when are the local telephone companies seizing back area codes?! I missed that memo...could be bad news.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:06 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 5, 2003

News for 2/5/2003

By Glenn Fleishman

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Still catching up from a week of backlog: Not much new news, but still clearing out the announcements and developments of last week.

Wi-Fi with a French accent: saving rural areas: Rural dwellers in France are finding that the broadband gap is making them uncompetitive with city folk. The solution is fixed point-to-point wireless (which might not all be Wi-Fi, by the way; there's plenty of 2.4 GHz non-802.11 stuff out there). It's part of the ongoing lesson being taught to telecoms worldwide: your least profitable customers can be profitable to smaller companies with lower regulatory overhead than monopoly players.

Tim Higgins 802.11g Need To Know article: Another extensively researched, well-written, extremely exhaustive account from Tim on 802.11g, this time running through issues with the current draft implementations, how interoperability among b and g devices works, and pitfalls. It's a detailed analysis that any network admin, CIO, and journalist should read! on wireless security: Part three in's series on wireless, today's installment provides a great rundown of vulnerabilities, practical risk, and upcoming solutions. Two comments: First, they say that it could take five hours to break a WEP key. I've heard 15 minutes or even less (10,000 packets is all that's needed in some cases). Second, the man-in-the-middle attack noted in a footnote of the sidebar doesn't apply to SSL: SSL requires certification authority verification, which must be done in-band. The MitM attacks that are possible involve SSL-like systems that don't use outside authority to verify identity.

You can help your fellow the Navy: US Navy installs Wi-Fi as a way to avoid the labor cost of checking on spread-out systems. Sounds like an excellent combination of technology to avoid scut work.

Omni Hotels offer free wireless: The chain of 40 properties tried it and liked it, so free access for everyone (if you're a guest). [via Jim Sullivan]

Oh Bum Plan: Au Bon Pain, the pretentiously named pastry shop found where Starbucks haven't reached maximum density, is offering wireless access in three cities near university campuses (Northeastern in Boston, Yale in New Haven, and Brown in Providence). Strangely, since most colleges are offering free Wi-Fi to students, typically at super-high rates because of their high-speed backbones, this plan to charge at these outlets seems moronic. Wouldn't it be more sensible to offer it for free to tempt in students? (The Au Bon Pain in New Haven is on the site of the former Demery's, not quite a bucket of blood, as they say, but a place to see at least one fight out front every weekend night.)

USDA to back $1.4B in loans, loan guarantees for rural broadband: Of all the ideas to promote people staying in agriculture, this is one of the best. The details on this site are sketchy, but it's clear that there's a movement afoot. Unlike the evils of rural electrification, in which small cooperatives pursuing interesting alternatives were displaced by massive utilities, rural broadband has the potential to create thousands of entities with local purpose and local funding. One of the strains I hear again and again about local wireless networking is that it keeps money directly in the community.

Will you Wi-Fi on a train?: Wi-Fi service on a train between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Gothenburg, Sweden, starts this month.

Proxim's Maestro: Maestro is a new system from Proxim that pulls together all kinds of network wireless and mobile services, including voice, into a single management system that expands on what they've offered for several years with Harmony. Their release says: A key component of the Maestro architecture is the distributed deployment wireless-enabled switches at the edge of the network that integrate advanced mobility, security, network management, voice-over-WLAN, and power-over-Ethernet services. Maestro's "self aware" learning network software creates a wireless LAN that constantly monitors network growth and user density, dynamically adjusting bandwidth, access control, quality of service, and other parameters as mobile users roam throughout the enterprise. The prose is a little breathless, but I've talked to Harmony users who find that that predecessor system does offer many of these benefits for WLAN deployment and management. Later in the press release, it's noted that Maestro works with a variety of equipment, which might be the expansion of something great: heterogeneous WLAN equipment management. This isn't offered by anyone but AirWave at the moment.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:18 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

February 4, 2003

News for 2/4/2003

By Glenn Fleishman

Trepia -- your instant Wi-Fi community:
meet other people in your vicinity!

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Catching up from a week of backlog: I've categorized some of the stories I've seen or had sent to me in the last week while on vacation into a few areas for easier browsing.

Spectrum and Policy

Crisp summary of 5 GHz compromise: The more I read about the US military and US industry compromise on the use of the 5 GHz band (including, I believe, more spectrum to be opened up), the more I think that the adaptive response to radar presence is just a modification of or extension to 802.11h, the European power/signal adaptive modification to 802.11a. Does anyone know for sure?

More digits: 802.16a approved: The 802.16 working group at the IEEE deals with wireless metropolitan area networks (WMANs) which are typically used for back haul, or aggregating many customer premises connections into a stream sent back to a high-speed backbone. The 802.16 group has focused on licensed applications, although its work is now broadly applicable to the 5 GHz band. Note at the end of the article Alvarion is moving its proprietary 5 GHz gear into compliance with 802.16 for better industry-wide adoption.

A step towards US spectrum harmonization/coordination: The FCC and NTIA signed an agreement that should allow better coordination of frequency policy. Now if Congress could just sign an agreement that says that they won't introduce individual bills to govern frequency reallocation but rather only create omnibus bills for spectrum that separate out the auction issue, we might have a national policy. Until then, Congress can always try to force the FCC's hand.

Hot Spots

Intel, Wayport co-market: Interestingly vis-a-vis Intel's investment in Cometa, Intel will be offering marketing support to Wayport to promote their new inclusion of wireless networking technology in chipsets. Wayport reveals some numbers: 126K connections per month (no breakout for subscribers versus one-day sessions), but only 5 to 10 percent are wireless. Still, an interesting benchmark of 6,000 to 12,000 wireless connections per month. (Wayport's hotel networks are still largely the older Ethernet into the room style.)

Insite into UK Wi-Fi: UK cell operators paid about US$40 billion for 3G licenses; they're running scared. British Telecomm continues to push forward on their target of 400 hot spots by August. (Wasn't that 400 hot spots by last year originally and 4,000 this year?) [via Alan Reiter]

Starbucks adds Florida: T-Mobile, HP (?), and Starbucks launch service in certain outlets in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa Bay next week. HP continues to appear on these press releases, but their role appears to be as a supplier/brand supporter.

Spotty Wi-Fi hot spots in Hawaii: Wi-Fi hot spots are increasing, but pricing and availability are spotty and inconsistent.

Intel's Wi-Fi entry causes yawns in industry: Many of those quoted don't expect Intel incorporating Wi-Fi into their motherboard designs will have an impact on the industry -- Intel has little experience in the field, and customers will want more than they're going to build in, they say. Another point: Intel won't be able to sell motherboards that have Wi-Fi built in to secure facilities.

Other News

Pyramid Research's latest Wi-Fi newsletter: Some excellent insight from Pyramid Research in their free Wi-Fi newsletter.

Phil Windley, Utah's Wi-Fi poster child: Phil, Utah's very tech hip (but always focused on utility) Chief Information Officer, talks about the ways to secure Wi-Fi in a local newspaper article. on the potential for point-to-point and mesh wireless to the home: A nice survey of the options out there, the technology to feed it, and some of the companies involved, focused on Etherlinx and John Furrier.

Proxim announcements: I don't like to post press releases, but Proxim is now the 400 to 600 pound gorilla, and thus small to large changes and announcements by them have ripple effects. Over the last week they made several announcements. Orinoco AP-2000, AP-2500 price drops, and AP-2000 802.11g kit: list on the AP-2000 is $595; the AP-2500 $795. The AP-2000 is a solid enterprise access point that can be aggregately managed; the AP-2500 adds VLAN support among other features. The AP-2000 has two slots, allowing a + b or a + g support with a new card. The new 802.11g card for this unit has a list of $149 and will ship in the second quarter.

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

February 1, 2003

G Testing, 5 GHz Compromise

By Glenn Fleishman

Trepia -- your instant Wi-Fi community:
meet other people in your vicinity!

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Vacation: Yeah, I know I'm on vacation, but two key reports came through worth sharing now. Watch for an explosion of backlog starting Tuesday.

Military and industry compromise on use of 5 GHz band: Non-technical news accounts indicate that in-use frequency avoidance seems to be a key part of the compromise: that is, the unlicensed equipment will have to skip frequencies that have radar patterns on them. The article cited here says that it opens 255 MHz more bandwidth, which would be in accord with a couple of Senate bills. The tense of the article is odd at times, as it seems to say that 802.11a isn't yet in use, although equipment has been shipping for over a year. I don't have the numbers handy, but the current U-NII band has about 300 MHz. This could be a boon for 802.11a and related manufacturers, as well as providing more fertile test ground for ultrawideband (UWB).

802.11g interoperability secret test: Not quite so secret, the Wi-Fi Alliance held a plugfest of sorts, checking how chipmakers' reference designs and shipping or to-ship 802.11g draft equipment all works together. Concerns have been raised (watch for summary next week) that the early gear basically forces networks with any 802.11b traffic down to 802.11b speeds, and that g equipment from the two shipping vendors (Intersil and Broadcom) doesn't interoperate as well as it should. We'll see if there's more confirmation after additional testing. (In related news, a reader of my co-written Apple wireless blog, discovered a simple way to get Linksys's WPC54G PC Card to work under OS X using the AirPort Extreme drivers.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:13 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

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