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Recent Entries

WSJ on Wi-Fi
Ricochet, Linksys Offer WAN-LAN Link
The Economist on Fries and Wi-Fi
Mesh Networking and Locustworld
Microsoft Makes Progress
Permanets and Nearlynets
Microsoft Makes Call on G: Delay
Big Fish Eats Little Fish as Pond Expands
Boingo Boingo T-Mobile Boingo Boingo

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March 2003 Archives

March 31, 2003

WSJ on Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Wall Street Journal's comprehensive Wi-Fi overview: A cogently dissected view of Wi-Fi's current state, looking at costs of equipment, deployment in homes and business, hot spots, new antennas (Vivato), and 802.11g.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:20 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: News | 1 Comment

Ricochet, Linksys Offer WAN-LAN Link

By Glenn Fleishman

Linksys router powers Ricochet home/business wireless wide area network link: As Ricochet's network is revived market by market by Aerie -- now in San Diego and Denver, soon in Dallas and Ft. Worth -- this WWAN move makes a lot of sense. Although Ricochet offers a maximum of 176 Kbps, this router gives you a shared connection, one even authorized by the company, wherever you need a temporary LAN. The service is under $50 per month.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:22 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: wISP

The Economist on Fries and Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

The Economist weighs in on the future of hot spots (fee to read): The Economist predicts a bit of a shake-out as the early, smaller firms wind up trampled by the likes of Cisco (which acquired Linksys) and Intel (which is advertising Centrino madly and investing in hot spots).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:30 PM | Permanent Link | Categories:

Mesh Networking and Locustworld

By Glenn Fleishman

Analysis of MeshAP from Locustworld and the state of mesh networking: Julian Bond has posed a lot of questions, and produced some answers along with areas for future study.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:10 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: | 2 Comments

Microsoft Makes Progress

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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Microsoft releases Windows update to handle Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA): WPA fixes the broken encryption and integrity model in 802.11a, b, and g (WEP + other details), and is the interim step on the road to 802.11i, a slightly broader set of standards of which WPA is a subset. By including support in the operating system, Microsoft has taken the onus off all Wi-Fi equipment makers who want to enable WPA but don't want to rewrite all their client software. Of course, this is a Windows XP/2000 and/or NDIS 5.1-only solution, from what I can tell, but it's a big step. (This is the first report, from; more details expected later today.)

WEP won't be dropped, contrary to this article: This article states that the Wi-Fi Alliance will be dropping WEP support. In fact, WPA supports WEP. All machines on a network must use WPA, or they fall back to WEP.

Wi-Fi hot in hot spots, says Seattle Post-Intelligencer: This'll sound catty since I'm a regular contributor to the competing newspaper, The Seattle Times, but the reporter didn't nail down the technical details in this overview of what a hot spot is and who is using it -- the anecdotal and business details are mostly fine. First off, Wi-Fi is 802.11b (and a!), not 802.11. Second, Centrino is a set of three items: Pentium-M processor, support chips, and the wireless module. Third, a Wi-Fi card is more like $50 to $75, not $100. Fourth, Wi-Fi isn't free? Not at commercial locations, but what about community networks, libraries, and institutions that have donated wireless service to their area? Fifth, iPass and NetNearU aren't creating hot spots, but aggregating and/or providing hardware. Sixth, Boingo is going to sell software to T-Mobile to manage Wi-Fi/2.5G connections, but it's not the present tense yet. Seventh, Joltage didn't follow Boingo's business model, requiring its network affiliates to use its own hot spot system. (Boingo supports anyone's authentication system.) Eighth, most of the time you don't have to configure your computer to use different networks: just select the network that you're near.

Starbucks says results strong, but won't share details: This article slightly mischaracterizes who is doing what. Starbucks isn't installing hot spot service at all; T-Mobile is. Note that the executive says that results are strong, but releases no numbers, and then makes it clear they don't know whether the fact that people using the hot spot service stay in the store longer results in more consumption of their products. For monthly subscribers, just like AOL, the longer someone stays in the store, the less value Starbucks extracts from that T-Mobile customer while that customer consumes a valuable resource: a table or seat.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:39 AM | Permanent Link | Categories:

March 29, 2003

Permanets and Nearlynets

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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Clay Shirky explains why 3G's mindset is permanently wrong, and Wi-Fi is enough by being nearly enough: Shirky explains how the misguided logic of airphones, those expensive seatback calling devices, is also at work in third-generation (3G) cellular data network marketing and deployment demonstrated in the confusion by telecom strategists between ubiquity and utility.

Shirky defines permanets as always available often expensive alternatives to nearlynets, which can be nearly ubiquitous, but are usually cheap and with less or no monopoly control. He uses this analysis to explain Iridium's failure: the people who most need good service already had cell phone access in the vast majority of places they needed, and you can't sell a bunch of expensive satellite-based phones to folks living in the outback. To put it more succinctly, Shirky writes, a permanet network doesn't have to be unused to fail. It simply has to be underused enough to be unprofitable.

Of course, this is Sky Dayton's argument for founding Boingo Wireless. Dayton's message was and is that Wi-Fi infrastructure is a separate business from selling access to the infrastructure. Infrastructure wants to be loaded -- and you're only making money as a physical deployer if your hardware and network are in use at a non-marginal level. This is why T-Mobile's failure to offer roaming or peering with other hot spot networks so far seems baffling.

Shirky explains the attractiveness of nearlynets as providing the right utility and price compared to the assurances of quality and ubiquity: The permanet strategy assumes that quality is the key driver of a new service, and permanet has the advantage of being good at every iteration. Nearlynet assumes that cheapness is the essential characteristic, and that users will forgo quality for a sufficient break in price.

(Interestingly, T-Mobile and Cometa have repeatedly stressed the quality of their Wi-Fi networks (existing and planned), especially compared to community networks which have near 100-percent utility because they're free, but can only have that utility when they're actually working.)

Why spend money per bit or per minute everywhere when you can get a flat rate most places? I can't be as articulate as Shirky, but I've been saying since late 2001 that if Wi-Fi hot spots cover 97 percent of a business traveler's need for access, why wouldn't that traveler wait a few minutes here or there to suck at the big pipe using a flat-rate account? The fallacy that Shirky examines is that even if travelers want access everywhere, they won't pay an arbitrarily high or metered price for it when they have cheaper, only slightly less convenient alternatives. I've said it before: business travelers are more concerned about pricing consistency and predicability than ubiquity. If that weren't true, Iridium might have succeeded.

By the end of 2003, some of my long-time predictions, delayed by market realities, will finally come true: all of the top 25 airports will have a reasonable amount of hot spot coverage; most hotels will have some, at least in public areas and conference rooms; virtually every block in an urban area will have at least one hot spot in a Starbucks, coffee shop, bookstore, or other gaterhing place. When you hit that level, where does 3G come in? As a marginal, expensive option.

In talking to early adopters like myself, Bluetooth plus a Sony Ericsson T68i phone on a GSM or GPRS network bridges the space between Wi-Fi hot spots. I willingly use a 9600 bps GSM connection -- 2G at that! -- in locations where hot spot service isn't available or is expensive compared to my utility. If I need to cheap email for five minutes in an airport that offers $7.00 per day access, I'll use my GSM service. 3G speeds might be nice, but not at a metered price.

(Cingular meters GSM by minutes, and I have a big pool; their GPRS service is by megabyte, and thus not worthwhile even at the higher speeds. Incidentally, Shirky lumps GPRS into 3G, but GPRS is a 2.5G technology; 3G is a catch-all phrase for several newer technologies.)

Shirky writes, The lesson of nearlynet is that connectivity is rarely an all or nothing proposition, much as would-be monopolists might like it to be.

Interestingly, this could be the corporate anthem for Cometa. But remember: Cometa's model is to sell access to their network to those would-be monopolists, the cellular telephone operators trying to sort out 2.5G and 3G data services.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:00 AM | Permanent Link | Categories:

March 28, 2003

Microsoft Makes Call on G: Delay

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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Microsoft's Wi-Fi sales slip without a G product on the market: Microsoft will announce that it will ship an 802.11g set of products in the second half of the year. Which means that they chose Intersil or Agere/Infineon over Broadcom.

Forbes on Centrino/Pentium-M battery life: Steve Manes developed the Merengue Test for checking battery life, and figures from his results that Wi-Fi transmission and other factors have much more to do with realistic battery life than a lower-powered processor. He also points out that the Centrino option, a plug-in card, isn't actually integrated with the Pentium-M any more than any other mini-PCI card.

British firm says wardriving is evil, evil I tells ya!: KPMG reports that a honeypot they set up -- an attractive nuisance network -- received mostly harmless wardriving attempts, but some visitors were more hostile.

Book of Wi-Fi reviewed: The Sacramento Bee (industrious, you know) reviews John Ross's The Book of Wi-Fi, a new title from No Starch Press. I've had a chance to read through the book myself, and although I have a competing title, I'll honestly say I quite like Ross's book. It's got a nittier-grittier focus than Adam and my book talking about configuration in a more detailed fashion, with chapters devoted to Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Business 2.0 on Vivato: An overview of Vivato's technology, market approach.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:08 PM | Permanent Link | Categories:

March 27, 2003


By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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Went skiing. Several folks to wrote to wonder what was up. I was out of town skiing for a few days, and although I was reading wireless news from all over, nothing of great import happened this week -- so far. Okay, Larry Brilliant, as expected, is no longer Cometa's CEO; he was always interim. Some products were introduced. But everyone must have been tuckered out from CTIA.

Site visit: FatPort: I visited the folks at FatPort at their world headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, on my way back from the Whistler, BC, ski area. FatPort has a retail space in a landmark downtown building in which they've set up a help area, a display of products, and some tables. There are also tables in a central area near the exterior glass elevators that take you up to the view at the top of the building.

Because FatPort's offices are right there, hidden out of sight, they can always have someone manning the desk in the front, answering questions and selling cards and service.

FatPort's model is bottom up in a different way, though. The retail space and the hot spot venues they've worked to deploy directly are just part of the education mission. The larger goal is that they want folks to buy their hardware platform to deploy hot spots; FatPort gets a piece of the action and needs no venue deals.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:20 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 20, 2003

Big Fish Eats Little Fish as Pond Expands

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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Cisco acquires Linksys for $500M: This acquisition is a clear win for Cisco, which can sell up and down the horizontal chain to consumers (which they've never really sold to directly, only through partners like DSL providers), small businesses, and their traditional enterprise market.

Cisco's closest competitor in the enterprise wireless LAN/home Wi-Fi space has really been Proxim: Proxim can compete on features and the kind of customers, but not the installed base. Proxim, through mergers and product acquisition, has the largest consumer base outside of Linksys, but it also can serve enteprises through several products in the WLAN area, and, because of their merger with Western Multiplex, has a rich portfolio of point-to-point systems, including gigabit point-to-point.

Even with the tech downturn and Cisco's remarkable write-off two years ago, the company has a market cap of $100 billion. Cisco has a varied portfolio, however. Proxim, focused on wireless now, has a market cap of just $91 million. That's not a misprint. It's clear in hindisight that Cisco would have been choosing between Linksys and Proxim, and chose Linksys.

In discussions with many in the industry in the last year, it was clear that the coming WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and 802.11i, which would put certain enterprise-style network authentication features into every Wi-Fi access point, meant that at the same time as basic security will be improved, every AP is also now ready for the enterprise. (Performance, throughput, aggregated management, simultaneous users, and secured tunneled EAP messaging will differentiate consumer and enterprise products.) Several WPA or 802.11i-compliant Linksys AP for $100 could provide much of the functionality needed by a business with 50 to 500 employees with an IT department that knew how to run an 802.1x system with their RADIUS server.

Cisco has a history of dealing well with its acquisitions: Linksys won't suddenly raise prices, cut quality, or shift its focus. Instead, we'll see more of a product line from bottom to top, and, as I said in a previous day's postings, the attitude still prevails that nobody was ever fired for buying a Cisco.

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

March 19, 2003

Boingo Boingo T-Mobile Boingo Boingo

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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What's the Boingo and T-Mobile Deal Mean, Anyway? A colleague and I wrote back and forth about the deal announced yesterday that puts Boingo clients on T-Mobile's customers' computers -- but doesn't merge networks. He said, Today, when I sit down in Starbucks, Boingo pops up and associates me with a T-Mobile hotspot. I type my password into the Web page that automatically shows up, and T-Mobile charges me. He asked, what changes with the new deal?

Boingo is a software company disguised as a network company, so that's the confusion.

Boingo has a software product that works on clients and a server product that works on back-office stuff. The client software sniffs and detects any network connections, but identifies those that are part of its network -- whether that's Boingo's own branded service if you're using Boingo service or T-Mobile or some other company if you're using a "skinned" Boingo client that belongs to them.

When you are on Boingo's network of partner hot spots, you don't sign onto an access point and then a Web page. You just click "connect and pay" (or whatever it says) inside your Boingo client and you're on. No authentication gateway Web page.

T-Mobile is using a gateway Web page. When you use your Boingo client on their network in the currenet scenario, Boingo's client sniffs the T-Mobile hot spot access point, but merely connects you to -- it doesn't have a relationship with that hot spot.

In the T-Mobile/Boingo deal as announced, T-Mobile will adopt Boingo's client with a T-Mobile logo on it, but not Boingo's network. If you're using the T-Mobile client as developed by Boingo, you'll only be able to directly sign on (without a gateway page) to T-Mobile hot spots. T-Mobile will also use Boingo's software on the back end for billing, tracking, and authentication.

For the time being, you could wind up with both T-Mobile (Boingo) software installed that works with just T-Mobile's networks and Boingo (Boingo) software installed that works just with Boingo's partners like Wayport and Surf and Sip and Fatport.

It's confusing, but I don't expect it'll last long. Networks want to merge; it's an axiom.

Dude, Where's My Bandwidth?

Qualcomm CEO makes me laugh, frown, shake my head: This article reports from the CTIA (cell industry trade group) conference in New Orleans, and summarizes many of this week's announcements and the future direction of cell-data. The Yankee Group, probably Sarah Kim, estimates only 30,000 paying customers by the end of 2003, but I think that means monthly subscribers.

The quotes from Qualcomm chief Irwin Jacobs crack me up, however. The article notes Qualcomm invented Verizon's EvDO network technology, and notes that Jacobs believes Wi-Fi's appeal will fade once Verizon's technology is available nationwide. "If you have coverage everywhere, are you going to be willing to pay an additional cost for it when you go into a hotspot?" Jacobs said.

Dude, you're a laugh riot! Hot spot users might number a few dozens or, at worst, a few hundred with a robust Ethernet-like local wireless network that will mediate access to somewhere between 512 Mbps and 8 Mbps of upstream and probably something less downstream. Adding additional wireless access points and capacity will be trivial and relatively inexpensive if it's based on paying users.

Verizon has limited frequencies available to offer their high-speed coverage, and if it becomes successful, they can't just layer more bandwidth on. Adding cell sites is increasingly costly and difficult because of health and civic complaints, however justified. And they can't create micro-pico-cells very easily. Wi-Fi is almost inherently extensible. With current technology you could have a pool of a raw 200 Mbps or so (four barely overlapping 802.11g channels) in the US without very much expense over 11 Mbps. With a future Vivato switch, 600 Mbps would be possible or more in a single area. Of course, you won't have the upstream or downstream bandwidth, but the ability to keep data density and plug into backhaul is the Wi-Fi advantage.

EvDO, depending on its pricing, will almost certainly be one of the technologies that makes data ubiquitous, but it's only a complement based on the regulatory, spectrum, and physical limits on cell data coverage and capacity.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:27 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified | 1 Comment

March 18, 2003

T-Mobile Adopts Boingo Software

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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Boingo, T-Mobile partner on software, not networks: Sky Dayton of Boingo and John Stanton of T-Mobile used the bully pulpit of the cell-industry trade group CTIA's New Orleans convention to announce a partnership in which T-Mobile would adopt Boingo's technology platform. On originally reading the press release, I thought this was a network deal, too, but it's clear that T-Mobile just wants (at this juncture) Boingo's authentication and roaming platform and client software.

The press release points out that T-Mobile will continue to allow Web-based gateway access to their network, but that the Boingo software would allow superior single-account integration, along with sniffing and access for T-Mobile GPRS 2.5G network as the technology becomes available. (PCTEL is licensing the 2.5G integration software for laptops and PocketPC's to Boingo.)

Boingo has an investment from Sprint PCS, so T-Mobile's partnership marks the first intersection of any cell operators' interests.

Update: It turns out a lot of reporters got the story wrong or incomplete, as I did on first glance. I spoke in the afternoon to Christian Gunning, marketing director of Boingo, to confirm that the T-Mobile deal is platform (back-end and client software), not roaming. He also agreed with my statement that this agreement doesn't indicate the presence of nor does it preclude any future agreements with T-Mobile.

A story from Reuters says the two companies will develop software and services to make it easier for T-Mobile customers to access Boingo's wireless broadband and data networks which is confusing enough on its own. A Dow Jones Newswires story was vague about implications, but mentioned the size of Boingo's network.

CRN reported as if the software deal was a new network: Dayton didn't specify when the service would be available, how billing would work and how much the service would cost. Actually, it will overlay onto T-Mobile's current HotSpot network. It's about the customer-facing software, really, not about a different network.

T-Mobile wants to make it easier for customers to sign on and manage their access. A single button sign-on is pretty slick, no matter how you cut it. Also, adopting the VPN software that Boingo offers allows T-Mobile to fix that last pesky security issue by giving its customers an entirely secure method.

If I Can Unwire It There, I Can Unwire It Anywhere

At last, LaGuardia: Concourse and Wayport partner for private, public Wi-Fi: Concourse and Wayport are splitting up the enormous task of offering wireless services to both the private companies at the metropolitan New York/New Jersey airports, and have a commitment to install Wi-Fi service by year's end at all three: Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK.

Concourse Communications has had the contract with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to install wireless services (voice and network) in those three airports since at least mid-2001. When I wrote a story about airports unwiring in November 2001 for the New York Times, I called the Port Authority, somewhat apologetically, to confirm the Concourse arrangements. The Port Authority had built the World Trade Center towers and had substantial operations there; hundreds of their employees were killed on September 11. The fine folks couldn't confirm whether they had a deal with Concourse or not; ultimately, they had Concourse fax them the contract that they had signed, and confirmed based on that.

During 2002, occasional peeps emerged from Concourse about their plans to build test installations in at least two of the airports, but the never-recovered air traffic that would have driven this market obviously delayed their Minneapolis-St. Paul deployment, and pushed back these tests.

Partnering with Wayport is a move that makes sense: the Minneapolis-St. Paul partnership with iPass was vendor-neutral on the public side, as this one is, which means that any wISP can pay for access at the going rate without worrying about competitors having better or worse access. But iPass's model has always been per day or per hour; not flat rates or monthly caps. I don't know what they charge in M-St.P, but it's likely to follow that model which is out of sync with the wISP world.

Wayport is part of Boingo and iPass's aggregated network, and has partnerships with several wISPs outside the US. With their existing relationship and a vendor-neutral host operation, Wayport has effectively become the preeminent infrastructure player through this deal. Wayport has had the burden in the last few years of being the company in this space with the most expensive existing infrastructure: they focused on hotels and airports, and those are expensive to build and run. (T-Mobile earns the honor of paying more per month for less coverage area than any other wISP because of their T-1 lines.)

T-Mobile's San Francisco International Airport launch two weeks ago and this LaGuardia announcement today signals the beginning of the end game that I had predicted for 2003: that by the end of the year all or nearly all of the airports in the top 35 markets would have some reasonable Wi-Fi coverage. The vendor-neutral approach assures that various wISPs uncouple their empire-building plans from the bigger goal of providing service to a growing group of Wi-Fi-enabled travelers.

Other News

Motorola partners with XtremeSpectrum on ultrawideband (UWB) products, proposal: Motorola will use XtremeSpectrum's technology and partner with them on an IEEE proposal. The IEEE 802.15.3a task group is working on a physical layer standard for Personal Area Networking (PAN). (IEEE 802.15.1 is the group that created a Bluetooth subset in conjunction with the Bluetooth SIG; 802.15.2 is the co-existence with WLAN task group.) UWB is a method of using ultrashort, low-power pulses to communicate enormous amounts of information, but it requires swaths of spectrum. UWB advocates contend that UWB's nature makes it impossible to interfere with other uses of the same spectrum, as UWB is below the noise/duration threshold for current spread-spectrum and other radio technologies.

T-Mobile's Stanton talks about Wi-Fi: The head of T-Mobile says that Wi-Fi's promise is just arriving and that they'll really see results in 2004 and 2005. That's a nice long-term goal for you; not the flash in the pan nonsense of failed wISPs of a couple of years ago.

(Singing) Dont Meet Me in New Orleans, Ernie, Don't Meet Me at the Fair (or Trade Show): I'm not actually in New Orleans, but reporting remotely through press release, email, and phone call from Seattle, Washington.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:29 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 17, 2003

News for 3/17/2003

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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Vivato introduces outdoor switch at CTIA: In what will be a week of announcements from the cellular industyr's trade show in New Orleans, Vivato unveils its second product, an outdoor switch. Vivato claims four kilometers (2 1/2 miles) of outdoor coverage, as well as penetration of of exterior and interior walls of adjacent buildings. The outdoor switch differs from the indoor swtich by providing a ruggedized enclosure that can be mounted in environmentally challenging locations. They even have heat exchangers to keep the electronic from frying or freezing. The outdoor switch has three beams, like their previously announced but not yet shipping indoor switch. They offer 33 Mbps of Wi-Fi across those three beams (focused tracking Wi-Fi), although effective speeds may seem faster -- my analysis -- because of the lack of competition for spectrum among bursty users. A few beta users comment in the press release on the capacity, switching, and coverage. Imagine when it supports 802.11g and offers more beams. The unit's list price is $13,995, and it will appear in May through value-added resellers at the same time as the indoor switch.

Verizon to roll out EvDO in D.C., San Diego: Verizon has apparently acquired enough spectrum (and cheaply) in enough markets to roll out EvDO, a third-generation (3G) cell data technology that could allow from several hundred Kbps on the go to 2.4 Mbps for stationery use. I can't wait to see if those are real-world speeds, or full-shared circuit speeds: that is, 2.4 Mbps is the available per-cell speed, split among users of that cell. (The same story misreports that Verizon is rolling out Wi-Fi service to hotels and airports; rather, they'll resell Wayport service under their own brand.)

Three fixed wireless broadband service providers in California join sales, marketing, wholesaling efforts: NextWeb, SkyPipeline and SkyRiver Communications have partnered on an interconnect agreement that allow them to join sales and marketing, including wholesaling services, across all markets served by the three companies. The areas they serve include the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Orange County (NextWeb), Santa Barbara, Ventura County, San Fernando Valley, parts of the Los Angeles basin (SkyPipeline), and Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego (SkyRiver).

Nextel, Motorola to release Wi-Fi + cell phone: The phone, expected to be in trials by second quarter, will use GSM/GPRS networks, Nextel's iDEN network, and Wi-Fi. Handoffs will still be a problem, though, and you can see the cell carriers mindset when they say handoffs are hard. They are -- if you're relying on the network instead of a combination of device and network. NetMobile Wireless has a combination of client and server that can work on handhelds and laptops that allows handoffs in TCP/IP. If you're using Voice over IP, NetMobile's offering already provides that seamless network-agnostic handoff.

Intersil, Proxim settle patent dispute: Intersil and Proxim dropped the suit in favor of moving forward, cross licensing patents, and Intersil paying $6 million to Proxim. Proxim, meanwhile, will use some of Intersil's technology.

Truck stops unwire: In the latest update on truck stop wireless hot spots, Columbia Advanced Wireless will deploy 1,000 truck stops with wireless networks for truckers to stay on top of their loads and schedules. So far, they have two locations listed; watch for the 998 to come. (Truck stops are a reasonable place for non-truckers to stop, too, given that these wireless networks will most likely be in areas with otherwise limited broadband capability.)

Texas Instruments introduces WANDA: tri-mode wireless handheld concept design: The Wireless Any Network Digital Assistant (way too cute) will integrate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GSM/GPRS and allow simultaneously phone calls, Internet access, and other services. WANDA incorporates oodles of TI technology to offer all of these technologies in a single form factor. TI is offering reference designs that manufacturers can license to produce variations on WANDA.

PCTEL updates Segue roaming client to work with PocketPCs: The new release aids connecting PocketPCs to Wi-Fi networks by sniffing and connecting to networks through settings that an individual, an IT manager, or a wISP sets up. The models supported include the Dell Axim X5, the Toshiba e740, and the HP iPAQ; PCTEL says it supports other PocketPCs as well. Interestingly, this client also is part of a family of clients that allow 2.5G, 3G, and Wi-Fi roaming.

Bluetooth buyer beware: incompatible profiles confuse users: A report from the CTIA workshop day's Bluetooth panel in which an aggravated attendee asked whether buyers had to caveat emptor: answer -- yes. Bluetooth is a standard, but many different uses exist and not all devices support all uses. Clear enough. But it's confusing which devices support which uses when you're trying to integrate. Obviously, the Bluetooth SIG should have adopted a program that lets you know, probably visually, which of a dozen uses a device supports.

Jupiter says 57 percent of US businesses use Wi-Fi: Another 22 percent will adopt it within 12 months.

HotSpotVPN launches for-fee VPN service: In what should be a giant relief to many wireless hot spot users, the first commercial service dedicated to offering on-demand VPN (virtual private network) encrypted tunnels to ordinary folks outside of corporate operations has launched. The service costs $8.88 in its introductory period and works with all major operating systems that have VPN support.

France Telecom and Accor story en anglais: Andy Abramson of Ken Radio wrote in with the English language version of the French Telecom/Accor announcement of Wi-Fi deployment in the Accor hotels.

Proxim and Trillion connected 500 schools in several southern states using Tsunami equipment: Trillion has wirelessly hooked up 500 schools, with 250 more on the way, comprising about 400,000 students in elementary and secondary education in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi and Louisiana. A Tennessee school district estimates $100,000 in savings over a previous setup (probably wired?) with seven times the bandwidth.

GigaWave to provide Cisco Wireless Career Certification: Many readers ask about how to get trained and hired in wireless fields. With many enterprises standardizing on Cisco wireless equipment -- for the right or wrong reasons, such as, "nobody ever got fired to buying Cisco gear" -- this kind of training could be a useful career move.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 15, 2003

One Chipset to Rule Them All

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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After a couple days away, I find that Intel still rules the coverage of Wi-Fi: Intel's new Centrino system is getting a lot of play from several directions, a few days after its introduction. Very little of the coverage concentrates on whether the new laptop processor, chipset, and wireless card combination are much good. Rather, pundits and reporters and individuals speculate on whether Intel can control the destiny of PC makers wireless options. The answer so far appears to be mostly, but not quite. Several laptop makers, as was earlier reported, are hedging their bets by either offering full Centrino systems with options (often no cost) that allow the use of alternate wireless cards; or have stuck with just the Pentium-M and its associated chipset or their own support chips for graphics and input/output, and are using other options for wireless.

The Broadcom deal with Dell, for instance, allows Dell to offer 802.11g and also a/g as an option to corporate customers who need that configuration -- and Dell isn't charging more for it. But Broadcom is also selling Dell its gigabit Ethernet and modem chips, so they're realizing revenue from every Dell Latitude sold even if they're not making the money on the wireless end.

Jon Markman offers a broad ranging set of insights into the current Wi-Fi climate, from Intel to rural wireless ISPs to hot spots, and his take on Intersil and Broadcom's wireless future is bleak: Intel has the dominance and the marketing muscle.

Still, PC makers have indicated in various articles or through their behavior that they don't want to live in an Intel hegemony because this locks them into technology decisions they might not agree with. Intel delaying 802.11a/g adapters til mid-year might have been more about manufacturing issues than Intel's stated intent to only release standards when they're ready. This put laptop makers in a bind: Broadcom's shipped 3,000,000 802.11g chipsets since December, so there's a huge market that wants all 802.11g already, and Centrino can't deliver that yet. Several articles indicate that Centrino's wireless module won't be easily updatable--or at all. But the Broadcom module and other mini-PCI or mini-PCI-like options for laptops are a simple card upgrade. Compaq is pushing its MultiPort adapter slot which is designed for this problem.

Broadcom told me the other day that companies like to adopt technology lines for several years to ensure predictability. Dell's refresh of its Latitude computers for the first time since 1997 mean that the decisions Dell made for today will probably still be in effect in 2005 or even 2007. The fact that Dell didn't adopt Centrino as the only egg in its basket -- nor did HP/Compaq, Toshiba, IBM, and others -- means that that open choice will reverberate down the years.

Other News

Ultrawideband might push out Bluetooth physical layer: As I've predicted in various forms, if UWB proves itself, the radio part of Bluetooth could disappear, while Bluetooth's top-level protocols remain. The IEEE 802.15 working group on Personal Area Networking had made great progress with 802.15.1 by approving a subset of Bluetooth's spec with the Bluetooth SIG's involvement. The 802.15.2 task group had several months ago worked out a co-existence plan for living in the same place as Wi-Fi-like networks (and an FCC decision reducing the number of channels that a frequency hopping standard needed to use will make that even easier). The 802.15.3 task group has been trying to establish a base on moving forward in the radio part of things, and many of the proposals coming in rely on UWB.

France Telecom and Accor to unwire 900 hotels (press release in French): The Orange France division of France Telecom will install wireless service in 300 of Accor's hotels by the end of 2003, and 900 overall. This includes all four classes of hotels, one to four stars (which mean different amenities, not ratings), that Accor operates. Accor has over 3,800 hotels worldwide. [via Jacques Caron]

Mount Washington has wireless Webcam at the top of New England: Some insane folks at the Zakon Group in New Hampshire braved exceptional snow and temperature conditions to launch a Webcam at NH's Wildcat Mountain Ski Area (4,000 feet) pointing at the legendary Tuckerman and Huntingon Ravines. (My father-in-law learned to ski on Tuckerman Ravine using Stem Christies to turn from a full stop. Yes, it's steep.) The Webcam is solar powered and relays its signal wirelessly to the Mount Washington Observatory (6,300 feet). The Observatory has a frame-relay line.

McDonald's Wi-Fi signals beginning of the end: Erick Schonfeld of Business 2.0 finds signs of the infopacalypse in McDonald's offering Wi-Fi service. He points out that although the folks who sell wireless equipment are seeing terrific revenue, the hot spot business hasn't proven itself at all.

Le Vivato Carré: The Big Easy gets a Big Antenna this week, as Vivato puts up a temporary deployment in the French Quarter (the Vieux Carré if you missed my obscure joke) of New Orleans during the cellular industry's CTIA conference. The Vivato Outdoor Switch, which is mounted on the front of Muriel's Jackson Square Bistro on Chartres Street, is beaming Wi-Fi to the Jackson Square and the Mississippi riverfront area of the French Quarter in New Orleans - a very historic area known for its bustling nightlife, hotel balconies, ritzy restaurants, unique bars and the famous Café Du Monde.

MMDS/ITU bands might open new territory for 3G: The 2.5 GHz band reserved for certain kinds of long-distance learning and instructional television originally, but which the FCC allowed the nonprofit and institutional geographical licensees to sublicense to commercial providers might find some new life. Worldcom and Sprint own the majority of these sublicensed frequencies, and it's a huge swath of good spectrum that's horribly underutilized. A variety of reports indicate that it's a bad idea to simply take this spectrum away. But there may be opportunities for it to be repurposed and then have other firms purchase the sublicenses. The FCC is also looking into the use of this band for wireless broadband, while 3G might also be a possibility.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 5:42 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 12, 2003

The Day the Wire Died

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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They aren't dancing in the street, but purple-clad men have laptops strapped to their bellies in Times Square: Today in New York, Intel has been showing off its new Centrino system, a set of three components including a wireless module, that they claim will radically increase battery life, potentially improving it by 50 to 100 percent, through more efficient processor usage and chips that control the power to various components including the wireless radio.

A correspondent in New York called to say that he was walking by the Times Square McDonald's -- the Cometa network in New York McDonald's went live today; look at that big white empty country -- and saw men dressed in purple suits with laptops strapped around their stomachs. You were supposed to walk up and use these laptops, typing inches from their private parts. (He promises a photo; Bill Koslosky pointed to these photos he took.)

Intel has also blanketed the country in advertising. The New York Times this morning, for instance, had a multipage ad section focusing on wireless -- the first two-page spread in the section had the word unwired in about 700-point type. The last page listed a number of wireless ISPs/hot spot operators and locations.

Paul Boutin is at the launch: Watch for his Slate coverage later today.

HP opts to not use Centrino for professional models: HP is worried about corporate customers who don't want built-in obsolescence through built-in wireless. They'd rather offer interchangeable cards. They will use the Pentium-M, though, which the author of this piece implies is a different piece of technology. HP will introduce 802.11a, b, and g through an Atheros module in mini-PCI format in May. A consumer Centrino will follow in June.

Dell and Broadcom partnership explored, alongside a cavalcade of chipmaker announcements at 802.11 Planet: A great round-up of several chipmakers recent announcements, including the Dell/Broadcom one. This story at e-insight doesn't quite explain that the Dell Latitude will use Centrino by default. Read Dell's press release for the clear statement.

Other News

Wi-Fi Alliance says WPA certification coming in May, a/b/g labels dropped in favor of speed, frequency: Wi-Fi Protected Access, the subset of IEEE 802.11i security revisions still in progress, will be certified by May, resulting in massive firmware upgrades for tons and tons of devices. The Wi-Fi Zone program will identify the local service as 2.4 GHz and/or 5 GHz, and 11 Mbps or 54 Mbps. A little bit of a matrix to sort out.

David Weinberger (Cluetrain, JOHO, NPR) interviews David Reed on why interference is an illusion, and spectrum policy is deeply flawed: Reed says that the notion of interference is rooted in a pre-modern era in which devices spewed out radio frequencies and weren't intelligent enough to adapt. Interference is a metaphor that paints an old limitation of technology as a fact of nature, he says.

T-Mobile to provide CTIA Wi-Fi coverage: Alan Reiter reports that T-Mobile and Sprint contended with the organizers and conference center to have the right to offer service. They'll charge $10 per day or $20 for three days. Alan's not sure if his tutorial will have service, which is ironic.

Buy a Fujitsu and get 2000 T-Mobile HotSpot minutes free: Fujitisu is offering 2000 minutes of T-Mobile HotSpot service for free when you buy a qualifying notebook. In typical fashion, the terms aren't disclosed: do they expire? do they start ticking when you buy the notebook? [via Dan Gillmor]

Newbury Street community network possibly only commercial/community freenet: Leander Kahney of Wired News writes about Michael Oh's efforts to offer to free wireless networks across an increasing area of Boston's Newbury Street to promote his business while doing good. Oh seems to have a single backhaul, which radically reduces his cost in offering this kind of service.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:17 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 11, 2003

Stuporsized Service

By Glenn Fleishman

The Martian NetDrive Wireless: 40 gigabytes of small, silent, 802.11b filesharing

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McDonald's offers meat, potato, Wi-Fi: Cometa's first partner appears to be McDonald's, which will test hot spot service starting with 10 locations in Manhattan, and then expanding to 300 stores in three cities. This is a test, only a test, they note. The service will be free for an hour if an extra value meal is purchased, then $3 per hour.

A source unconnected with Cometa accidentally obtained a list of these first 10 locations and shared it with me.
1560 Broadway (Times Square)
220 W. 42nd St. (near Bryant Park, where NYCWireless has substantial, free access)
280 Madison Ave. (near Bryant)
18 E. 42nd St. (near Bryant)
427 10th Ave. (near Javitts)
47 W. 57th St. (near 59th St. entrance of Central Park)
1271 Avenue of the Americas (Rockefeller Center)
724 Broadway (two blocks from Washington Square Park, anther NYCWireless free location, which I can't find a node link for)
1499 3rd Ave. (and 85th St., Upper East Side)
1651 Broadway (and 51st St.)

Frank Boosman and I had dueling Weblog entries over the potential for Cometa to find 5,000 locations in a year and 20,000 in a few years, and I dissed McDonald's as a reasonable place for the supposed core Cometa market to work. Does a businessperson, Cometa's ostensible audience, want to sit among screaming children in an uncomfortable seat? As I say, this is a test, only a test.

The article, by the way, has a few odd facts in it that appear abstracted from a Wall Street Journal article today (see below for more on that). Borders plans to have Wi-Fi hot spots at all 400 stores was announced last October; T-Mobile is installing that service, and it was planned back then to be up by summer. Late in the article, it mentions Intel saying there will be service in passenger lounges in San Francisco and Dallas/Ft. Worth airports. San Francisco was announced last Wednesday by T-Mobile, and Dallas/Ft. Worth has had hot spot service for at least two years, possibly three or four, because of MobileStar's proximity.

Laptop Makers Dance with Intel--and Broadcom

Dell offers Broadcom as option on Pentium-M laptops: In my news brief in Wednesday's New York Times, I write about Dell's expected announcement tomorrow that its new Latitude and Inspiron laptops will both use Pentium-M processors, but offer Broadcom 802.11g cards as an alternative to the wireless module that's part of the Centrino package.

Business Week offers the analysis that PC makers like HP, Toshiba, IBM, and Dell want more flexibility than a single vendor option for their wireless technology, as well as the speed offered by 802.11g. Dell is the first announced, but Broadcom said three other PC makers would use their technology, too: how about HP, Toshiba, and IBM? All four PC makers will offer full Centrino systems in order to participate in Intel's $300 million marketing and cobranding campaign, hedging their bets to be sure.

PC World runs down three early Centrino test systems, including a Dell Latitude, and notes that Dell won't charge more for the Broadcom 802.11g option than the Intel card.

Other News

Wall Street Journal characterizes Intel's Centrino move as risky: It's a new story, but the key word throughout is risk. The article notes that co-marketing and co-branding funds, the money and cooperative advertising that Intel offers and purchases, are only available to computer makers that opt for the full Centrino system that includes the Wi-Fi 802.11b module (supplied by Philips, Symbol, and TI). Centrino ran some intense tests against hot spot networks before it allowed them to call themselves Centrino verified, but competitors like Linksys see Intel smoothing out these bumps as beneficial to them as well.

Portland, Oregon, contemplates Civic-Fi: The city of Portland, Oregon, the press-friendly Nigel Ballard (who sent this item in -- note I didn't say press hungry), and Personal Telco, the local community networking group, are discussing how and if Portland, Oregon, could offer free wireless service to promote business and nonprofit activity.

Hilton says 30 hotels in 30 days: The Hilton chain of 230 properties in North American will unwire 30 of them within 30 days, they announced today. They'll also be working with British Telecom for their overseas hotels to have 40 of them unwired shortly. There's no mention of price in the press release.

The Martians have landed: You'll note the new sponsors today, MartianTechnology. Their network-attached storage (NAS) device, the Martian NetDrive, is nifty, and an example of new things to come. Yesterday, I reviewed in TidBITS the Linksys EFG80, an 80 Gb, Linux-based NAS that offers wired-only access to 80 Gb of storage and an empty bay; either bay can handle 120 Gb drives. The future is about to arrive for Wi-Fi-attached devices.

InterContinental hotels go Wi-Fi for $10K a pop (or POP): InterContinental is testing Wi-Fi at their hotels with a free hour and $2.95 per hour after that. (Hey, that's McDonald's pricing!) They also note that it cost them just $10,000 per hotel to add service, because they've offering it in just the public areas.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 6:27 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 10, 2003

Three Million G's Can't Be Wrong

By Glenn Fleishman

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Broadcom ships 3 million 802.11g chipsets: Jeff Abramowitz, senior director of marketing, said in an interview, "Industry transition from b to g is happening very rapidly." In the next 30 days, he said, Broadcom would announce deals by several PC makers to use Broadcom's chipset. Having been an early adopter helps Broadcom outflank Intel, Abramowitz said, because Intel's Centrino isn't yet 802.11g-based. That support would come later this year in new hardware.

I confirmed with Abramowitz that Broadcom's technology is ready for both WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and 802.11i: he noted that the chips support AES, the more advanced encryption algorithm that will be adopted in 802.11i. Abramowitz, like many in the industry, are looking forward to WPA since it will finally offer a reliable first line of defense. "WPA will have a marked effect on wireless LANs into the business enviroment," he said.

Abramowitz pointed out that Broadcom's 802.11g chipset is all in CMOS, which is the least expensive integrated circuit manufacturing technique. Their goal, like several other firms, is to put the whole shebang into a single chip, which reduces power requirements and signal loss while opening up new equipment into which a chip could fit and be powered.

Other News

Intel preps its Centrino launch with Wi-Fi focus: A great roundup of the wireless issues surrounding the Centrino launch. As the article notes, the Wi-Fi incorporated into the Centrino product is a standalone module which contains components by Philips (and also Symbol and Texas Instruments) as Intel's work was ready in time. Intel claims that integration with its processor will produce better wireless results, including lower power use. Other chipmakers have promoted the same benefit, however, without having to make the processor, too. It's absolutely clear that the Centrino campaign will produce something close to total awareness fo wireless networks for anyone who has any interest in computers. Watch for other announcements on Wednesday that will attempt to steal Intel's thunder!

Boingo announces private label service: In the next step of Boingo Wireless's evolution, they've announced a more general plan to allow companies who want to offer wISP service a private label option. Boingo tested this plan with Earthlink and Fiberlink. The company also announced that a later version of their sniffer software will detect available 2.5G cell data standards to better integrate hot spots with cell operators' offerings. Finally, a little Politburo-style interpretation of the mention of $10 million in software development: this is a boast and a threat. They're telling the world they spent $10M to get this far to make competitors like Cometa turn into cooperative partners when they realize what it takes to get the client side right.

Agere demos 802.11a/g chipset; sampling in June: The last of the big players finally releases its plans for moving forward into g. Agere, partnered with Infineon, will sample chips in June that are dual-band. (I don't go in for this a/b/g thing: g's standard fully encompasses all b encodings, so it's a/g and dual-mode not a/b/g and tri-mode.) [via SmallNetBuilder]

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

March 9, 2003

Intel Capital Invests in Vivato

By Glenn Fleishman

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Vivato will announce tomorrow an investment from the Intel Communications Fund. Vivato did not release the amount provided by Intel, but did disclose its total outside investment is now $29 million. Vivato announced last April that it had received $20 million in second round funding; it received $5.5M in first round. We can do the math. This investment is about strategy and branding more than cold cash.

After months of limited information, Vivato recently unveiled its first product along with pricing and availability. The Vivato Wi-Fi switch couples a phased-array antenna with an enterprise grade network gateway that can potentially provide longer range, higher throughput, and lower deployment costs.

The phased-array antenna allows individual beams of focused wireless signal to follow individual network devices across several hundred feet indoors -- an entire floor of a building more or less -- and at distances of up to four kilometers outdoors. An antenna mounted externally pointing at a building may be able to provide service for an entire facility, such as a hotel.

The first version of their switch is priced under $10,000 and serves 150 users using three beams; it's due to ship as soon as May. Each beam is a switched connection, offering full Wi-Fi speed without requiring channelization. The FCC approved Vivato's approach by agreeing that their design qualifies as point-to-point service.

Intel Capital put aside $150 million in its communications fund specifically to advance Wi-Fi-based technologies. Some of the companies the fund has invested in before its specific set aside that touch the wireless networking and hot spot worlds include BlueSocket, iPass, Nomadix, and Radiant (Bluetooth and other wireless seamless mobility, ISP/wISP aggregation and reselling, edge-security and authentication, and mesh networking, respectively).

The two significant investments from the $150 million set aside so far are STSN, which is involved in the hotel wireless service build-out that Intel's Centrino program just gave a boost to, and TeleSym, an IP telephony company (oddly omitted from the fund's page listing firms they've invested in).

Intel Capital is also one of the triumvirate behind Cometa; its two other investment partners are AT&T and IBM. (There are two other more traditional investors, whose role isn't defined on Cometa's Company page. That page clearly indicates the participation of AT&T and IBM as infrastructure-oriented, which may mean no cash is involved.)

Several companies I've spoken two over the last few months since the $150 million was set aside have told me of their inability to light fires at Intel Capital to invest in various projects. Part of that has to be that in the telecom and wireless climate, $150 million isn't a lot of money.

The investment in the three companies so far have certainly tied up between $20 and $30 million. It's unclear whether the Cometa investment, which is surely at least $10 to $15 million in initial set aside, comes from the general fund or the wireless component. (Cometa isn't listed as a company invested in by the fund.)

Intel Capital is certainly pushing the keiretsu model of synergy among its companies. Vivato's switch can certainly benefit Cometa as well as Intel's Centrino marketing efforts.

This investment assures that Vivato will have the funds necessary to more aggressively push product out, ramp up production lines, and compete against enterprise players like Proxim and Cisco.

Although a Reuters articles notes that three other companies -- all in the hot spot space -- received investments at the same time, two of the three list the Intel investment weeks or months ago: (wISP/network services), Broadreach Networks (pay-as-you-go kiosk and hot spots), and Pronto Networks (turnkey hot spots; see my article on turnkey systems). The Broadreach investment appears on that company's site as a Feb. 18, 2003, press release; Pronto noted their Intel funding on Jan. 21, 2003.

(Thanks to Paul Boutin for a dollars-and-cents clarification.)

Other News

T-Mobile expands in the UK: Adding to the United Kingdomania on hot spots, T-Mobile says their free trial in Starbucks in England will expand nationally to 56 hot spots by the end of May. Seems paltry compared to the 300 that Inspired will have in place at pubs, but we'll see how fast it accelerates. Once again, the notion of vendor-neutral hosts leaps into view: T-Mobile could have thousands of branded and unbranded hot spots if they weren't obsessed with building the infrastructure and the user base. Pricing is rather high: £5.50 (approx. US$8.80) for an hour, two hours for £14.00 (US$22.40), £16.50 (US$26) for a day, and £37.00 (about US$59.20) for a month. These are prepay options only because of billing system integration issues, according to the article.

PC World extols 802.11g performance: Because of lead time, these tests were certainly performed with older firmware that supported the 5.0 instead of 6.1 draft of 802.11g. The 6.1 draft, as implemented by Broadcom at least, dramatically improves speeds in mixed networks. Still, PC World's graph shows significant improvements; a revision would certainly show even better throughputs. Interestingly, 802.11b cards had better throughput when connected to 802.11g access points. This might reflect more robust signal processing and computational silicon.

Media Lab Asia deploys 85-km-long multi-hop Indian link: With throughputs of 3 to 4 Mbps, this experiment paves the way to connectivity using Voice over IP and data links to areas that are entirely off the grid. The project, involving 38 people, used off-the-shelf equipment and one link spans 75 km. Solar-powered transceivers would certainly be a real possibility in that climate, too, I would imagine, as electrical infrastructure would be part of the missing piece. (The rain on the Gangetic Plain doesn't seem to affect the gain.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:55 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial

March 7, 2003

What a Difference a Dot Makes

By Glenn Fleishman

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SeattleWireless: the COM stands for COMFUSING: Rob Flickenger writes about the confusion caused by, which is not a community networking group, for, which is. The .net folks are building alternative infrastructure to create entirely potentially unrestricted backhaul for community networks. The .com folks are putting out press releases.

The straw that broke the camel's back yesterday that Rob F writes about has to be that .com is accepting credit cards for a service that appears to be based on maps copied from community network groups. Accept no imitations.

Other News

Me on mesh: My latest InfoWorld Test Center Insight in which I look at mesh networking's advantages, the companies deploying, and how developments in the near future from Intel's signaled interest could reshape the landscape of point-to-point into something new and strange.

Comprehensive worldwide wISP directory: Bjöaut;rn Thorngren, an analyst at BrainHeart Capital, sent a link to a company resource they've developed that lists every known wISP in the world. Click through on each wISP to read details about current and planned deployments.

Pubs are good hot spot locale choice in UK: The BBC writes briefly about Inspired's plans to roll out thousands of hot spots alongside gaming machines. I'd failed to mention yesterday that British Telecom has already committed to using the vendor-neutral network Inspired is setting up, which allows BT to attain their 4,000 hot spot goal quite a bit faster than installing it on their own.

Powerline products complement Wi-Fi: The powerline HomePlug products use electrical wiring in a house to connect devices without hubs: they bridge networks using Ethernet, USB, and Wi-Fi. Oddly, the article doesn't mention Siemens remarkable SpeedStream product which is both HomePlug (for bridging) and Wi-Fi (as an access point)--and it comes in under $100.

Europe keeps getting smaller: Megabeam bought by Swisscom: Alan Reiter analyzes the purchase of Megabeam by Swisscom, which immediately creates a network of 800 hot spots in several countries. Alan notes the high prices still charged in Europe, in contrast to moderate prices in the US.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:05 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 6, 2003

Roll the Dice and It Comes up Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

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Inspired Broadcast Networks launches in UK: 250 hot spots in two months; 1000 in four months; 3000 by end of year: Guy Kewney's scoop a few days ago breaks to the light of day. The gaming firm Leisure Link already has placement in thousands of locations. Inspired's The Cloud service will piggyback on that. The service will be vendor-neutral host, meaning that you'll be seeing a lot of US and Canadian firms signing up to roam onto that network to increase their hot spot count.

Alan Reiter, as usual, has exhaustive reporting on this, including Ericsson's announcement that they will be building out the infrastructure for Inspired. Watch for Guy Kewney's analysis as well (to come, I'm sure).

I believe we can call today the day the dike broke. Why the UK suddenly went from a few hundred installed and a few thousand committed to tens of thousands in the works and several thousand up in the next months is anyone's guess. There goes that tipping point.

Deep Hot Spot Overview

San Francisco Intl Airport might be turning point for hot spot proliferation: Notice I didn't say anything about hot spot profit. O'Reilly Networks very kindly was interested in a few thousand words from me surveying the state of hot spots, mostly focused on the US. It's a deep overview, if that's not an oxymoron.

Other News

Monty Python's Flying Dog Food Cans: In a typical display of British yeomanship, a man has used dog food tins (cans) to create a wireless link back to a broadband connection. In the US, a coffee can served the same purpose.

Venture capitalists leave networks open: Downstairs neighbor of Benchmark "borrows" a cup of bandwidth: Sure the servers are password protected, but are they using a security protocol like IPsec on the data transmission? If it's in the clear, then no one needs to break into servers, just passively monitor. [via TechDirt]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:44 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 5, 2003

SFO Cuts the Cord

By Glenn Fleishman

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San Francisco International Gets Unwired: As reported earlier in the week, this morning was the official press event and unveiling of T-Mobile's first post-MobileStar-asset-acquisition airport launch. And what a launch it was: San Francisco International, just a bit north from Silicon Valley. I wasn't at the location, but I expect there will be a pile of press reports.

The press release notes that SFO will be unwired during 2003. The first phase launched today include gates 80 to 90 in Terminal 3 (including food court and lounge), the United Red Carpet Club, and the ticket and lobby area of the international terminal.

Other News

RV park Wi-Fi: RV parks start cutting the cord in a natural combination of folks moving around while wanting to stay connected. The charges are just $2.50 per day or $21 per month in the example cited. Jim Sullivan, who sent the item in, also pointed to CampLAN.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:45 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 4, 2003

Imagine James Earl Jones Saying: This is...802.11b

By Glenn Fleishman

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Wayport scores CNN arrangement, still must negotiate with airports: Wayport has signed a deal with CNN, according to, that allows them to build out vendor-neutral host access points at the 38 airports at which CNN has its airport television network. The rub: Wayport still needs to negotiate with each airport, but it doesn't have the same kind of infrastructure cost as going it alone.

As you may have read in this space before, most airport authorities and an increasing number of commercial venues are looking for vendor-neutral situations in which one company acts as the infrastructure provider and fee settlement firm, while other networks have full roaming access for the fees set in those locations. The only complication is that some of these hosts require daily fees, not monthly memberships, so even an unlimited service plan wouldn't include the location. This will certainly change, but the fee settlement will be complex.

Those with long memories will recall Global Digital Media, a company I mentioned in Feb. 2001 in the New York Times article that led me into covering field. GDM had signed a deal with CNN, the head of GDM said, that let them into the same sort of relationship. I've been waiting for this to resurface. [via Joe Brancatelli]

Other News

Intel promotes Asian roaming: Intel is working with several companies in Asia to try to develop integrated roaming and billing systems. Research firm IDC estimates 150,000 Asian Wi-Fi users outside Japan and 2.7M by 2007.

Joe Broke Me: Configuration-less hot spot might need tech support: Joe Sharkey, the business travel columnist of The New York Times, writes about his experience using Wi-Fi in a London hotel that's pushing the service. For him, it worked fine -- with a laptop configured by the hotel. But when his colleague Joe Brancatelli fired up his own machine, no go. Brancatelli told me that it the tech guys wrestled with his machines, but it turned out (later) to be a setting that forced a connection through a dial-up modem. Unchecking a box gave him access. So much for automatic configuration: tech support is always needed, and hopefully, they'll actually check the network settings next time.

Alan Reitermania: Alan on Toshiba's hot spot plans and Guy Kewney's scoop on 30K hot spots in Britain: Alan covers two interesting stories today. The Toshiba announcement is fascinating; the company has been selling turnkey hot spot systems (see my turnkey rundown) for some time. However, they've moved into high gear: they want to get 10,000 hot spots set up by selling their system for $199. Alan reports that they will be advertising heavily in four test markets to support merchants who adopt the system. A few days ago, Toshiba of Canada announced plans to roll out Canadian hot spots themselves.

Meanwhile, Alan also reports on Guy Kewney's remarkable scoop: a UK gaming company that already has DSL lines to 3,000 pubs and other locations that feed their gambling machines. These machines were connected to allow high-speed upgrades of new games and other services, and their security is as airtight, they say, as you'd imagine a gaming operation to be. It's a breeze for them to turn on Wi-Fi service in those 3,000 locations. They've also placed an order for 21,000 DSL lines over three years. Guy doesn't explain how that turns into 30,000 hot spots at year's end, but perhaps some of these locations would be linked locally instead of via DSL.

Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Vancouver (BC): we've cut more cords: An Intel-sponsored Best Places study shows that the triumvirate of Northwest cities has more density of hot spots than elsewhere, and the west coast is heavier than the east coast in spots to unplug. There are lots of local stories based on this report.

Taiwan, Inc., to offer wholesale prices of $10 per 802.11 PC Card: It's expected that by the second half of this year, wholesale prices for 802.11b PC Cards will be $10; they're already as low as $16-$17. These cards are typically rebranded and coupled with OEM-customized software.

Sony Ericsson to introduces 802.11b/GSM/GPRS: Sony Ericsson's card supports three GSM bands, GPRS Class 10, and 802.11b, and will allow roaming when more of the backend components are built. This card would allow a carrier to bill using EAP SIM, which encapsulates messages over the GSM network to allow Wi-Fi network authentication using the SIM authentication module. I'm unclear whether this will use simple MAC address clearance -- your MAC address sent over GSM and then the hot spot unlocking access for that address -- or something more sophisticated. If just MAC address unlocking, it's easy for someone with a sniffer to clone your address. According to IETF presentations a few months ago, all of the EAP-plus-method flavors lack cryptographic binding between network layers, which allows address spoofing, but not necessarily network access.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:54 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 3, 2003

Give me an S! An F! An O! What does that spell? T-Mobile!

By Glenn Fleishman

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San Francisco International Airport (SFO) finally, finally gets wireless service: On Wednesday, Willie Brown, Andy Grove, and other executives and dignitaries will be on hand at SFO to announce T-Mobile's new hot spot service there. I don't have details on the scope of terminal coverage yet. The IT&T director told me back in Nov. 2001 that the entire international terminal, newly built, had high-speed Ethernet throughout, making the infrastructure part of deployment for that building a snap. That's where the press event will be.

SFO has a history of being jilted. I've been told by multiple sources that at least two companies had agreed in 2000 and 2001 to provide service for SFO as a sort of flagship airport and then reneged because of the costs to get in there. SFO was originally asking a relatively high amount of money; one source told me $2,000,000 as a cost of entry. AerZone and MobileStar apparently were the two firms, and dead companies tell no tales. Sources now say that SFO's franchise fee was more on the five-digit order.

Intel Centrino Hot Spot Verification

T-Mobile also announced that its hot spot network had been certified as Centrino verified by Intel, and that they would launch a co-marketing program. Most of the hot spot networks have announced the start or completion of verification by Intel, which plans to pump hundreds of millions of advertising dollars into the entire Centrino campaign, much like they threw their efforts behind various Pentium branding programs. Some of this money will be used to co-market hot spots.

Centrino has better battery life and the integrated Wi-Fi helps towards that end, making Centrino laptops a way to push laggard comptuer sales as traveling business folk want a machine that works faster and lasts longer between charges.

Among other hot spot networks that will co-market with Intel include Hotspotzz, a company whose 75 hot spots (they list 75, but claim over 100 in their press release) originally included mostly former AirWave-cum-WiFi Metro locations, and which bizarrely continues to claim that it is the leading wireless Internet service company in the high-speed wireless Internet industry. There's a teriyaki hole in the wall down the street from my office that has a sign saying it's the best food in Seattle. I mean, can't they come up with a reasonable claim? (At least the press release on the Centrino co-marketing deal says one of the leading...)

Over to Cometa and iPass

Cometa and iPass ink tentative agreement: and iPass ink a deal to allow iPass members to use Cometa hot spots when they start appearing in Q4 2003. However, it's always good to read the fine print:

The agreement in question provides for iPass and Cometa to agree upon pricing and certain other aspects of the relationship in the future. If iPass and Cometa are unable to agree to these additional terms, either party will be able to terminate the agreement.

InfoWorld CTO Focus on Wireless

Even with a general air of mistrust surrounding it, wireless gains traction in the enterprise: 41 percent of enterprises surveyed in a Yankee Group study have WLANs deployed; 27 percent more plan to within 12 months. InfoWorld's own study showed 42 percent deployed and 33 percent more within 6 months. These numbers nicely counter the tropes deployed in many security-focused Wi-Fi articles which claim that security concerns have suppressed WLAN installation.

An interesting sidenote in the piece is that some vendors are offering multiple WLANs in a single device allowing WLAN separation instead of just VLAN separation: users with less access actually connect to a different network.

Migrating from point B to point A with Cisco: This related article examines the cost and issues involved in migrating in an enterprise from 802.11b to 802.11a.

Other News

38 percent of US adults know what Wi-Fi is: And 14 percent of those adults (or 5 percent of all adults) have Wi-Fi in the home. Good numbers.

FatPort lowers prices: "What is it Obi-Wi Keno-Fi? Do you sense a great disturbance in the force as if millions of users were silenced?" "No, just a slight price reduction." In what appears to be the start of a trend, FatPort has reduced its pricing to be more in line with one-day/US$10 prices. Their new rates are Canadian(C)$5 per hour (unused time expires in 90 days); C$7 for a four-hour session; C$10 for a 24-hour session; unlimited use for C$35 per month (no commitment); and a C$160 for a wireless card and three months unlimited access.

Spotnik goes live, announces pricing: In a complete coincidence -- FatPort swears and I believe them -- their first large-scale Canadian competitor launches with over a dozen hot spots at about 150 percent of the cost of FatPort's new pricing (see just above). Spotnik charges Canadian(C)$9 per hour, C$15 for 24 hours, and C$50 for a month (no commitment).

Ziff-Davis aggregates wireless articles into site: Ziff-Davis launched (quietly) its Wireless Supersite, which aggregates articles across all of its publications and sites into a single superstructure. [via Alan Reiter]

San Francisco hot spot directory: Sean Savage is building a directory out of SF cafes with free wireless access.

Down Under: Telstra unwires McDonalds and Optus to build 500 hot spots: Two Autralian telco giants are pushing out Wi-Fi suddenly. Telstra had purchased SkyNetGlobal's assets, including Wi-Fi hot spots; SkyNetGlobal was an early international roaming partner of some US firms. Optus will launch in Melbourne and Sydney this month, and plans to offer roaming with other networks. [via Whirlpool News]

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

March 2, 2003

A Wi-Fi on Every Corner

By Glenn Fleishman

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More chain numbers: Yesterday, in discussing Frank Boosman and my conversation about the largest chains in the US, I listed several he researched, mostly food-oriented. Jacques Caron wrote in to suggest that gas stations, mid-range hotels, and convenience stores should also be considered.

I'd agree in part: gas stations and convenience stores wouldn't be places people could work, but they could recharge: check email, download files, transmit information. There are some deals afoot in the US and abroad with both kinds of retail location, such as Circle K.

Mid-range hotels would make much more sense, although they require more infrastructure -- more access points and wiring -- to serve. I did a little quick research to get some numbers on the largest non-premium hotels. These days, many business travelers who used to stay at W, Hilton, Radisson, etc., are staying at Best Western, Holiday Inn, Quality Inn, and Comfort Inn.

US hotel numbers for several major chains and ownership groups:

Reuters on 802.11g

Lightly informed Reuters article on 802.1g: Is it my job to act as the unofficial reporter of errors on wireless in news reports? I guess so. The reporter says that Wireless G is the name of the new technology, when that's Linksys's trademarked name for its 802.11g equipment. It says the new equipment is 50 percent more when that's probably worth mentioning that it's just temporary, and Apple shed $50 to $100 off its 802.11b device. 802.11b equipment prices will plummet as they're phased out when g is ratified and certified Wi-Fi.

The general point, a little lost, is that home users should have other new uses for more bandwidth for home entertainment equipment. I'll get on my soapbox for a moment: Only if the various interests engaged in promoting the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) stop their fight against fair use. If the recording and movie and television industries succeed at their attempt to control the entry and exit of all digital media from all devices for any purpose, then you won't be allowed to stream media from your DVD player to your TV or your CD player to a receiver on the other end of the house. This is another reason why the electronics companies should be ont the side of consumers.

(Full disclosure; I'm a plaintiff in the Newmark v. Turner case handled by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in which I and four other ReplayTV owners have prophyactically sued a variety of media companies to protect the interests of consumer fair use and privacy, specifically time shifting, space shifting, and commercial skipping. There's no money involved, just our rights.)

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 2:22 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

March 1, 2003

Subway and McDonalds: the Cometa Core?

By Glenn Fleishman

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Biggest franchisers in the US: Frank Boosman and I were corresponding via a mailing list and then directly about how Cometa could even find partners of the scale that would allow them to roll out 5,000 and then 20,000 hot spots.

Frank provided an interesting list of some of the top franchisees in the US:

My question, of course, is that with the exception of Barnes & Noble, which of those outlets is really a place that has appropriate seating and shall we say ambiance to allow the customers that Cometa wants to work? Many food outlets have barely comfortable seating and even 30-minute occupation limits!

Of course, of the 30-million-odd business travelers (out of 40M) total that are estimated to have laptops, I'm sure a very large percentage frequent the above outlets many many times in their trips. I'm just being elitist, since I patronize some, but not all, of those locations as well.

T-Mobile's Erratic Math

T-Mobile charges more for prepay minutes than pay-as-you-go: I did my math wrong a couple of days ago. T-Mobile's new rate plan charges $6.00 per hour (10 cents per minute) for pay-as-you-go service, but it has a mininum $6.00 (one hour) charge. If you prepay for 300 minutes at $50, you're buying time at $8.33 an hour, but they only bill you for $1.40 (10 minutes) minimum.

This is the first time I've ever heard of having to make a Hobson's choice for hot spot pricing. This is practically as bad as those dial-around plans that advertise $1 for 20 minutes: yes, it's a $1, but if you get voicemail or an answering machine and hang up, you've paid a $1 for one minute.

The tradeoff here is complicated. If you pay per visit, you're paying at least $6. If you know you'll be there for more than an hour, it's a better deal than prepaying. If you thought you could game the system, however, by prepaying and using different accounts based on what you needed at the moment, your prepay minutes expire 120 days from purchase.

I bought $50 worth of minutes back in December in West Hartford, Connecticut, visiting my in-laws, and used about an hour of it. If I don't get to a Starbucks soon, I've donated $41.66 to T-Mobile coffers. Paging Mr. Hobson, Mr. Hobson please come to the white courtesy stable...

Microsoft and Wi-Fi Usability

Microsoft recruiting Wi-Fi usability at Starbucks: In the latest example in a series of millions of how it's hard to do anything without being noticed, my friend Jeff Carlson just shot me email from a downtown Seattle Starbucks where he was working on his Apple Titanium PowerBook:

A guy who works for Microsoft asked me if I had a WiFi card, and I had to explain that this is a Mac and it's built-in. He said he was looking for someone with a PC laptop and a WiFi PC card to participate in some usability study.

Microsoft's XP support for Wi-Fi is good in many ways, although it can be funky, especially with closed networks and with WEP keys. It doesn't offer a profile management interface to make it easier to switch among networks. It doesn't offer encrypted key storage that could be accessed, often requiring key re-entry.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 12:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Unclassified

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